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.

An Arctic challenge awaits

June 13th, 2015

271BAE0407A STORY about one dog is likely to catch the Man with Two Dogs’ attention. When there are 32 dogs, I’m hooked.

Atte is Norwegian for 8 and eight spirited women, calling themselves Atte HUSKYteers, have given themselves a year-long challenge ending in a six day, 285km dog sled adventure through the Arctic wilderness, across the roof of the world. And they have an additional aim of raising £100k for four charities.

It’s no run-of-the-mill undertaking and each has their personal motivation for getting involved. The collective motivation is that it wasn’t enough to do something that they all could easily aspire to, they wanted to take on something that took them out of their everyday comfort zone.

Lifelong ambition
The idea, like so many original ones, came from an unexpected source. Organiser Amanda Nissen’s mother had a lifelong ambition to go to the Arctic and be a musher, driving her own team of huskies across snowy wastes, defying the elements. Here was something that appealed to everyone as it would test their mental, emotional and physical resilience.

The Husky Trail challenge, lasting six days, starts at Signaldalen in Norway, 69°N in the Arctic Circle, where the borders of Norway, Finland and Sweden meet, and finishes at Jukkasjarvi, near Kiruna in Sweden. The Trail crosses virgin wilderness avoiding all towns, sledging behind a team of four huskies.

No warm beds, no loos
It is going to be a true hands-on experience. The HUSKYteers will carry everything they need, driving and looking after their dog teams, pitching their tents in the Lapland forests and in lonely places at the end of each day, cooking for themselves and, of course, mushing their dogs throughout the short Arctic daylight.

The downside is that there will be no warm beds, no showers, no loos and the only running water to wash in will be the unfrozen streams they find along the route! It’s no surprise, then, that the organisers, Global Adventure Challenges, rate the level of difficulty as Extreme.

The team won’t be thrown totally onto their own resources as they will be accompanied by two experienced Norwegian guides with a satellite phone as back-up. Amanda’s mother, Gillian Robertson, was Girlguiding Scotland’s Chief Commissioner and to provide some “guiding” spirit the girls will carry their special husky mascot, Chilly Gilly.

Although the adventure does not take place until March 2016, the team are spending a year getting fit for their undertaking, learning winter survival skills and familiarising themselves with working in Arctic conditions where temperatures can drop as low as -30°C. It won’t be a race; it will be the realisation of personal fulfilment for each of them.

They are using the expedition to raise awareness and money for four charities – Coppafeel (Breast cancer awareness), Age Scotland (Support for older people), Insight Counselling (Tayside universal counselling service) and Medical Detection Dogs (Cancer Alert and Medical Alert Assistance) who are hoping to soon be able to fund their first dog trainer in Scotland.

The preparation and trip is self-funded throughout by the HUSKYteers themselves and donors can be assured that all the money raised will be split equally between the four organisations.

A swimming oystercatcher
Closer to home now. A reader phoned with an unusual story. Watching a pair of oystercatchers in his garden, his dog came back to him and gently dropped an oystercatcher chick into his hand. The chick was unharmed so the reader put it down on the grass, interested to see what happened.

The chick ran across to his pond and swam confidently to the other side where it was soon reunited with its parents.

Some dogs are soft mouthed, as this one clearly is if it will pick up a chick without harming it. We had a sweet Labrador called Sheba who two or three times picked a single pheasant egg out of the nest and presented it to me intact. Inka is hard mouthed and has a pair of jaws like a vice. The chick would have been pulp if he had found it.

I don’t think I would trust Macbeth either. Offer him a tasty treat and he’ll have the tips off your fingers too if you don’t get your hand out of the way smartly.

I’d never heard of oystercatchers swimming but after doing some research it’s not the phenomenon I thought it was. I found an RSPB webpage with photos of an adult oystercatcher, a redshank and an avocet swimming.

I suppose as waders they are used to feeding in water and their undercarriage feathers are at least partially waterproofed.

Collared doves are migrants from mainland Europe which are fast becoming one of our most common and widespread urban birds. They are smaller than our native woodpigeons and are easily recognisable from their roseate-pink breasts and distinctive black and white half-collar on the back of their necks which gives them their name. They have a repetitive coo-COOO-cuk call and chime up most mornings about 5am outside our bedroom window along with the blackbirds and thrushes.

You can follow the HUSKYteers on Twitter and Facebook and at

Written on Saturday, June 13th, 2015 at 11:46 am for Weekly.