There was a time when I’d held their hands as we walked. Now, my footsteps left a solitary trail across the smooth sand. A pale yellow sun sank towards the horizon. Small waves washed up, creating a non-silent silence where there was noise, but no distinctive sounds. No laughter.
As I walked with my hands in the pockets of my duffle coat, a little terrier bounded through the shallow surf, shepherding a grubby football. He splashed up to me and stood, wagging his tail expectantly.
I turned and looked back down the beach for his owner, but there was no-one in sight. So, I crouched and held out a hand. “Where’s your family?”
The little terrier dropped his head in a playful bow and nudged the football closer with his nose.
“Alright, but just this once.”
He stood poised, ready to dash.
I kicked the football and it skidded across the surface of the water. The little dog chased after it and sneezed when the salty water went up his nose. I chuckled.
The football bobbed on the surface and resisted his efforts to herd it back. Each time he pounced it scooted away. He growled his puppy frustration.
“Go on, you can do it.” I patted my thighs. The terrier looked up and then attacked the ball again. He drove it back to me and I kicked it, across the sand this time.
We played until the sun touched the horizon and the tide had worked its way out, expanding the beach to a vast ocean of sand.
My new friend, panting heavily, dropped down on his belly and put his head on his paws. No one had appeared to claim him. We hadn’t seen another soul on the beach. I sat down next to him and we watched the final moment of the sunset.
I looked down at my new companion. “Are you hungry?”
His ears perked up and he wagged his tail.
“Me too.” I picked up the football and the little dog fell into step behind me for the walk home.