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.

Small and deadly!

April 17th, 2010

TWO DOGS ought to be enough for any family, but for this past week we've been a three dog family with a visit from Rosie, our daughter Cait and her family's high octane Jack Russell terrier   She saw Cait and grandson James depart with scarcely a backward glance and settled down to organise her new surroundings to her satisfaction


Rosie has legs that are shorter even than Macbeth's   But despite her abbreviation her hydraulic systems obviously operate differently from Macbeth's because her roly-poly body conceals an extraordinary turn of speed   It's not want of determination, only the lack of an extra inch at each corner, that prevents her keeping up with Inka's long legs.

Any thought that a woman's gentle touch had been introduced into the household was soon dismissed   She set about laying down the ground rules and I've never heard such ill-natured snarls towards her own kind from such a beguiling small figure, who squeaks with pleasure whenever she meets a human and rolls on her back to get her tummy tickled.

Pheasants are an irresistible temptation and, like Macbeth, she suffers from selective hearing the moment she gets the scent of one   I remember Macbeth, at about her age, doggedly chasing pheasants in the confident belief that if he pursued enough of them the numbers game would eventually work in his favour and he would catch one   There was a memorable occasion when he got so close to one that when it rose into the air Macbeth leapt after it   Rosie shares this misplaced optimism, but I know it will pass.

And to cap it all she won't touch her food unless some strong cheddar cheese has been grated over it!

The four of us were walking by the bank of the River North Esk and several hundred pink footed geese, feeding on winter barley, rose in front of us   They have left it quite late for flying off north to their Iceland breeding grounds.

The news on Thursday that Scottish airports had been closed, and all flights grounded, due to the volcanic ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano drifting over our coasts, got me thinking   How might this affect the geese migrating northwards to nest?   The volcano concerned has been dormant for two hundred years so they have no recent experience to guide them   Could there be something deep within their collective DNA memory that warns them of an unfamiliar hazard and how to avoid it?

Visiting Fishtown of Usan, five miles south of Montrose, I watched dolphins feeding just yards off the rocky shoreline   I wondered if they were catching the spring running salmon on their annual journey north up the coast to their mother rivers   Dolphins, seals, otters, fishermen – it's a journey fraught with many dangers for the salmon in their efforts to reach the headwaters to spawn.

Written on Saturday, April 17th, 2010 at 11:42 am for Weekly.