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.

Golden brown

March 24th, 2012

IT’S ONLY mid-March, for goodness sake, but it’s been so warm you’d think it was mid-April. Mind you, it’s been nippy when I’ve taken the dogs out last thing at night, and when we go out again in the morning there’s frost on the grass and on the cars.

I met a couple from Forfar walking down the side of the River North Esk, enjoying the near spring-like conditions like the dogs and me, and we agreed that with not a leaf to be seen on the trees, it was maist unseasonal weather.

In the best gloomy traditions of weather pessimists – we’ll likely pay for it later! March came in like a lamb; it’ll go out like a lion – as a retired Mearns farmer of her acquaintance commented to the Doyenne.

I’d called at the Moorie Kennels near St Cyrus to collect another bag of dog food for Inka. A brown muzzle popped over the counter in the office to greet me. “What’s that, then?” I was asked. I took a quick glance – “A chocolate Labrador” I replied.

Not a bit of it. It was a breed I’d never met in the flesh before, rather rare, although I’d certainly heard of it.

Five year old Chess is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which is a breed you’ll not likely come across often, a mixture of curly and flat-coated retrievers and otter hounds. As the name suggests they are hunting dogs and were bred originally for retrieving wild duck, which explains the slightly oily outer coat and dense, woolly undercoat. Unusually for dogs, they have webbed paws – webbing between each claw – to help with swimming.

Chess is a smiley dog; she draws back her lips when she’s happy or pleased, for all the world as if she really is smiling. She’s probably happier than usual right now because she had seven pups on Wednesday – 5 dogs and 2 bitches.

With so much going on there I spend more time than usual up at the wee lochan behind the house. Neighbours who had walked up from the other direction with their brown dog, hailed me – breaking into my brown study.

Actually, Abby isn’t a brown dog, she’s a chocolate Labrador. There was a time when chocolate Labs were pretty unusual too and then they became very popular and were bred for the colour. Labs come in black, chocolate and yellow – the term golden, applied to a Labrador, is now no longer acceptable. Occasionally you’ll see one with a foxy red coat and perhaps, one day, they’ll become all the rage and the must-have dog.

It’s not unusual for a Labrador bitch to produce black and yellow pups in the same litter. Which begs the question, why are they never born brindle? I’ve absolutely no idea what the genetics are but, the fact is, they’re not.

Inka, of course, is black. Like the famous Model T Ford automobile which could be purchased in any colour the customer wanted so long as it was black, white West Highland Terriers come in a single choice of white or, exceptionally in Macbeth’s case, distinctly off-white.

My parents had a yellow Lab, Wendy, whose coat was so light she was effectively white. She proved to be something of a nightmare when she came on heat, for she would jump out of a first floor window in order to meet up with her panting admirers lined up at the back gate. I should have thought the best thing to do was close the window, but as I was just a babe in arms at the time I never thought to mention it.

There’s added seasonal activity at the wee lochan just now. First I heard the gentle croaking as I walked quietly along the rush-fringed edge. Then the plop as one of them dived when my shadow disturbed it.

The shallow water was moving with choirs of amorous male frogs busily courting provocative girl frogs. Some were already in the mating embrace known as amplexus which can last several days because the female produces as many as two thousand eggs which the male fertilises as she lays them. I’ll be on the lookout for tadpoles in the next two or three weeks.

Written on Saturday, March 24th, 2012 at 11:31 am for Weekly.