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.

Canine goodwill

January 24th, 2004

ANOTHER CATALOGUE zoomed through the letterbox, unsolicited, but full of exclusive offers to tempt my weaker self. This one was mostly full of outdoor and countryside items which made it just a little more acceptable, but I still haven't given in to temptation.

As the days lengthen I'm thinking of taking the dogs further afield for walks. Sheba can no longer jump into the back of the car and I have to lift her bodily in and out. She absolutely hates it, and it's not much fun for me either as, even for the short lift involved, she wriggles like mad. I have to stop her trying to jump out because the last few times she has done so she's landed with a very painful thump.

So perhaps there is one item in the catalogue that I could think of buying. The wooden, folding dog ramp might avoid these undignified struggles when I usually resort to an equally undignified lower deck fluency! On the other hand I could probably make one myself for about a third of the price – so maybe that's the answer.

With his wee short leggies Macbeth certainly can't jump into the car, and I'm very thankful he has never tried to jump out, as he's not the shape for those sort of gymnastics. Once he's in the car he has his front paws up on the back of the rear seat, and taking an intelligent interest in everything that's going past.

Macbeth had his first clip of the year last Sunday. It's quite staggering the transformation that takes place. He enters the clip joint cunningly camouflaged and comes out white as driven snow and smelling fragrant. This time it took three baths before he was clean enough to start the clipping.

He surpassed himself in the afternoon. By the time he'd gone through numerous puddles, scrambled through much undergrowth, and investigated many muddy places his undercarriage was just about as mucky as it had been six hours earlier. Macbeth was completely satisfied.

I wonder if anyone knows what happened to the Potato Museum that used to be maintained on a farm near Crieff. I've made several enquiries and a very helpful lady in the Tourist Office at Crieff was able to tell me that 365 varieties were grown each year until the farmer, a Mr Maclean, died. The collection was maintained for several more years, but she couldn't say what happened to it latterly.

Our friend Ann Ritchie of Hudson Square, Montrose, phoned me after last week's piece to point out that ermine stoat skins and tails didn't just appear on the ceremonial robes of members of the House of Lords. The Provost's robes of Montrose, which are in Montrose Museum, also have stoats' tails sewn into them. Provost Andrew Wemyss Ritchie, Ann's father, held office from 1943 till 1946.