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

Ear Fatigue

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Like Beanie & Biggles themselves I really appreciate a treat that lasts a good while; sadly many treats are big on promises, but gone in seconds. I once bought a pack of paddywhack strips that were so tough I had to use power-tools to cut them up into snack-sized portions, only to watch incredulously as my pups crunched and munched through the first serving in under a minute. Despite all the hype, Pedigree Jumbones were a huge disappointment, and the so-called “Everlasting treat ball” sold at our local pet stores that “provides hours of chewing fun”? Well it doesn’t. Not even close. The one treat I can count on to last more than few chomps is cow ears, but after recent events I’m thinking they might just last too long.

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One afternoon I was trying hard to get some work finished quickly, but Team Chaos had different ideas. Biggles was going though one of his “I’m going to get something” phases – raiding the cupboards outside our bedroom – while Beanie was rummaging through the toy box and trying to convince me that it was time for a play session. I find it really, really hard to turn Beanie down when she brings a toy to me, but this time I just had to get on with work. I figured a serving of cow ears would buy me the time I needed, so I found the biggest, thickest and most disgusting pair of cow ears that were left in the bulk-buy box and dished them out. It worked beautifully; after 30 seconds of hurried trotting as each recipient found the “right” place to consume their prize, I was rewarded with peace and blissful chewing noises.

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I finished my work just as Biggles finished his chewathon, drained the water bowl and requested an urgent visit to the outside loo. I marched him through the kitchen to the patio door, let him out, and then waited for the sound of Beanie pitter-pattering through the hall, because if Biggles wants to go out, it’s a fair bet his sister won’t be far behind. This time however, all I heard was more chewing. I poked my head out round kitchen doorway and there she was, halfway up the corridor happily munching away on what looked like a substantial chunk of remaining cow ear.

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Five minutes later Biggles was asking to come in, and Beanie was still chomping. A further ten minutes later Susan was ready to take them both for their teatime walk, but Beanie was still chewing.. and chewing. I went to check on her, and found her demeanor had changed. She’d consumed most of the ear, but there was the knotty, super-hard base of it still clutched between her paws, and she was looking fatigued but determined, like a marathon runner fighting through to the finish line. Susan was impatient to get the walk done so I swapped the last of the ear for a small biscuit, and though Beanie looked a little relieved to be giving her jaws a rest, I could tell she was anxious to get her treat back.

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On their return from the walk I figured the best way to do right by them both was to serve the remaining nugget of ear along with Beanie’s evening meal, and slip a regular chew into Biggles bowl too, just so he wouldn’t feel left out. Unfortunately I had still greatly underestimated the chewing time left in that Adamantium-like knot of cow ear, and as Beanie got to work again, Biggles was looking very confused. His chew had gone down so fast he hadn’t even noticed it, but he had noticed Beanie’s ear. We’ve always obeyed the “if one Beagle gets, so does the other” rule, so he knew that there must be an equivalent treat for him somewhere. He began wagging his tail and hunting around the hall for the surprise that he’d somehow missed, and every few steps he looked back at me to see if I was giving him clues about where it might be, because any time he loses a bit of food under furniture I’m always there to help him get it.

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He looked so hopeful and trusting that I couldn’t let him down, so I went back into the kitchen and emerged with a stick of paddywhack. This satisfied Biggles, but now Beanie – who was still tackling her ear – was feeling cheated out of a stick of paddywhack. The evening came very close to disappearing in round after round of compensatory treat servings. Yes, there is such a thing as a treat that lasts too long.