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.

Early bird and early cups of tea

August 13th, 2005

RISING EARLY means I see the early bird catching the worm. Inka is still at the puppy equivalent of potty training and I have to let him out at some unearthly times. Afterwards I usually make a cup of tea for us both – the Doyenne and me, that is – and watch the early morning activity.

The blackbirds are the busiest. I haven't seen our thrushes for some days, so presumably they have found an alternative food source for the time being. You might expect all birds to start feeding at daybreak, but although the dawn chorus is in full swing the tits and finches don't come to the bird table until about an hour after the blackies start hunting the lawns.

Some weeks ago I suggested that birds which ate worms as part of their diet relied on smell to find them. I've read since that, in fact, they look for the tip of the worm's body protruding from the ground. So sight is the sense they rely on.

Out with the dogs for the first walk of the day we turned down a familiar track towards a newly cut stubble field. There's a strip of game crop (to provide winter feeding for game birds) down one side. It provides good cover and diet for a variety of animals and I approach the gate quietly to avoid disturbing whatever wildlife may be there.

I saw a pair of radar ears flickering above the game crop and my first thought was that it was one of the family of resident hares that we meet quite regularly. Keeping as still as possible I watched and waited, both dogs sitting at my side. It was only when Macbeth got bored with the inactivity and began to sniff for the scents that enrich his life that the hare noticed us, and turned out to be a roe deer calf.

It seemed curious about us and couldn't make up its mind whether to come and investigate this new phenomenon in its life. However it eventually thought better of it all, and moved off again. I expected to see the doe and wondered if they had got separated. She must have been lying up in the warmth of the morning sun and the calf had wandered about a hundred yards from her. Her urgent barking calls soon had him back at her side and they took off over the yellow stubble.

Macbeth is at last accepting that the puppy is here to stay, and is acknowledging him more and more. He quite went into a decline for several weeks and had to be constantly reassured that he hadn't been sidelined. It was very much the same situation when we brought him to join old Sheba. Her nose was dreadfully out of joint and, initially, she would have nothing to do with him.