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.

Obsessed with weather

March 5th, 2011

AS THE Doyenne said only the other day –  €œJust seeing the sun makes you feel good €   A little warmth, the early signs and sounds of the regular dawn chorus, renewed activity in the woods and hedges, spring flowers – even the pot of chives at the back door which have unexpectedly sprouted a demented wig of fresh greenery – all add to the sense of wellbeing   As ever, the Doyenne is right.

Driving home from Laurencekirk after collecting Macbeth from his spring trim – or strim more likely, for he was such a midden when he went in – plumes of smoke drifted off the shoulders of The Wirren, the hill guarding the entrance to Glen Esk   Now is the time of year when gamekeepers undertake the annual task of muir burn, or burning the heather   Hill walkers in the Angus glens will be familiar with the patches of scorched heather stalks which appear seemingly at random on the hill sides.

Our native red grouse, once they have reached adulthood, feed almost exclusively on the ling heather, the purple blooming heather, of the Scottish mountains and moors   Over time it grows old and coarse and loses its nutritional value   To help ensure a resident stock of healthy birds the keepers burn the old, rank heather in controlled sections on a managed, rotational basis   This allows fresh, new shoots to grow, providing a more nutritious diet for the birds, and generally improving the moorland biodiversity.

Although it's only fifteen miles or so from the foot of Glen Esk to the top, the road rises several hundred feet on the way and the change in temperature can be quite marked   We – the Doyenne and I, that is – drove up the glen from a relatively mild and benign micro-climate to another much wilder micro-climate by the time we reached Loch Lee.

We were greeted by an almost Turneresque scene   A weak sun was struggling to assert itself through a curtain of rain which was being whipped across the surface of the loch   On the other hand it might have been more to the taste of Edwin Landseer, who visited Balmoral just a crow's flight over Mount Keen, but his forte was sentimental paintings of large Highland animals like the Monarch of the Glen. You can only speculate.

A dog's tail is more sensitive than you might think   I met a Labrador recently whose tail ended rather abruptly, as if the tip had been removed   In fact it was full length but had grown with a kink, or  €œhook €, at the end which foreshortened it   I wondered if the kink might catch on thick undergrowth when the dog is out working and cause an injury   But she seems happily unaware of the imperfection in her looks which obviously causes her no discomfort and that, really, is all that matters.

Written on Saturday, March 5th, 2011 at 11:42 am for Weekly.