I clip the leash onto his collar, his favorite one, even though his team is in last place.
"Maybe next year," I say, and his hair falls over the Red Sox logo. The air is crisp, a welcome relief from summer's humidity. This is the time of year we live for, the dogs and I. The oppressive heat is gone, I can add more clothes and be comfortable, the dogs can simply wear their coats without overheating. It's a long walk to where we're going, and Mr. Wilson leads the way. He knows the path now, and seldom veers from the course. He knows when to take a right, and when to take a left. He even knows well before I do if we're going to take the longer way or not.
Mr. Wilson is oblivious of the others as we make our way to the beach, he's just happy to be alive, happy to be with me, and glad to be outside. Don't get me wrong, he likes nothing more than to sleep all day on the velvet chair, or his "bed on the bed," but say the magic word, "walk" and nothing else matters. I taught him to walk on the leash without pulling, and he pushes it to the end, and the slack tightens, and the second before he feels the pull on his neck he stops, and sits until I catch up, and we do it all over again.
I can smell the low tide long before the water peeks between the homes that line the shore, and so can the dogs. The pavement under my feet is sturdy, and makes walking easy. We leave no evidence of our passing as we make our way to the water's edge. The sand that waits will give as the weight of our footsteps lands on it, leaving marks of our journey behind us as we travel the shore.
At the bottom of a thirty foot drop, made easy to travel thanks to wooden steps buried in the sand by some soul long gone is Narraganset Bay. Mr. Wilson and me take our time navigating the tricky decline, the others are long gone, already exploring. Shannon will swim, Zimba and Lakota will race along the water's edge as if the devil himself were chasing them, then suddenly stop, turn around and come back to us. Shannon shakes her velvety hair and the five of us walk together along the shore. There are crabs in the sand, stranded by the tide, oyster shells, clams galore, seaweed, bugs and random sticks, perfectly sized for a game of fetch. I lean over and pick one up, it's heavier that I thought, and waterlogged. I throw it into the ocean and watch it float for a while.
The walk to and from the beach is far longer than the actual time spent there, unless I stop and sit on a log where last night some neighborhood kids had a fire. The log looks tempting, but movement more so, so I keep on trucking, Mr. Wilson by my side. He never asks to go off of the leash, content to stay next to me, and the six feet that the nylon cord gives him is enough. We have rounded the point, and a shorter span of beach waits. It's an invigorating walk, and it feels good to feel the salt air in the wind as it brushes my skin, and the warmth from the sun on my back. There's a break in the vegetation that protects the dunes, and we walk toward it, knowing that this is the way back to the road that will take us home.
Mr. Wilson stays with me as we leave the beach, and I look back at our footsteps, a man and a dog, side by side, two feet and four paws, over and over again. I don't have to call the others, they never leave me, and neither will Mr. Wilson.