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.


January 21st, 2006

NOT CONTENT with thinking he's an outsize, black West Highland terrier I fear that Inka may now be thinking he's a cat   He has taken to catching field mice, and he brings their limp little bodies into the house and tenderly offers them to the Doyenne   He cannot understand why his gifts attract so much abuse  

In reality, of course, he's a Labrador Retriever and you can be sure the original breeders had something more substantial in mind for retrieval than tiny mice   The mice are not quite so irritating as the pebbles which he picks up and  sooks' like mint imperials, and drops in dark corners of the house to be  sooked' up by the Dyson with alarming, rattling explosions.

I'm seeing all the signs of approaching spring   Activity at the bird table is increasing and a pair of goldfinches has reappeared in the garden   I hear the woodpeckers drumming in the woods round the  big hoose', and they have started to visit our peanut feeders again   At this time of year they arrive around mid-morning, as does at least one red squirrel.

I can easily waste half an hour and more sitting at the window, drinking my coffee, and watching the goings-on   There is an ebb and flow in the feeding habits of the small songbirds   One moment they are mobbing the feeders, then, for no apparent reason and without any apparent signal, they scatter into the surrounding bushes.

I never know what it is that panics them because moments later they are back feeding again.

I watch the squirrel coming for the peanuts, running across a piece of rough ground, ever vigilant for danger   With its rapid, jerky movements it looks almost like a little mechanical toy, and it hops and darts about the branches of the tree where I've placed one feeder  

When they sit up in their familiar begging pose, with their tails curled up their backs, it's little wonder they are such icons of the Scottish countryside.

The dogs were summoned for a photo call   Not a very high fashion photo call, you understand, but every dog must start somewhere   I thought Inka, at only eight months old, would be an absolute nightmare – wanting to sniff and lick everything, if not worse!   I certainly didn't expect him to be so patient for fully an hour and a half   He sat and walked to heel to order, as if to the manner born.

Macbeth was even more laid back, but was declared to be  too clean'   the last thing I expected to hear   To be in proper character terriers should look scruffy and disreputable   We ought to have postponed the photographs for a couple of months until he is due for his next clip   Then he really looks like the  demented ball of string' the Doyenne once described him as.

Written on Saturday, January 21st, 2006 at 8:04 am for Weekly.