Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Night manoeuvres

January 11th, 2003

WE ALWAYS try – the dogs and I, that is – to have the main walk of the day in the afternoon daylight. At this time of year it isn't always possible, so evening walks are usually taken in the lanes around the house.

It's very easy to walk in a cocoon limited by your torch beam. I have lots to learn about country nightlife and as daylight fades it swings into action. The countryside is as much on my doorstep as during daytime but somehow darkness discourages the inclination to explore.

The badger is a true nocturnal animal. I've only ever seen one in the wild, briefly caught in the car headlights. Hedgehogs are mainly nocturnal. Their night time slaughter on the roads proves that they are around even if we don't often see them.

I had a springer spaniel called Stan who regularly brought me hedgehogs, rolled tight into their defensive ball, but he would refuse to drop them. The only way I could make him release them was to “clunk” him under the chin giving him a prickly sandwich which he found most uncomfortable. However often we had this battle Stan never stopped lovingly bringing me these special gifts.

The night time sky can be a glory all of its own. Frosty nights shimmering with stars. Sickle shaped new moons growing into flamboyant full moons. My neighbour told me I had recently missed the excitement of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. I've asked him to phone me the next time it happens. Not everyone enjoys it, but I love to sit in an unlit room and watch lightning split the night time sky.

In October I joined a party that went out with a Forest Ranger in Glen Doll to hunt for bats. It was a fascinating excursion because I know so little about them. Using special detectors we could hear the bats' ultrasonic sounds and our guide identified the various species for us.

We also looked at the catch in a moth trap. Some of them have the most vivid colours which seem unnecessary for a life in the dark. They used to be just victims on the windscreen of my car, but there's another world for me to explore.

The dogs always have a last short walk, to shed one final tear for Nelson. This is when I hear the foxes barking. And like the Wild Wood in The Wind in the Willows there's the “pat-pat-pat of little feet”. Sit down quietly in a wood, and after a few minutes all sorts of little animals are confidently rustling through the dead leaves in their search for food.

The tawny owls tune in. I presume there are male and female birds calling to each other. One calls a short – “kee-wick, kee-wick”. The reply is an eerie “hoooo, hoooo” which sometimes tails off into a quavering shudder of such agonised desolation that I hardly dare close my eyes when I crawl into bed.

There's snow on the hills. Maybe some proper winter weather is on the way.

Written on Saturday, January 11th, 2003 at 9:55 am for Weekly.