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.

Ungrateful squirrel

December 14th, 2013

MAKING MUSIC – it’s the time of year for it, especially singing. The Doyenne and I started our seasonal music-making last Sunday at a carol service at the old Lochlee Parish Church at the head of Glenesk.

For nearly 1500 years there’s been a church where Glen Lee and Glen Mark meet and become Glenesk. The present building dates from 1803 and not so long ago it was under threat of closure and being sold.

A group of glen residents formed the Friends of Lochlee Kirk and bought the church. Whilst no longer used for regular worship, the Friends have been determined that its doors should never close. So the wee church is always open for walkers and visitors to spend time in quiet reflection.

Nor have the Friends lost sight of the church’s primary function and in recent months two christenings and a wedding have been held there. Last Sunday the Doyenne and I joined the congregation for the annual Christmas carol service.

There’s no electricity. We took candles in case it got too dark to see the words. It was a simple service of familiar carols and readings and it wasn’t difficult to let your mind slip back fifty or a hundred years and imagine the church’s glen family gathered for just such a celebration.

Afterwards there was mulled wine and home baked mince pies and shortbread – how you’d expect it to be up the glen.

On Monday evening we exchanged the simplicity of Lochlee Church for the formality of the Drawing Room at The Burn House at the foot of the glen. We joined a group of South African students, winners of travel bursaries from the Sir Abe Bailey Trust.

Their visit to Scotland was the end of a three week trip to the UK. They had been introduced to curling by members of Brechin Rotary Club, had a field trip to Loch Lee, and now the Doyenne and I were joining them for supper.

The students are the top undergraduates, chosen to represent the best of their respective universities. Multi racial, multi ethnic and from backgrounds as contrasting as the Cape Town suburbs and townships like Soweto.

We’ve been guests before at these evenings and what stands out, apart from all the obvious attributes, is their enthusiasm for life, their pride as South Africans and interest in us Scots.

They always entertain us with music and sang the four verses of their national anthem in four dialects, and a South African sacred song followed by their own special South African take on the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.

So we reckon we are in fine trim now for our own carol season.

As part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013 celebrations, red squirrels were chosen as one of Scotland’s Big Five animals. There are even suggestions that they should be adopted as our national animal.

However a reader reports being bitten by one, so they may not be the bushy tailed, tufty eared, endearing little animals we thought they were. She found one, in a state of apparent trauma, beside the front porch where she keeps the nuts for feeding them.

It could have been cornered by the family dog which saw its territory being invaded. That apart, I think they have a strong, gamey scent which dogs are attracted to. Several times I’ve found Inka and Macbeth sniffing eagerly around the foot of trees where I know a squirrel has retreated.

My reader picked up the squirrel, stroking it, and the squirrel repaid her concern by biting her.

I imagined that a bite from a squirrel’s sharp teeth, ideal for cracking open the hard shells of nuts like hazelnuts, would be indescribably painful. Apparently not.

She described it as no worse than an injection from a very fine needle. She did tell me how brave she was throughout her whole ordeal – which, knowing her, I’m sure she was!

As a precaution she phoned her doctor’s surgery and was called in straight away, and given a tetanus injection and antibiotics.

There’s a lesson here, surely. Sometimes it’s best to let wild animals recover their own way. But if you do intervene and do get bitten, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.

Written on Saturday, December 14th, 2013 at 11:13 am for Weekly.