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 end to chill

February 23rd, 2013

THERE’S A technique to getting Macbeth to swallow a pill and we’ve had to use some sneaky tactics the last few mornings to ensure he completes the course of medication he’s been put on by the vet.

In the past we’ve kept it simple, just mixing a pill in with his food. He invariably caught on that we had added something unfamiliar to his meal and several hours later we’d find sticky remains deposited in a corner where he thought we’d never find them.

Accepted wisdom used to be that you prised open a dog’s jaws, popped the pill onto the back of its tongue and massaged its throat until it swallowed. Standard practise has always been lost on Macbeth and several hours later …. well, you know what I mean.

Having two dogs makes it easier to fool Macbeth because we can appeal to their inherent greed and Macbeth’s jealousy that Inka might be getting something that he – Macbeth, that is – thinks is rightfully his.

We have to camouflage the pill which we put on a small square of bread and cover with margarine. Both dogs think this is a special treat only for them and rush up expectantly.

I pretend to offer it to Inka but pop it into Macbeth’s mouth, who snatches it and gobbles it down without thinking. He’s an ungrateful brute on such occasions and if I don’t whip my hand away sharpish he’d have a couple of fingers off too.

I give Inka a bit of biscuit to keep it fair. He’s much more genteel and takes his treat quite delicately. It’s all about the psychology of the dog as PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves would say. The main thing is it works.

More in hope than in expectation I wondered if the warm weather at the start of the week might just be the end of the winter chill. It was good to feel heat in the sun when I walked the dogs.

But from the piebald hills with patches of unmelted snow, and the frost on the cars when I take the dogs out last thing, it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods yet, in a manner of speaking.

I’m enjoying waking up to the brighter mornings and thankful that I don’t have to take the dogs out by three o’clock in the afternoon if I want to walk them in daylight.

The Doyenne reported that I had missed a glorious sunset on Tuesday evening, but at least it proved I was hard at work in my study.

I’m conscious of there being a lull in nature at the moment. It’s as though the wildlife is waiting for a spell of settled weather to start getting active again.

It was all quiet at the little loch when the Doyenne and I walked up there with the dogs. It’s been frozen much of the time and I suspect that the resident mallard duck are still down by the coast where they’ll have gone looking for open water.

The only activity was a heron that flew out from the shallows – followed by another that landed in the grass field beside it. They are early nesters and will lay from around the end of this month until May.

Last week I wrote about Grace Darling and her father rowing out in the most atrocious conditions from the Longstone Lighthouse to rescue survivors from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire.

A reader has drawn to my attention that Dundee’s poet laureate William Topaz McGonagall, the greatest Bad Verse writer of his age (Punch), wrote a poem about her adventure.

Every Courier reader surely knows his most famous poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster. Looking through his collection of Poetic Gems it’s clear that calamities and heroic gestures like Grace’s spoke deeply to the poet’s sensitive nature.

My father was a great McGonagall enthusiast. He had an esoteric approach to art generally which only he really understood and McGonagall’s style and language appealed to him.

The attempted assassination of Queen Victoria, shipwrecks, the tragic deaths of prominent personalities, funerals and burials, executions and disastrous fires – all were the sort of events that turned on McGonagall’s creative juices.

Small wonder he was described in his publicity as Poet – and Tragedian.

Written on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 at 11:34 am for Weekly.