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.

Lost and Forlorn

June 15th, 2013

A BENEFIT of being the Man with Two Dogs is that readers share their experiences, pass on information and offer to lend me books and articles that add to my, sometimes, shaky knowledge of nature and wildlife.

In response to writing about the poetry of Patrick R Chalmers of Aldbar I was lent a copy of The Frequent Gun and a Little Fishing, a collection of some of his articles written for The Field magazine.

Attitudes to field sports, country sports, blood sports – call them what you will – were very different in the inter-war years when he was writing.

Not everything he wrote was about taking game or fish. He shared his life with a succession of dogs that left unforgettable memories – some good, some less so.

An article titled The Waifs and Strays was about lost dogs. “But, you say, how can a dog be recognised as lost? My dear sir, he is unmistakeable. The dog out for an airing on his own is interested in lamp-posts and his own kind….. The stray…. looks the most forlorn thing that God ever made.”

When he was about fifteen months old Macbeth made a break for freedom. The Doyenne and I combed woodlands and fields and drove round and round the local roads, whistling and calling. We phoned the neighbours, all to no avail.

More out of duty than expectation of hearing any news, I phoned the police. The relief at hearing that he was at a house in Edzell, was tremendous. He had been picked up heading he knew not where, and looking the most forlorn thing that God ever made.

I collected him the following day. The kind lady who had rescued him was pleased to see him returned to his rightful owners but said how disappointed her children would be when they got home from school and found no Macbeth.

Finding himself in a strange house but where he was offered unquestioning love, our bold boy had turned on all his charm and entertained the family with his party tricks, sitting up and begging and playing hide and seek games with the kids. Little wonder they had pleaded with their mother to keep him if he wasn’t claimed. It cost me a very large bag of sweets for his return.

He might have been killed on the road – all sorts of scenarios go through your mind on these occasions. At the end of the day it was our responsibility to ensure we knew where he was at all times. So we were lucky.

In this digital age much is talked about the future of the physical book in the hand. Digital books are here, and here for good, and as the technology develops they will be presented in more and more sophisticated forms.

They say the days of the ‘old fashioned’ book are numbered. That’s what they said about the old wax 78rpm records, then about vinyl 45rpm records, and now there’s a resounding interest in collecting and playing them.

On-line selling makes old-fashioned books (are we really ready to describe hard backs and paperbacks thus?) available in a format that is a lot easier than working shelf by shelf through a second-hand bookshop. There may not be the pleasure of handling them but that comes when you’ve bought one.

I’ve just bought online All the Birds of the Air, The names, lore and literature of British Birds, by Francesca Greenoak, Illustrated by Alastair Robertson. There’s much hard ornithological observation in it as well as folklore from all round the UK.

I didn’t know, for instance, that because their legs are designed principally for swimming rather than walking, and are therefore placed further back on the body than other birds’ legs, one of the great crested grebe’s nicknames is arsefoot!

It’s a book to dip into rather than sit down and read at one sitting. I think I’ll have some amusing moments as well as learning something new.

A reader sent me the photo, taken earlier in the year, of jackdaws plucking the moulting hair from the backs of her Shetland ponies to line their nests. The ponies don’t seem to mind, indeed they are probably delighted to be rid of dead hair that’s home to all manner of youky bugs.

Written on Saturday, June 15th, 2013 at 10:24 am for Weekly.