Beanie’s Second Big Yahoo in Galloway

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Nearly five years ago Beanie decided to escape the confines of popular walking routes and go off on a solo romp in the Galloway hills. She unhooked her lead (which she was able to do back then, before I employed extra security measures) and went on her own Big Yahoo of an adventure.

After some hours of merrily following her nose she returned, tired but happy. I’ll never know what she got up to during that time, but I do know that after carrying her the 8km back to the car, the two of us spent the next day thoroughly knackered, with tender feet and sore muscles.

Last week Beanie returned to the Galloway hills, had an even bigger adventure away from the popular walking routes, and again spent the next day recuperating. This time however I know exactly what she got up to, because me and Biggles were with her every step of the way.

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Our walk started by Bruce’s Stone at Glen Trool, but instead of following the well-trodden route up The Merrick, we headed out towards Gairland Burn and Loch Valley to try some of the lesser-visited hills.

The first part of the walk followed an old drystone wall and offered beautiful views back to Loch Trool. The weather was perfect; dry and bright but not too warm. It strongly reminded me of the hilly farming regions of North Yorkshire I enjoyed as a boy.

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The next section was long, boggy and boring for anybody not in possession of a highly-tuned sniffer, but when we emerged from it we were by Loch Valley, getting our first view of the hills we’d be sampling.

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Looking forward towards the hills

It was here that we answered a question that’s been foremost in the minds of top current affairs experts of late. No I’m not talking about the Brexit implementation details, or the Russia/Syria thing, I’m talking about the really big issue, specifically: “are Earl’s Air-dried Beef Steaks any good?” Our pups have had growing respect for Earl – who seems to be a Golden Retriever who makes the cheap doggy stuff at chain-store Aldi – ever since they tried his dental sticks. Knowing that a big walk was ahead of us I’d grabbed a serving of Earl’s latest creation and stuffed it in my camera bag, but I had no idea whether it would pass muster. And the answer? Well if speed of consumption is any guide then yep, Earl knows his stuff and his beef steaks are well worth speed-swallowing.

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Moving on we passed the long-abandoned “sheepfold” between Loch Valley and Loch Neldricken, sniffed it, peed on it a bit, and then headed uphill. The hillside was covered in a thick layer of dried, reedy grass which was so soft it sucked the energy right out of my legs, but made very comfortable bedding material for his Biggleship.

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After no small amount of climbing up and over things we eventually ended up at the top of a hill that actually has a name: Craignairy. The weather had been cycling between heavy cloud and bright sunshine up to that point, but as we reached the summit plateau and looked out over Loch Enoch towards The Merrick, we got the perfect combination of the two.

View from Craignairy [IMG_6654_II]

Beanie and Biggles sipped from the pool of fresh, clear drinking water that had been so thoughtfully provided by the summit cairn, and I continued to take a few shots.

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View from CraigNairy II [5D4_9842]

Deciding that this would be a good time to confirm the initial conclusions regarding Earls’ beef steaks, I put Beanie & Biggles into “wait” position by my feet, and placed one “steak” on the top of each of my boots. After a short wait, I gave them the go-ahead, at which point Beanie promptly grabbed the steak that had been intended for Biggles.

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In the split-second that followed, I saw a range of emotions pass over Biggles’ little face. First there was shock, then panic, and then resignation, even though there was still one steak sitting untouched on my other boot. I started pointing and trying to get the words out to Biggles before Beanie could gulp her steak down and go for round two: “Oi! Biggles! Quick, get the other one!” It was close, but he came to his senses just in time. Beanie of course was aware of her missed opportunity, and complained loudly:

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What?? I was going to have that!

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Noooo!

As often happens Biggles didn’t really understand why Beanie was woofing, but decided to join in anyway, so I got stick from both of them for trying to keep things fair.

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Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get it right.

Now we had to choose which of Craignairy’s neighboring hills we would visit next: the worryingly named “Dungeon Hill”, or the larger “CraigNaw” that was sort of on the way back to the van. Given the light and the time of day, I decided that CraigNaw was the better choice.

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The way ahead to the start of Craignaw

Craignaw took longer to climb than I expected; every time we reached what I thought would be the summit, yet another short climb was revealed ahead of us. Regardless, there were plenty of great views to be had on the way up, including one that made even Biggles feel a bit inadequate.

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Craignaw View [5D4_9957]

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Looking back to CraigNairy

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And other views from the top

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We had our final round of beef steaks at the very top of Craignaw, and this time there were no mishaps.

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The walk out to this lovely region and the hill climbs from it had all been great, but now we had a long, boggy trudge back to the van. For most of this I edged around the worst mud and marsh spots, but the closer we got to the finish line, the more slapdash I became. At one point, having untangled Beanie & Biggles’s leads for the umpteenth time, I thought “Why bother avoiding the wet stuff? My feet are wet anyway, and this will go faster if I plough straight through it”. So that’s what I did at the next muddy pool, and almost went over as my entire lower leg disappeared into bog. Ever the caring Beagle, Beanie came straight to my side, and used my sudden loss of height to gain access to my trouser pockets. I gently but firmly extracted her snout from my trousers, then not so gently extracted my leg from the bog, and returned to my original “avoid the bog” walking strategy.

We were all tired and hungry when we finally reached the van; I reckon we’d probably walked around 18km in total, and a fair proportion of that had been on hills. I served up the pups’ tea and while they half-swallowed, half-inhaled it from their bowls, I perched on the back seat in my mud-soacked clothes, sipping an instant cappuccino and demolishing a bag of bacon rashers crisps. Now two days later I still have muscle-soreness from carrying all my camera gear on that walk, but I know that at some point we’ll be back to do the hills we missed.

Magic Bottoms and Outrageous Seagulls

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I don’t know if this is a common Beagle-owner trait or something that’s peculiar to me, but some weird part of my brain always times Beanie and Biggles when they go for a dump. Though I couldn’t put an actual number to it, I have a sense of what constitutes a normal squat time; if this is exceeded I become concerned, sometimes with good reason. At the very least, a long squat can indicate the presence of what a software engineer might describe as improperly terminated output. If that “output” is left to dangle there for too long, the afflicted Beagle will almost certainly try to remedy the situation by scooting on the ground, leaving a skid-mark on their fur that is as unpleasant to view as it is nose-unfriendly. At the other end of the scale, an overly long poo attempt could indicate a more serious issue such as a blockage. Consequently when the Beanster assumed the position for way too long on a recent beach run, she got my attention.

As I headed to her she came out of her squat and ran to me, but her gait didn’t quite look normal and she kept pausing every few yards. Given that she’d only just returned to full off-lead activity after a shoulder tweak I wasn’t sure whether to be more concerned about that or the overlong poo. As it turned out, I soon discovered that the two symptoms had the same cause. When I’d unclipped her lead just a few minutes ago, she’d had one tail, but now she had two. One was long, furry and mostly brown with a white tip, while the other was only six inches in length, and mostly white with random streaks of brown along it. Immediately identifying the second one as the imposter, I prepared for the extraction; a poo bag went over my hand, and I gingerly grasped the redundant tail and gently began to pull on it. An inch of extra tail came out of Beanie’s bum hole making it seven inches long in total, then another inch, and all the while I felt certain that I was about to reach the end of it, but it just kept on coming. As it passed 10 inches in length I imagined myself as an old-school magician pulling an endless stream of handkerchiefs out of a pocket. At eleven inches I was expecting to see the ears of a rabbit beginning to emerge out of Beanie’s orifice, but finally at twelve inches the thing – which appeared to be the remnants of a plastic bag – came free from Beanie’s magic bottom. She was very relieved to get that out of her, and so was I, though I was left puzzling over how it got in there in the first place. The rest of our beach run went without incident, but the day still had one little surprise to spring on us.

After the run I bundled the pups into their crates in the car, picked up Susan from the gym and parked up at our local supermarket. We have a policy of never leaving our Beagles unattended in a vehicle, so while Susan went shopping I kept watch over the furry types. Biggles settled down for a nap almost immediately, but Beanie sat up in her crate to snoop on the other shoppers. Suddenly I heard something tap the roof of the car, and Beanie sprang to attention, while Biggles started to snore. I checked the mirrors but saw no-one in the immediate vicinity. Just as I was about to dismiss the sound, it happened again, and again. Something was on the roof of our car, and it was moving! Beanie sounded the alarm and her excited movements caused the car to rock slightly on its suspension. This disturbed the visitor on our roof, causing more tapping, which in turn prompted yet more baying, but Biggles remained curled up and snoring through it all. My ears were starting to ring from the noise and clearly it had got too much for our visitor also, because whatever it was shifted to the roof an adjacent car finally allowing us to view it: a particularly fat seagull. Seeing the cause of the disturbance didn’t stop Beanie’s baying frenzy, but its tone did at least switch from alarm to outrage. The noise soon attracted the attention of passers-by and I couldn’t help but chuckle, at which point Captain Vigilant in the crate next to Beanie woke up, let out a startled woof and sprang to his feet. Some days my little boy has the reactions of a drugged Sloth, but this day he wasn’t anything like that fast :) The baying continued for short while even after the seagull had departed, and as often happens I was left wishing I had a sweatshirt with “I’m not with these Beagles” printed on it in bold letters.

Finally, here are a few shots from a less eventful day out at our local park.

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This next shot is a near-duplicate of one I took over seven years ago. Apart from some white fur around the eyes, the pups haven’t changed much!

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Beanie and Biggles as they are today

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And as they were seven years ago

Butterfly Theory and The Hero of Arklet

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Sometimes one little mishap can be the trigger for a series of related yet unforeseeable events. For example, just under two weeks ago I pulled my calf on a beach run, and since then Beanie has injured her shoulder, a record number of socks have been binned, a glass has been broken, and Biggles has earned the title “The Hero of Arklet”. While superficially these events might appear unconnected, the application of hindsight reveals that they all stemmed from my calf muscle injury. Bear with me while I explain.

My calf tweak forced me out of running for a week or so, but I saw no reason to let it deprive the pups of their regular offlead romps on the beach. When the next outing was due I handled it just as I would a run, except that the initial on-lead and return sections were conducted at my best walking/limping pace. Save for a little build-up of frustration at the start, this first “beach-run substitute” went well, and I returned home with two well-exercised doggies and no further injuries to my calf.

The next outing did not fare so well. Beanie and Biggles showed more frustration during the initial walk, and when I unleashed them they went nuts. Happily they didn’t go far away from me, but I’d made the decision to get them back on lead at the very next opportunity when, suddenly, Beanie decided to run up a crazily steep dune. Our coast suffers from tidal erosion; every so often a chunk of sand and dirt falls away leaving a low but near-vertical cliff edge, and it was one of these that Beanie chose for her ascent. Watching her sprint up there was almost like watching a movie special effect; it just didn’t look realistic that a little Beagle could get up there so quickly and easily. Even with his powerful rear leg muscles Biggles wasn’t able to follow her directly; he had to find a less steep approach, and was baying madly as he tried to catch her up. The two of them disappeared from view briefly, but just before I committed to tearing up my calf muscle in pursuit of them, their heads bobbed up over the dune grass and they headed back down to me. Biggles arrived first and I got the feeling that all was not well with the Beanster as she brought up the rear. She was still high on pain-killing adrenaline, but I could see a mild limp caused by her right shoulder. I’d pulled my calf, causing Beanie & Biggles to get stir crazy, and as a result Beanie had done herself a mischief.

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Now any further off-lead adventures were cancelled until both Beanie’s injury and mine were healed. Deprived of an important outlet for all their energy, the members of Team Chaos sort diversion in other ways. Biggles’s sock hunting antics went into overdrive, causing a record number to be binned due to excessive modification (nibbling), and then one morning, Beanie added to the damage.

Not long after I’d opened the pups’ crates and allowed them into our bed, Beanie went on a recon mission into the lounge. I became vaguely aware of rummaging noises, followed by the sound of something bouncing around on a table as it was being intensively licked. I’m normally quite careful about putting used cups and glasses away last thing at night, but I remembered leaving a glass on the table by the sofa, and now Beanie was doing her dishwashing routine. Just as I was about to shout “Oi! Leave it!”, there was a loud crash from the lounge, followed by the rapid scampering of four little paws. Two seconds later Beanie was in my face, wagging furiously and giving me nose kisses. This could have been an apology for the breakage, but I think it’s more likely that she’d just got scared by that exploding glass and needed reassurance.

So much for Beanie’s shoulder, the socks and the glass, but one thing remains: Biggles being hailed as The Hero of Arklet.

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In this case, Arklet refers Loch Arklet, a somewhat remote land-locked body of water in the Trossachs. I’d been impressed by photos I’d seen of the loch and wanted to get some of my own. The initial expedition from our parking spot on the far western edge of the loch was cut short for the sake of Beanie’s shoulder, but then while Beanie and Susan snuggled in the van, I headed out with Biggles for a second, longer walk.

Initially it felt really weird having just one Beagle with me. This may sound silly but I like to talk to my Beagles on long walks, and with only Biggles to chat to, the conversation was kind of stilted. Although neither of my Beagles has actually got the hang of talking back using human speech, Beanie at least knows how to provide non-verbal feedback with frequent glances, head-tilts and so on; by comparison Biggles is a man of few words, unless there’s a cyclist, sheep or other dog to aim them at. He was however unusually well-behaved whenever I stopped for photos; he just quietly parked his bum while I set up, never wound his lead round my tripod legs (normally a frequent issue with Biggleses) and even seemed to understand me perfectly when I was telling him to pose for a shot, or to back up so that he wasn’t in the frame. Without Beanie to distract him and give him naughty ideas, he was doing a very good impersonation of the perfect Beagle boy.

Boathouse on Loch Arklet [5D4_9099]

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It wasn’t long before I began handing out treats for such good behavior, and by the time we were heading back along the loch our “conversation” was really flowing. It hadn’t been the best of weather but I’d got all the shots I wanted and was looking forward to getting back to the van for some nosh, and I could tell that Biggles was on the same page. I told him about the cow ear that was waiting for him, and he quickened his pace. Then, with only a few hundred yards between us and the van, we found our way blocked by a black goat. He had a large set of horns, a bit of an attitude, and there was no way around him.

Biggles quickly assessed the situation and prepared a special woofing for our opponent. He stretched his neck forward, held his tail bolt upright, flattened the top of his head, and let rip with a stream of foul-mouthed doggy expletives. The effect was immediate; the goat dropped its head and began nonchalantly chewing grass. While this wasn’t exactly what Biggles had been aiming for, it did give us a window of opportunity to shuffle past the goat without any unpleasantness – something that would have been considerably more difficult with two Beagles. I was so proud of my little boy as we arrived back at the van that I called him “The Hero of Arklet” – a title that stuck for a couple of days (at least until he killed another sock).5D4_9133