Aug 2
Beanie & Biggles v2.0
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 2nd, 2015| icon38 Comments »

It seems that after years of trying all manner of training methodologies and occasionally seeking the help of experienced professionals – all to no avail – we’ve finally hit on a way to (temporarily) elicit good behavior from our Beagles. It’s a simple, two-step process:

  1. Arrange a week-long get-together with Susan’s brother Richard
  2. Immediately prior to meeting up, tell Richard all our dark tales of Beagle naughtiness


Naughty? Who? Me?

Having only experienced “normal” dogs like Spaniels, Richard wasn’t inclined to believe all those stories about frozen pea swallowing, grape gorging, sock stealing and extended AWOL adventures, and Beanie & Biggles seemed determined to not to disillusion him. For the first few days of his stay he was able to place a cup of coffee on the floor and leave it there without having to extract Beanie’s snout from it as soon as it reached drinking temperature.

Equally there were no attempts to nick food off his plate when he had a snack with a Beagle next to him on the sofa. Obviously Biggles did still roll onto his back and show all his wares in an attempt to charm Richard into food donation, but let’s face it, only the most puritan of households would consider a tasteful display of one’s genitalia during mealtimes to be a breach of etiquette.

Even when the charm offensive failed, Biggles still resisted the temptation to use his most effective food releasing tactic: the power sneeze. It’s a well known fact that most humans instantly become less possessive about their food when it’s been comprehensively sprayed with Beagle snot, yet despite having the means, motive and opportunity to unleash a nasal explosion all over Richard’s nosh, Biggles didn’t do it. Not once.


Biggles’ nose: it’s not just for sniffing

While we were staying at a campsite in Glencoe I got so used to this new, well-behaved version of our Beagles that at one point I accidentally left the caravan door open for a few minutes. Naturally Beanie did take advantage of this slip to have a little unattended sortie (what self-respecting Beagle wouldn’t) but it’s what she didn’t do during this moment of freedom that amazed me. There was no high-speed raid of other people’s tents and caravans, no frenzied emptying of bins, and no swallowing of toxic port-a-potty chemicals to get an emergency visit to a Glencoe vet. Nope, all she did was trot over to Richard’s tent and have a sniff around his portable barbeque.

Sadly, like an upgrade to Windows 10 before all the driver problems and bugs have been sorted out, Beanie & Biggles v2.0 didn’t stay the distance; as the week progressed, it eventually ended up reverting to its earlier version. Snouts went into cups, Biggles’ woofer got stuck in the “on” position during a very long walk, and someone with a furry bottom did a very smelly fart in Richard’s tent. Such is the way of things. But for a few days The Observer Effect gave us a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be owners of Not-Beagles, and you know what? Overall, I think I still prefer Beanie & Biggles 0.9Alpha; it’s much more entertaining!


Yep, we all know what “Keep Away” translates to in the Beagle language

One very positive outcome from our little holiday is that, thanks to Richard’s navigation skills, we now have a different, doggy-friendly and very scenic route up Goat Fell on nearby Isle of Arran. Biggles’ birthday is coming up at the end of this month, and if the weather gods give us a break he and his wiggly partner in crime will be getting to try it out. For now, here’s a couple of teaser shots:

Goat Fell Ridge

Goat Fell Rocks [IMG_0687-2]

Jul 17

I’m happy to report that Beanie has almost completely recovered from her most recent misadventure. She’s got a spring in her step again, so much spring in fact that Susan’s desk is under constant threat from shock-and-awe Beagle raids. About the only physical reminders of her illness are the shaved patches on her forearms, but even they’re slowly getting re-furred.


Beanie’s new orange fox toy has already done its fair share of high speed tours of the garden

She is however unusually clingy and I’ve got to be honest, I’m quite enjoying it. If I pick my moment carefully I can get some really soppy cuddles that the Beanie of old would never have tolerated. They don’t last long (the record thus far is 20 seconds) and afterwards she usually has to regain her street-cred by trying to hump Susan, but still, I’ll take what I can get. She’s even been more controllable on the beach during offlead romps, though Biggles is trying hard to fix that and I think he’s likely to win. The only downside to all of this is the thought that it could be happening because she felt abandoned during her stay at the vet. As much as we love her, we’ve often joked that Beanie doesn’t care who she’s with as long as she’s getting regular food and a sofa to stretch out on, but maybe there’s something more than cupboard love there after all. That said, if either Susan or myself were to be struck down by a heart attack on a walk, I’m pretty sure Beanie would see it primarily as an opportunity to raid our pockets.


Mercenary Beagle? Who? Me?

Another change since Beanie’s illness is that Biggles has expanded his passive vocabulary. Like many dogs he knows about “walkies” and “biccies”; he also knows that if he acquires a sock he can trade it for a “nice thing”, and that he’s got to be ever watchful for a “pussycat”. Recently though he’s learned that “creme fraiche” is definitely worth an urgent departure from the sofa.


Even if you’re asleep you should keep on ear open for any mention of creme fraiche

Strictly speaking he’s never actually had true creme fraiche, but that’s how we jokingly refer to the dollop of natural yoghurt that’s been on his kibble ever since Beanie finished her course of antibiotics. And it’s good stuff, because no matter how hard he tries to obey the “Wait” command when his bowl is set down, some of that white stuff mysteriously ends up on his nose before he gets the OK to chow down.

Jun 26

When we moved to Ayrshire we stuck with our existing vet practice; after all they’d seen us through some scary medical emergencies and were well acquainted with our furry suicide squad. This arrangement has meant increased travel time however: 35 minutes to the regular vet in optimal conditions, and longer to their out-of-hours cover in the heart of Glasgow, which attracts roadworks and queues like horse poop attracts Beagles. We’ve always known that sooner or later we’d have to find somewhere more local, and earlier this week Beanie (who else?) forced the issue.

As usual, our latest medical drama came completely out of the blue. In the space of twelve hours she went from a picture of health, happily flying over agility jumps in our garden, to a hunched, sickly little doggy who couldn’t stop vomiting.

We took her to our regular vet and we went through the time-honored Beagle-with-unhappy-tummy conversation that always starts with the question: “has she eaten anything she shouldn’t?” To a Beagle owner, this is a bit like asking if the Loch Ness monster exists. “Well, I haven’t seen anything myself, and I don’t think so, but I can’t be 100% sure”. The vet had a thorough feel of her abdomen, couldn’t detect anything, and sent us home with strong anti-sickness and antibiotic shots. A perfectly reasonable course of action, and with almost any other dog that would have been the end of it. But this is Beanie we’re talking about, and by late evening her condition was deteriorating, so Susan hunted down a local out-of-hours vet service which in this case was “Vets Now” in nearby Kilmarnock.

Most of Beanie’s night-time emergencies go something like this: she gets out of the car all sorry for herself – clearly ill – but instantly rallies when she meets the vet, going from hangdog to winner of this year’s “waggiest rear end” prize in a split-second. A simple treatment is prescribed (usually not much different from the one already given by our regular vet), I unburden my wallet, and The Beanster makes a miraculous recovery. We’re relieved, but left wondering if we over-reacted in taking her there in the first place.

Unfortunately that’s not how it played out this time. Beanie managed a very half-hearted wag or two, but continued to look like she was in considerable distress. It became clear that she was going to be spending the night there, for x-rays, blood tests and an IV drip to keep her hydrated. Just like booking into a world-class hotel, the level of service was absolutely top notch, but so was the price. When I saw the initial bill I almost needed some medical attention myself, but this was for my little girl so it was a no-brainer. Soon Susan, Biggles and myself were heading back home in the car with one empty crate and a redundant dog-lead. I knew none of us (with the probable exception of Biggles) would be getting any sleep that night.

An hour or so later the night vet rang us to relay the results of the tests. There were no concrete signs of a blockage but again – as with Nessie – the lack of a positive does not prove the negative. Equally her bloodwork showed only that she was fighting something, possibly gastroenteritis or pancreatitis. However, the vet did note that at one point she thought she could feel something in Beanie’s rear end. She stuck a (hopefully well gloved) finger up there and extracted a small piece of plastic, after which “some very foul smelling stuff came out”. Even on her sickbed, Beanie was still managing to entertain us with a little toilet humour. But we were now into wait-and-see territory until the morning; the remainder of the night was filled with medical Googling, tv therapy, and precious little sleep.

By the morning diarrhea had been added to the symptoms, but otherwise there was little change. Exploratory surgery for a possible blockage was very much on the table, and we asked to come in to see Beanie and discuss this face-to-face. During the mercifully short journey my mind replayed the build-up to the stomach surgery she’d had as a pup. Back then Beanie was young and otherwise in the peak of health, but now she was older and weakened, and I had to work hard to suppress the thought that this could be the last time I’d see her.

After a few minutes in the waiting room Beanie was brought out to see us. She was very a sorry sight, subdued and slow moving, with a little blue bandage on one leg for her IV hookup. We all went into an examination room to wait for the vet, whereupon Beanie immediately sicked a little clear fluid onto the floor. Almost as soon as this was cleared away, and just as I was crouching down to give her a kiss and an ear-fondle, she had a sudden attack of liquid diarrhea, and what’s more, it was rose colored: bloody. Even as the vet arrived, Beanie was still spray-painting the room from her back passage. As distressing as this was to see (and smell), once it finished, Beanie appeared substantially more comfortable, and the vet took this as a sign that a blockage was less probable. So more wait-and-see, and another night away from us, but at least surgery was on hold for the time being.

Over the next 24 hours we made regular phone calls to check on her progress, and during these conversations we told the staff about Beanie’s deceptively introvert personality, her less-than-stoic attitude to pain and discomfort, and her appreciation for a good blanky. Her condition improved slightly overnight, and a different anti-sickness medication was tried. When we visited her the next morning she was carried out to see us in the vet’s arms, wrapped in a soft clean blanket like a little newborn baby. This was the kind of thing we’d do for her, not the sort of thing you expect from a veterinary surgeon, and I suspected that Beanie had improved enough to use her irresistible Beagle charms on her carers. This theory was borne out in the ensuing conversation; she had a heated pad to lie on, her own supply of frequently changed blankies, and a quiet kennel in a position that kept her away from other furry residents while allowing her to see the staff going about their business. She wasn’t just booked into a world class doggy hotel, she was in the blummin’ royal penthouse suite! Very fitting for my little Princess Beanie. And as happens with royalty, we were granted only a short but waggy audience with her highness; when she grew fatigued we were politely but firmly dismissed, allowing her to retire to her private chambers for further rest. Public engagements are so exhausting.

Medically her condition was improving; she was taking small amounts of food and keeping some of it down, and the diarrhea was on the wane. There was still cause for concern however: her medication should have stopped all regurgitation by now, but it hadn’t. So we had another period of wait-and-see, but it was mercifully short; by the next phone update it was clear Beanie had turned the corner. She would be spending a third night in her suite at the Waldorf Astoria, but all being well, she’d be back home slumming it with us the next day.

To celebrate, we took The Bigglet to our local pet store in the hope it might brighten him up. He’d been very subdued during all of this, more clingy than usual, and moping along on his walks. While perusing the dog aisle I spotted his favorite-ever toy, an eight-squeakered monkey. His own monkey had given him a year of solid enjoyment before being retired due to wear and tear, and though he liked the alligator that replaced it, monkey’s shoes had been hard to fill. Taking advantage of a three-for-two offer, we came back with two brand new monkeys, a soft squeaky toy for Beanie and a couple of pig ears. The pig ears went down well as you can imagine, but the monkey was even more successful; I lost count of the number of times he scampered from one end of the house to the other with the clone of his long-lost friend squeaking away in his mouth.


Monkey’s about to go for another tour of the house


It’s great to have Monkey again Dad, but I still miss Beanie

Beanie continued to improve overnight, but it was only when one nurse described her condition as “all waggy” that we truly knew she was out of the woods. Together with Biggles we collected her and brought her home today, and though still fragile and easily fatigued, she’s doing great. Home may not be a top-flight hotel, and her little day-bed doesn’t have a heated pad, but she’s very happy to be back.


There’s lots to do when you’re back from an enforced holiday. For starters, the garden & house have to be thoroughly re-sniffed.


Then there’s the flies. It’s clear that Biggles hasn’t been doing his share of catching them. If you want a job done well, you’ve got to do it yourself!


But what could be attracting all the flies? Why do they seem to be so interested in my bum?


So many other things for a little girl to do!


Chicken soup to be eaten..


Tickly IV insertion spots to be licked


It’s exhausting!


Sod it, I’m done for the day. Call me when it’s chicken soup time again.

Finally, a little plug for the veterinary practice that got Beanie through this latest scare: Not only was the level of care truly fit for a princess, their final bill was very reasonable. It turns out that it’s just the out-of-hours admissions to the doggy Waldorf Astoria that cost the big bucks; normal daytime stuff doesn’t hurt the credit card nearly so much, even if your pup gets the royal penthouse suite.

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