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.

No hens, but…

November 17th, 2012

A YOUNG Labrador was taken to live in deepest Aberdeenshire. Its instincts told it that it was a Labrador Retriever and it set out to earn its keep by retrieving as many of the local hens as it could get its teeth into. Unfortunately by the time he delivered them to his master’s feet the hens were either dead or moribund.

It got to be embarrassing.

Authorities on the matter expressed the view that if the owner tied a dead hen round the dog’s neck and left it there for a period, the dog would get so sickened of the whole idea of hens it would never touch another.

The owner went offshore for a fortnight and on his return, driving back home, was surprised to catch up with his faithful hound hurrying in the same direction – the hen still firmly secured around its neck and a dead duck in its jaws.

The dog wisnae stupid. It got the message – no more hens – but nobody said anything about ducks!

It was luckier than the dog that was shot with the twenty-third dead hen in its mouth. You couldn’t blame the farmer – the hens were part of his wife’s contribution to the farming enterprise.

The dog survived but was blind in one eye and lost its hearing. Its master could only catch its attention by waving a white hanky and hoping the dog would see it with its remaining good eye.

The old boy met a sudden end when a tractor came at him from his blind side. Never saw it, never heard it; death was instantaneous.

The first dog that I bought myself, forty eight years ago, came from a croft somewhere near Methlick, in deepest Aberdeenshire. With our newly born daughter Catherine asleep in the back of the car, the Doyenne and I drove one wild winter’s night to view some “pure-bred” springer spaniel puppies.

The mother was certainly pure-bred and she trailed three puppies into the kitchen behind her. They had awfully long legs and short, pointy ears – not the least like springer spaniels.

Guileless and trusting, I accepted the seller’s assurances that their bodies would grow into their legs and the ears would develop normally over the next couple of months. The mother was a couthy animal and we chose the puppy with the waggiest tail. £6 changed hands, the baby’s nappy was changed, and we were ready for home.

What I didn’t know was that a bitch can mate with and produce puppies to two dogs – a ‘mixed litter’, apparently, is the veterinary term. Molly turned out to be the by-blow of an unplanned, furtive union between her mother and a raking collie dog. Doubtless earlier, wiser buyers than me had snapped up the pure-bred pups.

Molly was the toast of the countryside whenever she came on heat. Copper, a golden cocker spaniel and Monty, a miniature dachshund, were two of her most dogged admirers. Copper’s blandishments were rebuffed but Monty clearly had the patter – size disnae matter.

We’ll never know whether Monty stood on a straw bale or Molly stood in a ditch; as an old lady explained, “They just made their own arrangements.” The upshot was that Monty and nature had their way and Molly produced some strange-looking offspring.

One puppy, Thaddeus, survived. He had short legs, a long body, and while he was well-disposed to humans he was fearfully short-tempered and would pick a fight with another dog just because it looked at him. A proper bite-yer-leg dog, you might say – especially if you were another dog.

Reports in this newspaper about the Harris Hawk attacking a Jack Russell terrier, ripping out part of its tongue, brought back memories of when Macbeth first came to us.

Aged just eight weeks and about as big as a middling-sized mealy pudding (he’s a white West Highland terrier), I was seriously concerned that the buzzards hunting along the woods we walked in would have him marked as a tasty snack.

On the basis that we are what we eat, and remembering many of the revolting items that he has grubbed up over the years and managed to eat before I could stop him, any buzzard that devoured Macbeth now would deserve all that it got.

There’s dogs for you.

Written on Saturday, November 17th, 2012 at 11:35 am for Weekly.