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.

Adapting to life as top dog

October 10th, 2015

DSC02966WITH THE harvest mostly cut there are plenty stubble fields to walk in. It gives Inka a chance to stretch out and he enjoys it. But he gets nervous if he loses sight of me behind one of the big round straw bales. When I reappear he’s anxiously looking back to check that I’ve not left him behind.

Macbeth was much closer to nature and hated walking through the prickly stalks which scratched his low-slung stomach.

Readers have been kindly asking how Inka is managing without his small friend. We see changes in his behaviour. He demands much more of our attention now but I suppose with no competition for our affections he’s taking advantage of the change in the domestic arrangements. And, of course, he’s top dog now which he never was while Macbeth was alive.

Macbeth forgotten
I wondered how much Inka might remember Macbeth and spoke to Andy Ritchie who owns the Moorie Kennels at St Cyrus and, as an ex-gamekeeper, has a lifetime’s experience of dogs. Andy reckons that within 48 hours at the most, Macbeth’s memory would have been erased from Inka’s mind. Although dogs are social animals he wouldn’t recall Macbeth as a kennel companion and wouldn’t be missing him.

He hasn’t wasted much time adopting some of Macbeth’s more irritating habits. Macbeth spent his life creeping round the kitchen, forever under the Doyenne’s feet, grubbing for anything that fell on the floor. We’d always congratulated ourselves that Inka wasn’t greedy as Labradors, as a breed, often are. But he quickly caught on that he has the kitchen to himself and the cry now is, “Inka, go to your bed”!

And he has started to pant whenever we take him out in the car, which he never did before. He sounded off like a steam engine all the way on our recent trip to the Black Isle, and all the way back. Near drove us demented and we can’t find a reason for it.

Writing about the White Caterthun last week reminded me about the Capo Long Barrow which is a long, raised Neolithic burial mound dating from about 3000BC, give or take a century. It’s an easy, sheltered walk to find it in a clearing in the Capo woods at the Upper Northwaterbridge end of the Lang Stracht (just off the A90). Turn in at the notice for Weirside and follow the woodland signs.

Former Edzell GP, the late Dr Wilfred Dally, who was a fine historian and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland, identified it in the late 1950s. It’s evidence of some of the earliest settlements in the area.

By comparison the White Caterthun, and its neighbouring Brown Caterthun, are mere youngsters dating from around 800BC. Mind you, it could have been earlier, or could have been later – the Picts never wrote it down.

They are Iron Age, hill-top vitrified forts lying behind Little Brechin on the fringe of the Angus glens. The Glen Lethnot road runs between them. There’s a small car park and picnic area and easy, rewarding walks to their summits and 360° views over Strathmore.

There are conflicting ideas about their purpose but being so well sited geographically on the top of hills, with tremendous fields of vision, there could be military and defensive explanations for them. Or they may have had a ritual purpose – trouble is, the Picts never wrote it down.

Human endeavour
I’m fascinated by the idea that blue-painted, wee Scotsmen without JCBs or dumper trucks, but with – I imagine – primitive picks and axes made from their early attempts at iron smelting and, maybe, the help of small, shelt ponies, built these impressive hill forts effectively with their bare hands.

They are extraordinary feats of human endeavour. Their builders must have understood more than just basic engineering skills and had well developed concepts of strategic planning.

By contrast, Neolithic man’s tools were little more than picks fashioned from deer antler, ropes twisted from heather and brute strength. To put it in context, the Capo Long Barrow has been a feature of our landscape since before the Egyptian pyramids.

Tattie mornings
When the mornings are sharp and frosty and Inka and I set out for the first walk, sometimes there’s a morning mist hanging over the fields. If the sky is clear the heat of the rising sun soon burns it off, usually followed by a fine day.

We passed two ladies enjoying an early morning walk too. “It’s starting to get a bit backendish”, I said by way of conversation. “A tattie morning”, one of them replied. I knew fine what she meant as they were lifting tatties just two fields away.

She was remembering her youth and the tattie holidays. Then she and all her school mates went picking tatties by hand on fine, crisp October mornings with enough of a touch of frost to keep everyone on the move.

Of course, nowadays tatties are harvested mechanically with enormous red glopitta-glopitta machines. They lack the nostalgia of the lines of pickers, bent double, filling baskets by hand, that the lady remembered.

Written on Saturday, October 10th, 2015 at 1:36 pm for Weekly.