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.

Owning a dog is healthy

September 8th, 2007

SIGNS OF summer's waning become more evident every day. The leaves on the trees have lost their sheen and some are starting to fall already. One of the few frustrations I have about autumn is the constant clearing up of leaves – no sooner have you swept up one lot than all the awkward corners fill up again.

Out first thing one morning we went swinging round a corner and I saw a stoat ahead of me hunting along the verges of the path. I got both dogs to stand still while I watched. I was surprised I hadn't seen him earlier – there are rabbit holes in the rhododendrons and I've seen young rabbits playing on the path all summer.

Unfortunately I couldn't stop Inka's tail wagging and that caught the stoat's attention. Despite poor eyesight they are very alert and inquisitive animals. He sat up on his hind legs to get a better look and gazed at us for a short while, plainly mistrusting what he saw. A lightning turn and the last I saw of him was the black tip to his tail as he bounded into the cover of the ditch.

Despite their size they are one of our fiercest predators, often killing their prey with a single bite to the neck. It's sometimes said they suck their victims' blood, but that's just an old wives tale.

I've been reading articles on the benefits of dog walking, which I had pretty well worked out for myself, but it's good to get confirmation that the discipline of walking two dogs every day has improved me in mind and body. The companionship of dogs helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress and contributes to a healthier life.

And it's not just adults who benefit. Research has shown that having a pet, any pet, increases a sense of responsibility in youngsters. Where families keep pets the children tend to have better school attendance levels than families without. And the suggestion that a pet can be a health hazard is not given much credit. Children are more likely to catch illness from humans.

Owning a dog can have positive benefits for elderly people. A dog can be a surrogate member of family, and having someone dependent on you for food and exercise who loyally repays your efforts can be very supportive. Dog visits to residential homes and hospices are welcomed by residents and patients, and their families and staff alike.

I'm sure every dog owner reading this will remember times when they near blew a gasket with frustration at their pet's perverseness and stubbornness, but we know we wouldn't be without our canine companions. So when I'm driven fair demented by our two, and the blood pressure and stress are going through the roof, I'll try to remember that the companionship of dogs contributes to a healthier life!

  

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