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.

Many a pets’ resting place

January 30th, 2016

DSC03192THE INK had scarcely dried on my story last week about the horse cemetery at Stracathro when the calls started.

First was to tell me about Daisy, a horse purchased in 1939 on behalf of neighbouring Stracathro Hospital by Alexander Gibson, grandfather of Colin Gibson who took me to the riverside graveyard. In the early days the hospital grew much of its own produce which was delivered to the kitchens by Daisy and cart.

At Haddo House, in Aberdeenshire, ancestral home of the Marquesses of Aberdeen, a pets’ cemetery is maintained in the Lime Avenue for the family’s dogs and ponies.

Elizabeth Morris from Dundee got in touch to tell me about an animal graveyard at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore. Now an outdoor training centre, it was built as a shooting lodge by the Dennistoun family and five fading gravestones, the earliest dating back to 1902, can be seen half a mile from the lodge on the track to the Ryvoan Bothy.

Jane Legge from Kirkcaldy passed on information about the biggest pets’ cemetery in the north-east, at Cullen in Morayshire. Started in 1992 by local man Stephen Findlay with the burial of a pet spaniel, it contains scores of family pets as well as a dolphin and a porbeagle shark which were washed up dead on the beach.

And having written his story with my friend, retired Montrose GP Dr Andrew Orr, I’m very familiar with the famous grave at Montrose of Sea Dog Bamse, the Norwegian St Bernard war hero, who is buried in the dunes at the mouth of Montrose Harbour.

I’m grateful for readers’ interest and the Doyenne and I have some new places to visit in the summer.

Favourite walk
I hadn’t seen my favourite wee loch at the foot of Glenesk since the middle of the month. I took the chance of a break in the weather on Tuesday afternoon to bundle Inka into the car and drive up there.

Wind had been forecast and I was glad to be walking in the shelter of the woods, out of the worst of it. My days of running up and down hills in howling gales and thinking it’s rugged, are past!

The countryside is looking washed out – small wonder with all the rain we’ve endured – so a blink of sunshine helped bring out the winter colours. The green of the moss-covered drystane dyke running alongside the track to the loch stood out against the lichen grey of the stones. I often wonder at the hand of man leaving its imprint on the landscape and quite possibly that dyke has stood four-square, defying the worst that nature could throw at it, marking the march between the woodlands and the cultivated fields, for 150 years or more.

We walk through a wood of silver birch, well named when the sun catches its pearly bark. Crotal brown patches of dead bracken are dying back and will
be absorbed into the undergrowth as the new growth erupts in the spring. Bleached stubble fields look tired and ready for the plough and regeneration.

The lochan looked unusually deserted, something that only happens when it is frozen over. As we got closer rafts of duck, sheltering in the loch’s fringes from the wild winds, swam out into the open water.

A merganser, a first for me up there, rose from the cover of reeds heading towards the River North Esk. It will have found pretty short commons at the loch – it was stocked with rainbow trout but they were fished out or otherwise died some years ago.

New animal charity
An invitation for the Doyenne and me to have afternoon tea with Virginia Fraser of Montrose introduced me to a charity I hadn’t come across.

We’re accustomed to the idea that if we have a pet, whether it’s a pony or a gerbil, we must look after it, feeding it, cleaning out its cage, exercising it. For many people, particularly the elderly living on their own, their pet’s companionship can provide emotional support and positivity to the quality of their lives.

But what happens should a much-loved pet’s owner die, become housebound, fall ill or have to move to residential accommodation where pets are not welcome?

The Cinnamon Trust for elderly and terminally ill people and their pets was established in 1985 to meet these very real anxieties. Little known in Scotland at present, it is keen to introduce and develop its work here.

The Trust receives no state or local authority aid and is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions and on the goodwill of an army of volunteers.

Volunteers provide practical help to ensure the daily wellbeing of all pets – dogs, cats, the budgie, a pony – walking and caring for them, fostering them while their owners are in hospital and maintaining the emotionally important contact between owners and pets, even feeding the goldfish. A wonderful part of the service is rehoming pets whose owners have died or can no longer look after them.

If you would like to know more about the work of this valuable charity visit www.cinnamon.org.uk

Written on Saturday, January 30th, 2016 at 6:07 pm for Weekly.