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.

Dog’s life

January 21st, 2012

NEVER WORK with children and animals – don’t tell me about it!

Steve the Snapper came to take photos of the two dogs for the new-look Man with Two Dogs column in the new-look compact Courier. It’s nine years since the original images were taken and the familiar one that appeared latterly was referred to as Mr Grumpy by the grandchildren. So I was delighted that at last the Features Editor was going to do something about my bruised sensitivities.

Inka saw the photo shoot as the first step on the road to international stardom with him as a mixture of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. Well, you never know, Spielberg might read the Courier.

When I wanted him to walk to heel he thought he could improve on things by jumping up to lick my face and racing round and round in circles. When told to sit he fell lovingly against me with an idiotic grin on his face.

Macbeth, on the other hand, was having a bad hair day. Nobody had warned him about the assignment and there hadn’t been time to call in his personal groomer. If they wanted photos, they could get them in his time. I’ve learnt the painful way that there’s Greenwich Mean Time, British Summer Time and Macbeth Time. It was the devil’s own job to get him to do anything we wanted, and he’s made it clear that from now on he doesn’t get out of bed for less than a hundred quid.

I don’t know why I think they’re any worse than any of the other dogs that have passed through my life. My father always had dogs so when the Doyenne and I came back to live near Montrose as a young married couple it was natural to think of having my own dog. Perhaps with the passage of time and remembering them through rose-tinted spectacles their imperfections have diminished, but the memory of them is of noble, better behaved animals than most of the wretched mongrels we met along the way.

Molly was my first very own dog that I bought myself – the by-blow of an unplanned union between a wayward springer spaniel and a raiking collie dog. I should have paid attention to my doubts about the purity of her lineage before I parted with £6, but she was a kind natured dog and very protective of the children. She had a thing about our neighbours’ hens, but a veil can be drawn over that!

There were no such doubts about Jasper’s genealogy, my first pure-bred springer spaniel. He had a habit of running clockwise round the house, never anti-c, and wore out a path in the gravel. It’s a long time ago now but it’s still embarrassing to have to admit that he and Molly got out on the ran-dan together and Jasper was shot with the twenty-second dead hen in his mouth. He lost his hearing and the sight in one eye, and finally his life when a tractor caught him unawares on his blind side.

Another springer spaniel, Sykes, followed. Perhaps there was a bit of an attitude thing between us but in reality I couldn’t give him the time for training that he needed and he went to another home where he lived a happy and fulfilled life.

Then came Gibby, our first black Labrador, who was a gentle soul, although you wouldn’t think it from his deep, bite-your-leg bark. He had one of the noblest heads on a dog of his breed I’ve ever seen. Stan, our last springer spaniel, came to us already well trained from a gamekeeper who was made redundant and couldn’t keep all his dogs.

Black Sheba, another Labrador, was the sweetest natured of all our dogs. She was joined by Macbeth, who was exchanged for a supply of wallpaper (an affront to his masculinity that he has never forgiven and made up for by being the scruffiest dog in the whole world). After Sheba’s death came the two Inkas, first grandfather, and now grandson.

It’s hard to imagine life without dogs – if nothing else you can pretend you’re talking to the dogs if you’re caught talking to yourself.

Written on Saturday, January 21st, 2012 at 10:49 pm for Weekly.