To take some of that Border collie edge off, at night I walk Wolfie along the beach. We almost gallop toward the under glow of Atlantic City’s lights to the north. It is very dark, but I can turn off the flashlight; to the east I can see the white of the breakers and the long splash of wet, the tree line and the dunes to the west. For ten minutes we trot along the hard caked sand, Wolfie on my left. Just loud enough for him to hear me say “Good boy, with me.” I speak at close to a whisper. I do not want to break up the quiet that radiates from us with some harsh, commanding, classroom voice.
Staying just ahead of us, a plover, I think, gives warning cries. I clip the light on and catch him at the water’s edge, startled. When I shut it off, three ships’ lights, lonely pinpricks of glow at the horizon line, show themselves. Only three, and the breakers are four or five feet. All that darkness out there. Where did early mariners find the courage to go out into all that darkness, sometimes for years on end?
When we stop, before turning south and back, I ask Wolfie to sit and hold, and then executing a quick turn, we jog toward the deeper glow of Wildwood’s amusement park. He becomes wild and leaps and bites the leash, his high pitched barking breaking the quiet. I pull him close. “No,” and make him sit and hold. It doesn’t work. When I release him from the hold, he runs to the end of the leash. Yo-yoing back and forth, he seeks to break loose. None of my impatient commands work. I pull him in by the leash and drop to my knees in the grating sand and hold him close. He huddles between my legs, struggles, relaxes, twists and bites, and then let’s go to my strength and nestles between my legs.
There is no moon tonight. The stars are hazing in and out of an overcast sky. Another kind of quiet descends. I lean back on my knees, relax my grip and feel the dog settle into a comfortable position. For four or five minutes we remain like this, both of us looking out to sea. Only one light on the horizon line now. No one else is out here. Our breathing feels in synch.