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Beagle-gate part 2: Revenge of the beagles

PUBLISHED: 09:24 14 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:24 14 June 2016

Excuse me, that's the editor's new handbag you're stealing from!

Excuse me, that's the editor's new handbag you're stealing from!

MAUREEN MCLEAN

When our editor went to meet smart and sassy Cassie she had a surprise in her handbag – but the secret was soon out

If you haven’t already, read part one of the beagle-gate saga here!

This starts with something of a friend-of-a-friend story following Beagle-gate – where I upset a worldwide doggy community by ‘bigging up’ Labradors in our issue celebrating Great British Treasures, while merrily using my keyboard to denigrate Beagles.

The uproar spread across Facebook and Twitter with comments that I should be sacked, touching stories of ‘a beagle saved my life’ and even requests that I travel to Spain and Scotland to beg forgiveness from some superb Beagles.

Yes, I wrote that Beagles were daft and difficult to train (I’d met three such characters) and assumed, as journalists sometimes do, that most people shared my opinion. I did admit in the article that Labradors could behave disgustingly as well, but piled on their redeeming features (in my eyes at least).

As the furore grew, I confessed to a good friend and fellow writer that I might need to go mob-handed with a couple of grizzled and hard-bitten Labs to any meet-up with the outraged Beagle fans. Being wiser than me, she said: “You idiot, I know some wonderful Beagles,” and acted as matchmaker for the Great Beagle Showdown.

And so it was that I arrived at the lovely Sandhurst home shared by Louise and Roger Edelman and their eight years old Beagle Cassie for my ‘mea culpa’, with photographer Maureen McLean in tow rather than Labs showing their teeth… which was a wise decision for once, as you will see.

To save the Beagle fans from any further torture, I will say now that this clever, well-behaved and entertaining dog won me over. Cassie quickly worked out that my handbag was where the doggy treats could be found, and had us in hysterics when, spotting that we were distracted over coffee, she sneaked up to carefully steal one or two.

Not that I should be surprised, because in her younger years Cassie took part in agility trials (like my own Lab), something that needs a confident, brainy dog capable of following a string of instructions. She disappeared into the garden for a while with Maureen – not a dog owner, and a complete stranger – obeying all her requests to ‘stay’ and so on during the photo shoot.

Meanwhile, I suffered the ultimate cringe moment, hearing from Louise about how Cassie ended up with a scar on her side – she was set upon by a black Labrador (it would be, wouldn’t it?) while on the lead close to the family’s holiday cottage in Dorset. She needed two major operations after the attack.

Louise was very open about sharing your life with a Beagle – although the ‘ticks’ definitely outweigh the ‘crosses’. She says that alongside the entertaining character they can have a tendency to be stubborn, and that some, like Cassie, can’t be allowed off the lead anywhere deer are found.

It all starts with training from an early age and, most importantly, matching the breed choice to your lifestyle and family. When Beagles ‘go wrong’ it’s usually a failure of the owners to put in the necessary effort from puppy stage. “It can be hard work,” admits Louise. “But you will get so much more back than what you put in during the first six months. These are bright, independent dogs, and simply not as needy as some.”

Cassie is Louise’s second Beagle – she had a darling retriever for 13 years between them. “After we lost the retriever I said it would be a long time before I had another dog, but I lasted three months before we got Cassie when she was just eight weeks old.”

We discussed how larger dogs, like retrievers and Labs, often succumb to arthritis and joint problems, while short-limbed sturdy Beagles seem just the right size, with a leg at each corner. But they are not very small dogs (I was going to say ‘yappy’ but don’t need another scandal), instead a ‘meet in the middle’ size.

Cassie is a great traveller on long car journeys and a perfect example of why good-natured Beagles make ideal family pets. They are natural entertainers, willing to join in games with toddlers to teens before finding a spot to snooze regardless of any mayhem around them. Cassie appreciates her home comforts.

With her short coat and those gorgeous soft ears, she is a clean dog, not given to mad rolling in mud or jumping into slimy and stinking pondwater (one of her Lab friends is known as ‘The Hippo’ for this reason).

Just right now I’m happy with my ‘half a dog’, Flick, next door’s ancient cross which looks like a black Lab met a Jack Russell by a forest rabbit hole and found something more interesting to do. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all to arrive at Maureen’s home one day to find a big-eyed Beagle puppy trying to snuggle up to Henry, her grand old gent of a cat. 


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