Aug 25
Biggles’ Choice!
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 25th, 2017| icon32 Comments »

It’s Biggles’ 9th birthday on the 28th and to mark it his lordship has had quite a fun week.

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On Wednesday he became – for just over an hour – one of the highest dogs in the British Isles when he climbed to the summit of Ben More (Crianlarich version, not the Ben More on Mull).

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I’d had my eye on Ben More for a while but it had been looking as though it would be a strictly solo adventure; the standard route often puts walkers face to face with unfenced cattle. Fortunately a bit of research turned up a longer, less popular but cattle-free route and my solo expedition became a team event.

Forest Section Below Ben More [5D4_5191]

The early part of the walk involves a woodland trail and this went down very, very well with the pups. Bird song mixed with the sound of synchronized power-sniffing as we made our way through the trees and drank fresh, clear water from the streams we crossed.

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When we emerged from the forest we had to cut through a long, long boggy field covered in overgrown grass and heather on our way to Ben More’s northeast ridge. Beanie in particular loves the scratchy feel of heather and will always make a point of walking through the densest patch she can find. Biggles probably doesn’t mind it brushing against his undercarriage too much, and the opportunity to pick up deer ticks is always appreciated. Even I didn’t mind the trudge too much on the outward journey; we had blue skies and sun yet there was a gentle cooling breeze to keep the insects away – just about the perfect day. It stayed perfect even as we made it to the ridge and began to gain height rapidly.

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The sun went into hiding behind heavy cloud as we reached the very grand summit cairn of Ben More, but I was confident that it would reappear in due course; we had well over an hour to go before sunset and the only pressing duties to be carried out involved a change to a clean, dry top for me and the opening of a packet of mini-jumbones for my companions.

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So, about those jumbones Dad.. there’s no rush, but now would be a good time.

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The almost-birthday boy got his chew first of course!

Sadly the cloud never really cleared, the sun never reappeared, and we got only the briefest glimpses of the views Ben More has to offer before I was calling time on our adventure.

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Jumbones round #2 – synchronized this time!

[Group 0]-5D4_5275_5D4_5281-3 images

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The next day was all about recovery: a pre-walk massage from their Mum, a gentle walk up the farm road to sample fresh blackberries, and extra large servings in their bowls afterwards.

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When people use the phrase “It’s a dog’s life” this probably isn’t what they mean..

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But then Beagles aren’t quite like other dogs..

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And our two are probably even more pampered than most Beagles.

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All that would have been enough to make this a good week, but there was still more to come! A while back I signed up Beanie and Biggles to the VIP program at Pets at Home, and seeing that Biggles’ birthday was close they sent me a voucher for a free “Whimzees” toothbrush-shaped chew. A visit to our local pet shop was on the cards!

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Since the toothbrush chew is free, his Biggleship gets to choose something else as a paid-for pressie. That is how it works, right?

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The long, arduous selection process begins…

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.. and is temporarily halted when something is detected under the bottom shelf.

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Beanie briefly morphs into a Basset hound with its head on the wrong way round.

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Biggles may not be the smartest boy in the world..

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..but it didn’t take him long to figure out how those flip-top containers work.

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Another attempt at retrieving some unidentified treasure ends in failure. He’s nearly nine years old and he still hasn’t learned the “Spider-Beagle” technique. A demonstration from the master is required!

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Yep, that’s how you do it! Beanie’s going to hit the decade later this year, but she’s still unbeatable when it comes to Spider-Beagling.

Still empty-handed (apart from a pair of matching toothbrush chews) we eventually passed by a display of long chewable sticks, and Biggles finally knew what he wanted for his birthday!

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His reaction to it was amazing. I’m not sure what it’s made of (I saw references to cereal products on the label) but he wanted it really, really badly. More than chicken, more than cow ears, more than any toy, he wanted one of these. So of course we got two of ’em. He was a very happy boy as we left the store, and for the first time I can honestly say that Biggles really did choose his own birthday pressie!

Biggles 9th Birthday Portrait [5D4_5541]

Aug 13
An unexpected breakfast
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 13th, 2017| icon32 Comments »

I set a dangerous precedent on Wednesday morning: I served Beagle breakfast without a preceding walk. While the sudden and unexpected appearance of full bowls was welcome, the break from routine caught our two pupplets completely by surprise. Biggles was so thrown he forgot to make his customary, very noisy pre-breakfast announcement, and Beanie had a mad scramble to escape the covers on our bed – only just making it to her serving position in time. After breakfast confusion ensued – was this a gym day, and if so, shouldn’t they be visiting the outside loo before reporting to their crates for a dental chew and a nap?

As it turned out they did end up in their crates, but only after a couple of hours’ digestion time, and the crates in question were in the Beaglemobile as we headed to Inveruglas for a walk to the summit of Ben Vane.

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On arrival at Inveruglas there was another irregular feeding as we all had packed lunches to fuel us for the coming walk. For the sake of convenience I just popped the lids off and served the lunches in their Tupperware boxes – but just as Susan had predicted this approach had a significant downside; I had to interrupt my lunch to rescue one box from Biggles who figured he would try eating it as well as its contents.

By mid afternoon – just as other walkers were heading down the mountain – we were heading up, with the intention of staying until sunset. As is common with Scottish mountains the first section was boggy, but the ground quickly firmed up as we gained height.

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Ben Vane has a reputation for two things: a surprisingly steep climb, and a seemingly endless stream of false summits. In all honesty the climb didn’t seem that hard, but this was our first hillwalk in daylight this year so maybe that golden sun made things seem easier. The false summits prediction however was spot on; I could see from their body language that even Beanie and Biggles were getting a bit tired of aiming for the top, only to find yet another level beyond it. Nevertheless we made it to the true summit in due course, finding a huge puddle of fresh, sheep-poo flavored water right by the summit cairn. The puddle was a bit smaller by the time Beanie & Biggles had finished drinking from it; though somewhat tempted I just made do with slightly warm bottled water.

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View From Ben Vane [5D4_4869]

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We spent our time at the top exploring the views from all directions, we muched our way through Pedigree Mini-Jumbones and cow ears, and then with my head torch at the ready, we started on our way back to the Beaglemobile. The descent of the mountain itself went smoothly, but things went comically wrong when we reached the boggy field at the bottom.

In the daylight it had been relatively easy to see where other walkers had trodden, but now it was really, really dark and even with my head torch at full power I couldn’t see any definite paths. Direction wasn’t an issue – I knew that we just had to keep heading right and we’d emerge by a firm, gravel covered forestry road that would take us back to the van. The problem was just getting to that road without injury; the field was covered in thick, tall, almost uniform grass, but underneath that grass the ground was anything but uniform. Time and again I put my leading foot on what I thought was solid earth only to have it plunge down into deep, sticky bog. Seeing an opportunity to get me face-down in the mud, the pups started with their time honored double-act; Biggles pulled unpredictably, and Beanie stopped dead right under my foot, always at exactly the wrong time. They succeeded in getting me over more than once, and the one time I fell without their “help”, they exchanged curious glances at each other as though to say “Hey, I didn’t even cause that one, was it you?”

Eventually of course we did escape from that horrible field. Back at the van I served water and cow ears, pulled the boots off my feet and made myself a coffee. It was now quite late and I wanted to drive us back home before I felt the call of sleep. I started assembling one of the travel crates but even before I’d finished it and installed a cosy bed, Biggles had taken up residence. Boy was he ready for a nap! I faced the opposite problem with The Beanster; she’d curled up on the driver’s seat and was very reluctant to budge. I had to pick her up, plonk her in the crate and zip it up really fast before she could escape back to the seat. The drive home was uneventful and very, very quiet (if you discount the snoring).

Jul 28
Balls and Buzzings
icon1 Paul | icon4 07 28th, 2017| icon32 Comments »

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As you can see Biggles really likes to stretch out during his naps. It’s easy to do that on the sofa; if a pesky human starts cramping his style all he has to do is “accidentally” give that humie a good kick with his rear legs and it’ll soon move to give him more space.

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However the same cannot be said for his crate in the back of the car; over the last few days it’s just been getting more and more cramped. The reason? Well basically it’s because of his balls. None of them are particularly big, but so far he’s got four of them in his crate and he seems to get an extra one every time we go running on the beach.

I blame it on the summer-like weather we’ve had recently. It’s quite unusual to get summery weather in summer in Ayrshire, but it’s happened, and consequently the beach has been flooded by people: people having picnics, people desperately trying to get skin cancer, and more relevantly, people playing ball games with their doggies and playing them badly. The “plastics in our oceans” issue gets all the press, but trust me, the tennis ball pollution issue is just as bad.

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To his credit Biggles is doing everything he can to clean up all those balls, but he’s only got one mouth to carry them in, and only one crate in which to hoard them. I’ve considered sneaking one out of his crate every so often, but I’m sure he’d notice; he checks them all very carefully every time he gets in, then grumbles as he tries to find enough space to park his big white bum. Sometimes it’s not easy being Biggles.

Unfortunately it’s not all that easy being Beanie either. Our windows have been flung open to counteract the heat and on occasion we’ve been invaded by big buzzy flies. They really annoy me – I find it impossible to concentrate when they’re doing their noisy flybys – but they irritate The Beanster even more.

One afternoon a particular buzzer was driving us both nuts so we joined forces to get it. I armed myself with my battery-powered zapper that resembles a tennis racket, and Beanie armed herself with her treat-powered mouth that resembles.. a mouth. It took several minutes of Beanie running round the room snapping her jaws and me swiping my racket, but eventually the hunt was successful! I stunned the annoying little bugger with all the power that two Duracell AAA batteries could deliver, and Beanie delivered the fatal nibble when it hit the ground. Job done!

To celebrate our victory in the hunt – and take Biggles’ mind off his balls – I brought home some tasty filled bones and treated the pups to a night at the cinema.

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Beanie & Biggles have had tripe-filled bones many times before

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But these had some kind of bacon-flavored stuff in them

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They smelled good even to my nose..

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.. and it seems they tasted even better than they smelled

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Front-row on the movie-watching sofa. Despite appearances we weren’t watching a horror – it’s just that the popcorn had run out.

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