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.

 

 

 

Blank(ie) Stare

When Susan created Beanie’s special cave-like living room bed – known in these parts as “The Abode” – it made Beanie very happy, and it made me happy too; it dramatically reduced the number of “cover me with a blankie!” demands I had to handle when I was concentrating on work. I still had to deal with lots of seemingly urgent outside loo requests that were really about getting access to the kitchen, and sometimes the blankie requests kept coming because Biggles had parked his big white bottom on The Abode, but still, most days that bed made my life a bit easier and made Beanie a bit snugglier. Unfortunately this last week The Abode was rendered temporarily¬†unavailable due to a messy barfing incident, and we were thrown right back into blankiesville.

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Honestly this couldn’t have come at a worst time. I was snowed under with work, and it was extra cold and windy outside; absolutely the conditions in which a small Beagle girl (and boy, for that matter) wants to be covered by a blankie. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the blankie requests had come at say, hourly intervals, but they were much, much more frequent than that. If I didn’t place the blankie just right, there would be a loss of containment during the “let’s go round and round” dance that precedes settling down, and another intervention would be required almost immediately. If the postman or a delivery guy went anywhere close to the house, a long orange blankie slug trail would be left on the way to the window or door, and I’d be up and out of my chair to fix things again. If either me or Susan got up to make a coffee, the possibility of kitchen access would lead to another shedding and subsequent re-application of the blankie, as would trips to the water bowl, trips to the loo, mention of a food trigger word (trust me there are a lot of them!), and of course visits to the toy box because someone decided that a mid-afternoon squeak would be a good idea.

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Look Dad, it’s not our fault that you said something that sounded like “chew”

Biggles’ blankie requests involved raising a front paw and looking pathetic, but if I was late in responding he’d just curl up and snuggle down anyway. Beanie however was relentless and impossible to ignore. She signaled her needs with a noise like slightly muffled fart, repeated at random intervals between five and twenty seconds; it was the Beagle re-imagining of Chinese water torture. Pretty soon my exasperation at the frequency of the requests became apparent even to Beanie, and being such a smart and empathetic little girl, she realized that she had to give me a break from the “fart-gone-wrong” signal. So instead, I got this:

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and this:

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and in particularly desperate cases, this:

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No noise, no raised paw, just a silent unbroken stare. Even from across the room, this was way more distracting than any vocal request. I tried to fight it, looking her right in the eyes and saying “No Beanie, you don’t need a blankie!” but she just stared right back at me. “Seriously, I need to concentrate. Go see your Mum and get her to do it.” Still there was that unbroken stare in the corner of my vision, commanding my attention. When I finally challenged her with “No Beanie, I AM going to win this one!” she knew I was close to caving in, and held on that bit longer.

Days later, I’m now happy to report that The Abode is back in action (even though it took a double scoop of Napisan to get it properly clean), so I’m no longer getting the stare treatment from Beanie. As for Biggles, well it seems he’s now having to deal with his own blankie requests from his best pal, Monkey.

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