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.

Eating habits

December 6th, 2008

“ARE YOU coming?” – that's what Macbeth waits to hear, for it means I'm ready to take him his walk. From lunchtime onwards he dogs my steps (in a manner of speaking) getting under my feet and making sure I don't forget him. It gets dark so early that I like to get the walk over between three and four o'clock, but if I'm busy and late with the walk he sits in his bed with a grumpy look on his face until he sees me put my jacket and wellies on.

He has always loved playing in snow and the recent falls have been just the right depth for his wee sawn off legs. As soon as I let him out of the back door he tears across to the peanut feeders where the red squirrels have been active. The squirrels always see him coming and are far too quick for him, scampering up the neighbouring trees and peering down at him from the high branches. Once he's made the gesture we can set off on the walk proper.

I've no idea how long Inka's memory will have stayed with him but I've noticed how Macbeth now takes the lead on the walks, when in the past I was forever bawling at him to catch up. Inka could never leave him alone if he had found a scent of his own and perhaps Macbeth trailed behind so that he could enjoy his own scents to himself.

The cold snaps have brought a change of activity at the bird feeders. Although they are mobbed by great tits and coal tits the levels of nuts in them have been going down more slowly than usual. A fortnight ago they were empty by lunchtime. Now they are still a quarter full at dusk. Perhaps the nuts don't provide enough nourishment in this icy weather and the birds need to forage out and about for seeds and insects to supplement their diet.

The woodpeckers and squirrels normally won't let any of the tits or finches near the peanuts while they feed. But there is a spirit of live and let live for the time being with a squirrel or a woodpecker on one side and one or two hungry birds on the other.

The same spirit of compromise is not offered to the squirrel that lives on the far side of the lawn. He is chased off as soon as he appears looking for some grub. As they scamper across the grass and up and down trees it looks for all the world as if they are playing, but in reality the two resident animals are protecting their territory and food supply.

However, like so much of animal aggression, a lot of it is attitude and making the gesture, and in due course the intruder is allowed to share.

Written on Saturday, December 6th, 2008 at 11:07 am for Weekly.