According to the story books, a message in a bottle has provided a romantic, if desperate, last resort for stranded sailors. But for Robert Sinclair the technique proved a life saver when he was marooned on dry land.
Mr Sinclair, 55, has lived rough in the Stirlingshire countryside for the past 27 years. After suffering an asthma attack, he found himself at a deserted farmhouse in Lethalian, near Falkirk. He had had nothing to eat or drink for seven days.
In desperation, he scribbled a note on a piece of cardboard, put it in an old plastic water bottle and dropped it out the window.
The SOS message was found by Ben, a border collie from a farm three miles away, who took it to his master, Brian Besler.
"Ben found this bottle and came running up to me with it in his mouth," said Mr Besler. "There was a message in it asking for help ... I thought it was a wind-up until I saw the name - Robert's well known round here - it said he was ill, he couldn't breathe right, his chest was clogged up and he'd run out of food and water.
Mr Sinclair was taken to Falkirk Royal Infirmary, where he was treated and discharged after making a full recovery.Police said Mr Besler and his sheepdog had undoubtedly saved Mr Sinclair's life.