Six Pint Beanie and Lumpy Biggles

After such a long hot and dry spell I’m loving the cooler, wetter days we’re having just now. I feel like I have much more energy, and I’m finally getting round to all the little house upkeep jobs that need to be done before winter. In the last few weeks I’ve fixed some leaky guttering, done some repairs on our deck and painted all the other external woodwork. Most of these jobs turned out to be more challenging than they should have been, largely because the cooler weather has also reinvigorated the furry members of our family.

Mucky Pup [5D4_3166]

While I was making plans to fix the house, Beanie & Biggles got to grips with some of the projects that they’d been putting off too. Biggles finally hunted down my last stash of sandpaper and turned it into abrasive confetti. When I came to mask off the window frames, I found that someone had also put tooth-sized holes in all my rolls of masking tape. And those baldy bits of lawn I’d dug over and reseeded with grass? Well Beanie felt they needed a bit more digging, then brought soil samples into our bed for further analysis.

Our beach runs have likewise been more interesting. One day – after completing an interval at a faster pace – I looked round for the pups and realized that they’d fallen behind for some reason. They were maybe 150 meters away, and I could see Beanie running about sniffing something intently while Biggles was lying down with his erect tail wagging away. I called to them, promising chicken and biccies. Beanie looked at me blankly for a second then returned to what she was doing. Biggles stood up and turned to face me, but wasn’t prepared to leave Beanie.

I felt that action would work better than a second call at this point, so I turned my back to them and carried on running. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Biggles was now following me; it wasn’t a full commitment sprint, but he was on his way. He caught up with me quickly so I stopped, rewarded him with chicken and looked back to observe the Beanster. Experience has taught me that a motionless Beanie with her head down in feeding position is a cause for concern (we hold the record at our old vet for medically induced vomiting to remove foreign objects) but in this case she seemed quite animated.  I judged that it was safe to go on a little further, pressuring her to give up on whatever she was doing and rejoin the pack. With Biggles trotting loyally by my side I ran on for another hundred meters or so, then again stopped to assess the situation. Beanie was just a distant dot on the beach now, and I tried calling her one more time.

“Beanie! Biggles is getting chicken and you’re missing out!”

The little Beanie dot stubbornly refused to come running and I realised that I wasn’t going to win this; there was no alternative but to go back and get her. As soon as I started moving Biggles ran on ahead for a short distance, waited for me to catch up, then ran on ahead again as though guiding me back. I was both intrigued and concerned about what could have held the Beanster’s attention so firmly. When we got close enough the mystery was finally solved: she’d found a big plastic milk container and was desperately trying to get at the small mixture of sour milk and sea water that was swilling around inside it. When she saw me heading towards her she looked relieved, just as she does when I help her recover a piece of kibble lost under furniture.

Unfortunately for Beanie, I wasn’t about to help her get the last dregs of milk from that container. I attached her lead and gave her a small piece of chicken by way of consolation, then took a moment to further assess the situation. Did Beanie look wider and fuller than she’d been at the start of the run, or was it my imagination? Just a few feet from the container was its green screw on top. The chances of both the container and its top being washed in so close together by the tide were remote; it was far more likely that the top had been securely fitted when it arrived on the beach, and that my resourceful girl had removed it. Now came the thought that the container had been full when Beanie found it. Checking the label, I saw that the capacity was 6 pints. I looked at Beanie, trying to assess whether there really could be six pints of dodgy milk in there. She was wider than normal, and her stomach did look swollen. I gently palpated her abdomen as I’ve so often seen the vet do; it was firm. Really firm. Van tyres at extra pressure for a long journey kind of firm. For comparison I tried the same test on Biggles: pliable and squidgy. Yep, six pints confirmed. The run back was conducted at a more leisurely pace than normal, and that evening Beanie made a lot of visits to the outside loo, but at least we didn’t need an emergency stomach evacuation at the vet this time.


Unfortunately we did end up at the vet for his Biggleship. For a while now he’s had a little growth on one of his rear feet. A week ago the growth lost its covering of fur and appeared quite red and angry, so off we went to the doggy doctor. The vet quickly dismissed our fears that it could be something sinister, but nevertheless suggested an operation to remove it. Currently he’s on a course of antibiotics to see if that will calm the lump down and shrink it. While I understand the logic of getting rid of this thing while it’s relatively small, I don’t relish the post-op recovery. It’s my litte boy’s 10th birthday at the end of August, but instead of having fun he could be going stir crazy in the house for up to two weeks with stitches, dressings and a bag on his foot. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the op won’t be necessary.


Under cover, overheated

Occasionally we watch those “new life in the sun” programs which follow people who’ve permanently left the UK to live and work abroad in warmer climes, and we wonder what it would be like to have long stretches of consistently warm sunny weather. Thanks to the recent heatwave we don’t have to wonder any more: neither us humies nor our Beagles cope well with prolonged heat. It hasn’t even been that hot here on the west coast of Scotland; when more southern bits of the UK were sweltering in temperatures exceeding 30 degrees celcius we were only in the low twenties, but even that was too much.

The gps data from all my recent beach runs with the pups tells part of the story. Intervals of faster-paced running have disappeared, replaced by slow steady plods through the shallows. When we’ve got home after a run nobody – whether in possession of a tail or not – has been fit for anything but napping.


I must concede that a post-outing nap or three has never been unusual for our Beagles, but the quality of their recent dozing has definitely been affected by the heat. Both of them like to be covered during daytime snoozes, and Biggles has driven me nuts by requesting a blanket, struggling back out of it after barely a minute, then repeating his request again once he’s cooled back down. Ironically Beanie has been less of a blankie pest than usual, but only because she’s sought refuge in our bedroom – the coolest room in the house – for much of the day. I know that her sleeps have been just as interrupted as those of the Bigglet however, because one day I was making frequent trips to and from the bedroom to put washing away and I saw her in a different position and state of duvet coverage every single time.


At first I called my pups crazy for still wanting to be covered, but I’ve realized that both Susan and I are exactly the same; we just can’t sleep as deeply without a cover, but any time we do pull the covers over us we’re hurriedly casting them off seconds later. We’ve been waking up nearly as tired as when we went to bed, yearning for a top-up nap to recover from our last one. This presumably is what it’s like to be a Beagle all year round.

Just the last few days the heatwave has backed off a little. There’s been rain and cooling breezes, and almost instantly our beach runs have become more vigorous, post-run napping has been more contented and snory, and blankie request have been replaced by this:


It’s play time Dad!

I think we’d better make the most of this more comfortable weather, because forecasts indicate that the heat is set to return.

Happy to be home again [5D4_1937]


Recently we spent a week on the Isle of Islay. Although it’s one of the larger Scottish islands and a popular destination for whiskey lovers, it still only has around 3000 inhabitants and I figured that being there was going to be a very a different experience from life on the mainland. I had visions of getting there and finding that nowhere accepted credit cards, all the newspapers on sale were at least a week old, and that the Islay equivalent of fast food was a potato that had already been rinsed to get the soil off. In reality it wasn’t that bad, but there were still differences that took some getting used to.

Very importantly the island did have a resident vet, so at least I knew we wouldn’t be facing a two hour ferry ride plus at least an hour’s driving if Beanie decided she was due a bit of medical attention. Additionally most of the places that had shops did indeed accept card payment. On the other hand, the so-called petrol station in Bowmore (the island’s main town) resembled a little house on a quiet side-street that just happened to have a single pump sitting outside the front window. When we checked into one of the two campsites on the island, I received a long and unusually detailed lecture on the site rules, particularly concerning what should, and should not, be deposited in the toilet; it immediately brought to mind the Dentons house rules in League of Gentlemen: “here is the sofa bed, with it’s own shower and WC, into which we do not pass solids”.

One thing that didn’t suprise me about Islay is that sheep were everywhere. Biggles and Beanie are much calmer around sheep than they used to be, but opportunities for dog walking were still limited. This is what was outside our van one morning when we wild-camped by a main road.


One of the more popular walks – to the “American Monument” – was sheep free, but instead it took us right through a field of highland cattle. Happily the cattle showed no interest in us, and even more happily Biggles decided not woof loudly at any of them.


The path to the monument


What we had to pass..


The monument was erected by the American Red Cross after two troop ships were lost off the Islay coast during the first world war.

Some more shots from Islay:


The marina at Bowmore


Someone has forgotten what “leave” means

Saligo Rocks [5D4_1729]

The rugged coastline at Saligo Bay





Apparently Portnahaven is a good place for wrestling


..and bitey-face

Soldiers Rock, Islay [5D4_1888 1]

One of the more impressive sea stacks – Soldiers Rock

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse [5D4_1593]

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse


Cliffs near the American Monument


It’s a boring two hour journey on the ferry, but at least the seats are comfy

On our final day we drove to Port Askaig, expecting to spend the night there and have a little stroll around the shops in the morning before our return ferry. As it turned out, Port Askaig is essentially just a ferry terminal, with a pub, a post office, and a petrol pump. That’s all. I filled up our van at the pump, then set about looking for where / how to pay. I saw no automated payment facility, no payment kiosk, not even a security camera. Was fuel free here? I kind of doubted it, but still couldn’t see anywhere to pay. I wandered down past the pub – credit card still in hand – then eventually spotted a small sign indicating that the Post Office doubles as the petrol station kiosk. Going inside I found someone from the European mainland trying to purchase stamps to send of a couple of postcards. The guy behind the counter was using his best cross-language communication technique (speaking English LOUD and s-l-o-w): “We’ve sold out of stamps just now, so you’ll have to wait until the Post Office opens up properly. Come back tomorrow. Err no, not tomorrow, we’re closed tomorrow. Come back in a couple of days.”

Yep, not quite the remote, facility-free outpost I was expecting, but not exactly the mainland either.