Honk! Honk! Thud!

Reflections on Loch Ard [5D4_6402]

We headed back to the Trossachs region for a sleep-over by Loch Ard just a few days before storm “Ophelia” was due to visit Scotland; I figured it would be my last chance to catch autumn color before 70 mph winds stripped the trees bare. On our arrival at the forest car park my first job – as always – was to get the furballs out of their travel crates and take them for a pee walk while Susan prepared the van for our overnighter. I have to say it was kind of spooky wandering around the empty parking and picnic areas in the dark. The air was completely still and I became very aware of all the forest sounds around us: deer vocalizing off in the distance and an occasional little critter scurrying around unseen just out of the beam of my head torch. Beanie and Biggles showed no interest in the wildlife but they were very interested in checking the ground underneath the tables and benches for dropped food.

Soon after our return to the van it was time to prepare for bed. I did everything in my power to make Beanie’s position on the driver’s seat as comfortable as possible. I’d like to claim I did this out of care for my little girl, but the truth is my motives were almost entirely self-centered: firstly I really wanted a long undisturbed nap before our walk the next morning, and secondly she was still honking to high heaven from our beach run earlier that day.  The roll du jour in this case had involved a particularly rotten seal carcass. It had been so bad – so absolutely vile – that even Biggles had turned his nose up at it, but Beanie had gone paws up as soon as she found it; washing in the sea, scrubbing with dog wipes and even time in her crate had done little to weaken the stench. Hoping that both she and Biggles would stay put, Susan and I quietly retired to our own bed.

At what felt like 4am in the morning I was awoken by the van shaking slightly and a rustling sound coming from the passenger seat. I knew instantly that it was Biggles in the throes of a bed-making session. While Beanie generally expresses discontent with her bed by circling and whining at an ever-increasing pitch, my boy just gets physical; he tugs it and throws it around like a strongman hauling barrels in a competition. This is fine in the house where there’s plenty of space (though the bed usually ends up even lumpier than when he started), but in the confines of the van’s passenger seat, a mishap was inevitable.

THUD!!!

I didn’t have to turn on the light to know that Biggles had fallen off the seat and was now standing stunned and silent on the floor of the van, probably with his bed covering his head. I struggled to suppress a snigger and wondered just how long he’d wait there – completely motionless – until someone came to sort him out. That is always Biggles’ go-to reaction when he finds himself in a predicament: stay calm, quiet and still, and a human will eventually fix things. I often worry that he’d do exactly the same thing if he ever got off lead and injured himself while out of my sight. He’s got the lungs and voice to produce a call for help that would be heard for miles around, but when he’s in a fix he just hits the mute button and stands perfectly still.

Perhaps the reason he persists with this approach is because it’s always worked for him, and it worked again here because Susan got up to go to his aid. In doing so she left a space in our bed, and something small and very pungent soon arrived to fill it. I felt Beanie’s cold wet nose brush mine as she came to say hello. “Eewwww the smelly thing’s in the bed!” I proclaimed to Susan, and this produced a rapid wag at Beanie’s rear end.  Had I not been so tired I could probably have settled her back on the driver’s seat, but on this occasion lethargy won. Susan came back to bed and Biggles came with her, and though conditions were cramped and whiffy, we all slept through until morning. The weather wasn’t exactly sunny for our walk the next day, but at least it wasn’t blowing a hurricane!

Decrepit Boathouse on Loch Ard [5D4_6395]

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The standard circuit along the loch is an easy going 14km but as a photographer I was keen to explore all the little trails off the main path. As Beagles, Beanie and Biggles were fully behind this plan.

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Of course all that walking requires fuel, and when the human is tardy in opening the treats a protest has to be made. No way was Biggles going to be quiet for this one!

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Happily no-one decided to supplement their treats with a wild mushroom or two. Or twenty.

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This part of the loch smelled a bit funky so of course The Beanster went straight in for paddle. Given that stale lake is much less whiffy than rotten seal carcass, I considered it a win.

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Loch Ard from a higher viewpoint on the walk back.

By the time we got back to the van it was raining heavily and every space in the previously deserted car park was full. We all had breakfast, and just before we packed up to go his Biggleship had one more bed-making mishap. Deciding that the dog bed on the drivers seat required adjustment, he began tugging at it vigorously, slamming his bum into the steering wheel so hard it sounded the horn.  This caught him completely by surprise; he woofed and jumped back again onto the wheel, once again honking the horn, and this in turn prompted another round of shocked baying. I could see other occupants of the car park wondering what all the commotion was about, so I restrained his little white bum before it could beep the horn a third time. I have to wonder how many times the bum-horn-woof feedback loop would have continued without my intervention.

Biggles by Loch Ard [5D4_6608]

The Bigglet. He may not be as smart as Beanie, but at least he doesn’t smell of decayed seal.

10 Years old and still a hot dog

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Beanie is now a double-digit Beagle and while her advancing years haven’t exactly slowed her down, I have noticed some changes.

The most welcome development has been a growing appreciation of human affection. She has always been – on the surface – the most outgoing of our pups, greeting passers-by with full-body wags and a two-legged dance routine, but this was akin to celebrities smiling for cameras and signing autographs to keep fans happy. Away from the public gaze, Beanie has traditionally been a rather cuddle-averse and intensely private little Beaglet. More recently however she has become surprisingly accepting of strokes, kisses and snuggles. It started during trips in the Beaglemobile, where being moderately fondled on someone’s lap was a price worth paying to gain a better view of the outside world. This progressed to actively seeking cuddles during scary events like thunder, fireworks and beeping noises on TV shows, and in the last couple of months I’ve had some wonderfully soppy Beanie moments for no obvious reason at all.

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There’s nothing soppy or affectionate about her style of play however; if anything, she’s become even more of a vandal. The above birthday hotdog lost its strip of green “lettuce” almost immediately and would have lost much more if she hadn’t switched her attention to the squeaky smiley face. She’s even tried to win Biggles over to her destructive ways, encouraging him to rip open a soft fabric bone and spit out the squeaker. At least he felt toy-wrecker’s remorse after his orgy of destruction; Beanie just goes looking for the next victim!

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At the same time, she’s become much more tolerant of the attention of other dogs; even just a couple of years ago she would have cross words for any dogs that pestered her excessively on beach runs. Now she just ignores them – even the really pesky small ones – and she positively enjoys seeing the local farm dog, even though he has a strange obsession with sticking his nose right in her earholes. Actually maybe it’s not all that strange – I’ve caught myself rubbing my nose in her ears as well, although I don’t make quite such pronounced sniffing noises when I’m doing it.

Speaking of beach runs, both Beanie & Biggles have generally become much more manageable during offlead sessions this year, though Beanie did something very out of character this morning when we encountered a rather handsome, younger Beagle. He was also offlead, but trotting smartly just a few yards in front of his owner. Biggles – who was on an important mission at the time  (the ultimate goal of which never became clear) – totally blanked the youngster as he sprinted by. Ordinarily I’d have expected Beanie to do the same, but instead she made a bee-line directly for the little fellow, picking up speed all the time. At the very last instant she veered around him, woofed jubilantly, then shot another 60 yards down the beach, dived onto her back and engaged in a particularly vigorous rolling session on a bird carcass. Smelly break-dancing notwithstanding, this was essentially a classic Biggles fly-by maneuver. He does this to Beanie all the time (often incorporating a shoulder-barge), but this was the first time I’ve ever seen her do something similar. Obviously Biggles’ technique is superior due to years of diligent practice, but still I’d have to give Beanie a score of 6 out of 10, especially as this was her first attempt. I can only assume it’s some kind of flirting. Is my ten year old girl turning into a furry floozy?

I’ll finish with some shots from last week’s visit to Loch Chon in the Trossachs region. The autumn colors hadn’t reached their height, and recent harsh weather had already stripped some trees of their leaves, but it was still a very attractive place for a stop-over in the Beaglemobile.

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Loch Chon Autumn [5D4_6028]

Loch Chon - North End [5D4_6055]

One of the few dwellings by the Loch – Frenich Farm perhaps?

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The sniffage was of the very highest quality

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And abundant heather offered endless possibilities for picking up ticks

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Cow ears are the usual in-van treat, but on this occasion a big red sausage made an acceptable alternative

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I expected it to be swallowed in seconds, but it was surprisingly chewy and long-lasting

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Beanie seemed particularly taken with hers, even finishing it ahead of The Bigglet

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Happy Birthday Beanster!

The Adventure That Wasn’t

It had to happen eventually, and last week it did; our nineteen year old Beaglemobile suffered a breakdown. We were on our way to Loch Turret for a long and probably very sniffy walk along the water and up a modest hill when – without any warning – the alternator quietly shuffled off its mortal, corroded copper coil. We were kind of lucky that it happened where it did – on a main road just the other side of the Erskine bridge; if it had occurred further into the drive we could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere without a phone signal. Obviously our planned walk was now off the cards, but that’s not the lost adventure from title of this post. Nope, real “adventure that wasn’t” happened (or rather didn’t happen) on the way back home.

Our breakdown service sent a big recovery vehicle capable of loading the van onto its back and taking it, and us, right back to our house. Immediately I had visions of our return journey being much more exciting for the furry contingent than the loch-side walk could ever have been. Both our Beagles love sitting on human booster seats in the cabin of a high vehicle; they can sniff deeply from the air vents, spy on people in little cars, randomly mess with the controls on the stereo unit and – with an appropriate amount of squirming and a bit of luck – maybe even sound the horn with their bottoms. Alas none of this came to pass; the driver of the recovery vehicle wanted them locked away in their crates in the Beaglemobile, and that was that.

Within an hour we were safely back home. All kinds of beeping noises had sounded off during the loading and unloading of the van, yet amazingly the bed in Beanie’s crate had remained pee-free; proof that at least she hadn’t been scared. She had however been very, very bored. And so had The Bigglet. Once back in the house there were lots of heavy sighs and snouts between front paws, so I did the only thing I could to recover the situation: I took them for a beach run.

I normally time my beach runs carefully so that the tide is incoming but hasn’t yet swallowed the beach. On this occasion however, low tide had been and gone some three hours previously, leaving us with only a narrow strip of sand on which to run. The biggest problem with running in these conditions is that the many interesting things washed in by the tide are right under your nose – or specifically, right under Beanie & Biggles’ noses. I found the clearest spot of beach I could, unclipped their leads and really upped my running pace in the hope that they’d stay with me. For a while it worked, but then they fell away behind me and I saw eight paws go up into the air: a synchronized roll was in progress. They were clearly having fun, so I didn’t have the heart to stop them.

In due course they sprinted back to me and I examined them for some indication of what they’d been rolling in. Poo? Assorted dead animal parts? I didn’t see anything like that, but I did notice a blood-red stain on one of Biggles’ thighs. Fearing he’d cut himself on a sharp can or something similar I reached down and began gently parting his fur to determine the extend of the injury.. but found nothing. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Beanie had a similar mark on one of her legs. This was was no injury – this was what they’d rolled in! A pleasant feeling of relief passed through me but quickly faded when I rubbed at those red stains and snifffed my fingers. As a Beagle owner I’ve experienced some pretty vile smells, and while this wasn’t the worst (“shitvom” comfortably occupies pole position!), it was pretty bad. I clipped on their leads and the three of us headed into the waves for a scrubbing session; sadly this was only partially successful. Why is it that I always get a powerful desire to scratch my nose and wipe sweat from my brow when my hands smell like a sewer?

In the absence of any walk shots I’ll finish with a couple of portraits I took ahead of Beanie’s birthday – she’ll be 10 in a week or so!

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