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.

Unforeseen dangers for dogs

August 25th, 2018

Here are two dog stories.

Burn is an eleven years old Border terrier and, along with her granddaughter, they are the much-loved pets of a family living in rural Angus.  Her mistress heard a commotion in the garden, which wasn’t unusual with two terrier dogs, and she gave the matter little thought.

Later she found Burn cowering in fright and took her indoors.  She found puncture marks on the dog’s body and also noticed that she was carrying a hind leg – holding it off the ground and walking on her three good legs.  When the vet shaved off hair from her injuries there were deep punctures and further investigation found that her hip was dislocated.

The question, which remains unanswered, is what caused the injuries?  The garden is dog proofed against other dogs coming in from outside and attacking Burn, but there is a large population of resident buzzards in the district.  In the absence of a more persuasive explanation it seems most probable that Burn was targeted by a hungry buzzard.  Like any sparky wee terrier she put up a spirited fight until the buzzard dropped her, which accounted for the dislocated hip.

The story is a first for me, although Burn’s family have heard of a long haired dachshund whose owner saw the dog being taken by a buzzard.  It too managed to struggle free and lived to tell the tale.  It would be most interesting to hear from readers who have similar stories to tell.

Some readers may be aware of the second story which was posted on Facebook and been covered by Eamonn Holmes on talkRadio, warning dog owners of an unexpected danger – but a danger that is worth flagging up again.

Campbell Scott’s five month old flat-coated retriever, Fern, was suddenly and for no apparent reason taken seriously ill.  He rushed her to the vet but, despite the vet’s efforts, within an hour Fern died of toxic shock.

The cause was traced to Fern eating windfall plums – and this is the important point – including the stones.  I didn’t know that plum stones, cherry stones, apple pips and other fruit stones such as peaches are broken down by dogs’ digestive systems and ferment into cyanide, and it was the poison that killed Fern.  The one good thing to emerge from this story is that Campbell’s other dog, two year old springer spaniel, Bute, was not similarly tempted to eat the fruit.

The answer to Fern’s death is not to cut down every fruit tree but, had he known of the danger, Campbell would have picked up the windfall fruit.

Burn’s case is different.  You can’t keep outdoors dogs confined indoors all day and you can’t keep your eye on them every moment, ready to chase off opportunistic buzzards.  But it doesn’t make their death or their injuries any easier to accept.

Prickly story

My recent remarks about the village of Luthermuir’s connection with the weaving trade, and teazles being known as Luthermuir weeds, brought a response from Mrs Janette Anderson who, with her husband, lives in Thistle Cottage, Luthermuir, so-called because when her grandfather bought the property in 1904 the garden was full of teazles and Scots thistles.

The cottage has never left her family as her grandparents were married in it, and both she and her mother were born in it.  For sentimental reasons a few teazles and thistles have always been allowed to grow in the garden.

Mrs Anderson reminded me that Velcro tape was invented on the principle of teazles.  Their bristly, conical heads dry out leaving hooked prickles like one half of a piece of Velcro, and the heads were used to raise or tease – the flower is the origin of the word – a nap on fabrics.

Time for a drink

The resident mallard were coffee shopping amongst themselves at the top of

the wee loch at the foot of Glenesk when Inka and I took a turn round that way.  I settled down with the binoculars to watch them and a mother dabchick swam out of the reeds furiously pursued by a single chick perhaps hoping to hitch a lift on the parent bird’s back even though they can swim and dive almost from the moment they hatch.

Four swallows appeared, hunting low.  Soon there was a dozen or more – but how do you count them when they are pirouetting across the water in a blaze of aerial aerobatics.  Widening circles on the water’s surface seemed to indicate an evening trout rise.  It surprised me as the fish had either died out or been fished out – for a time cormorants hunted in the lochan – six or seven years ago.

It took a moment for it to click that it was the swallows swooping down and taking a sip of water, without missing a beat or a wingtip catching the surface.  I watched for a while until it was time to head home for a cup of tea and a piece of the Doyenne’s lemon drizzle cake.

Written on Saturday, August 25th, 2018 at 9:31 am for Weekly.