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.

Walking dogs can be hazardous

February 18th, 2006

WALKING DOGS can be hazardous – not for me, but for the dogs. More than once I've watched Macbeth's twitching tail advancing down precipitous banks at the Rocks of Solitude near Edzell, in pursuit of particularly seductive scents. One wrong foot and he'd be whirling into certain oblivion on the rocks below, or into the North Esk from which he'd be pulled somewhere about Marykirk.

  It's a question of deciding whether to holler at him, and distract his attention with possible fearful consequences. Or assume that his innate sense of self-preservation will ensure his triumphant return to safer ground. I usually choose a middle road, making encouraging noises, and between us we resolve the crisis.Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but there can be no exaggeration of the pickle Inka got himself into. It's happened to other dogs I've owned, and I shan't be surprised if some readers have experienced the same problem when out walking their own dogs.

Until recently Inka has clambered between the lower strands of wire fences, but as he's matured he has started jumping over them. If a dog doesn't clear the top strand cleanly there is a danger of a hind leg slipping between the top two strands which sometimes close on the leg, completely trapping the animal with little hope of escape.

This is what happened to Inka, and fortunately I was standing beside him and could deal with the matter immediately. A strong, young dog which has got a fright and is struggling to escape isn't the easiest thing to deal with. The lower strand was barbed wire which didn't help matters, and while his flesh was punctured it was no worse than that.

It's a salutary lesson on the importance of keeping contact with dogs if you take them into the country. It would have been a great deal more traumatic all round if I hadn't been on hand to deal with Inka.

A man I knew trained his dog to jump over his leg which he laid along the top strand of fences. It also prevented the dog ripping its skin if the top strand was barbed.

We thought Inka was going prematurely grey under his chin – aged nine months, for goodness sake! We think he must have singed off the hair on his lower lip, probably from getting too close to the wood burning stove. He's restored to his youthful beauty again.

The catkins are out on the hazel bushes.  Lambs tails' they used to be called, and when you see them hanging on the branch it's a most descriptive expression.

Forked Y-shaped hazel branches were traditionally used by water diviners to trace water courses. I used to think divining was an arcane skill revealed only to hoary old greybeards. But I've tried it with two metal rods with some success – and I'm clean shaven.




Written on Saturday, February 18th, 2006 at 8:09 pm for Weekly.