FOR most of my life with John, we have always had four dogs at home. A sheepdog, for the sheep obviously, a terrier for the rats, a Labrador for picking up on shoots and a spaniel for disrupting them. Since we lost Pip, our last Labrador, we have not replaced her and there has been one empty dog bed. But not this last week. We have a townie in our midst. My daughter’s pampered pooch, French bulldog, or Frenchie as they are popular referred to.

Poppy, the Frenchie, or Coquelicot, as I pedantically insist she should be named, is delightful, despite having a funny smashed in little face, bandy legs and a stumpy little excuse for a tail. She is, though, fun-loving and playful and she and Moss, our spaniel, have formed quite a bond. Fizz, the sheepdog, is wary. She always is though and Millie, our terrier, is plain haughty and indifferent until she sees Poppy’s treats which she then condescends to share.

She is also besotted with the Gator that John uses to go round all the pheasant feeders in the woods. We are due to take delivery of a 1,000 or so birds next week and so he has been setting up all the feeders and renewing electric fencing to keep the young birds in fox-safe havens until they are big enough to fly up to roost at night.

While Poppy cannot jump into the Land Rover unaided, she can scramble into the front seat of the Gator, to gaze haughtily around and snuggle up close to Moss, who is also a privileged front seat passenger. Fizz likes the back of the Gator and Millie won’t entertain anything other than the front of the Land Rover, or my car.

Today, though, we have left them all alone together while we go off to fish John’s beat. It is the first time this season we have been on this river as conditions have either not been right, or we have been away. We do not have the beat entirely to ourselves, however, as one of the syndicate who lives close by and not an hour and a half away like we do, is here already.

It all looks idyllic. A mallard with six ducklings is floating past. A kingfisher flashing in and out of the ripples. I’m perched in the Land Rover nursing my still sore back and wishing I had brought a couple of the dogs for company. And fish? At the end of the day only two little trout that John returned. Could the paucity of fish could be linked to the two otters I glimpsed sunning themselves on the bank of the river?