It is the autumnal equinox; one year, three months and three days since we lost Russell, time for reflection on past and future. It is a beautiful morning, early sunshine casts long shadows over the fields, and we are two solitary souls enjoying an early stroll in the Buckinghamshire countryside. A flock of white doves circles over the field and settles for a communal breakfast. As we climb towards the top entrance to the woodland, pale yellow leaves flutter silently down from the young beech trees by the fence. Entering the woodland, it is darker, dappled sunlight filters down to the forest floor making patterns on last year’s leaf fall. Somewhere, above, a blackbird is heralding the morning and the promise of a warm day to come. We walk along the track between young beech and hornbeam; a squirrel runs across our path and climbs high into the canopy – too quickly for Willow to even think about chasing. We continue, alone with our thoughts, past a carved post marking the path and then one of the disused quarries scattered throughout the woodland. It is still damp underfoot from the storm two nights ago; the silence is punctuated by the occasional heavy drip of water falling from a holly leaf on to the mossy stump of an ancient tree. Reaching the main thoroughfare through the woods, we turn to walk back downhill. The path is narrower than usual due to the late summer growth of brambles and nettles. The blackberries have nearly all gone, they were early this year and are probably now in pies and crumbles, awaiting happy hungry families. A fat spider sits in its web hoping for a passing snack, and somewhere in the distance a crow is cawing. We hear the blackbird again, nearer this time but still out of sight. Walking this path brings back fond memories of little Callie, and the long walks we enjoyed when Russell was on his USA trip. Callie would always find a stick to carry in her mouth, ready for a game when we reached the field. Willow isn’t interested in sticks; I am either pulled along at a fast trot or at a complete standstill as she investigates some interesting smell at our feet. We continue through the swing gate back into the field. Red kites have now arisen and can be heard mewing as they circle above. The doves, having finished their meal are cooing as they swoop low over the farmland opposite. The shadows are becoming shorter as the sun rises but the grass is still covered with early morning dew. A few other dog walkers are also enjoying the quiet tranquility of this early part of the day. Sometimes you need to be alone with your thoughts and memories. Russell was walking with us in those woods, throwing sticks for Callie and whispering “Pussy cats” into her ear – just not today.