One of my school colleagues, Nicole, shared her wonderful spring-day experience at Fairfield Beach last Sunday, and it brought back some wonderful memories of pre-summer family walks we had taken when the kids were young.

Nicole, who walked along Penfield Beach with her dog Sweetie, a border collie/Australian Shepherd mix, accompanied by her Fairfield friend walking with her dog Gracie, a member of the hound family, said that a real mix of animals were out en mass that day.

Nicole explained that these were not just dogs and puppies, but horses and ponies as well. She said that the day and the experience were absolutely amazing.

“There were three horses. One horseback rider — an adult — was on a horse and another friend was running next to him,” she said. “A second and third horseback rider were also enjoying galloping through the water. I believe the pony was being ridden by a younger person and the little pony was at least trying to keep up with the horses. In any case, it was fun to watch. These were not fancy riders and they wore no helmets or riding outfits. They looked like just regular folks out for a Sunday gallop.”

She added that the dogs and puppies, mostly off leash, kept trying to follow the horses and pony into the water, wanting to play. It was low tide and there was a lot of splashing, but the horses had a good grip on the wet sand.

Fortunately, there were no high waves, just gentle splashes of water. Nicole said it looked like something out of a movie.

Over the 32 years we were Fairfield residents, my wife and I always enjoyed those late winter and early spring walks along Penfield Beach before the regular beach restrictions kicked in and those areas became off limits to any four-legged creatures.

Despite other walkers and their animals, there was a real peace at the beach, especially as the weather became gradually warmer. Those spring walks were an amazing way for us to spend family time. In those early days (we moved to Fairfield in 1982), when our daughters were preteens, they loved discovering all that the beaches offered.

And there were even a few 60 degrees-plus Sundays in March when we all took off our shoes and walked through the clear, cold water and walked toward South Pine Creek or Ash Creek beaches. South Pine Creek offered a few rocky ledges that jutted out a little ways into the sound. And Ash Creek looked out toward the open water of the sound.

Our dogs (there were several over the years) loved sharing our spring walks and seemed to look forward to jumping in the car for the short ride to the beach from either of our early houses near Black Rock Turnpike. I think the dogs always knew where they were going, because they seemed to pace back and forth more than usual in our station wagon when we neared the beach.

I remembered one unusually warm (at least 75) March Sunday about 10 years ago when we had two Jack Russell Terriers — Sadie (who has since passed away) and Patches. I think most of our dog-lover friends were taking advantage of our seasonal pet-friendly beach.

Sadie, who was the more vocal of the two Jacks, barked at every dog we encountered. Patches seemed more interested, as always, in finding sticks and other beach debris to play with. Since they were so unpredictable with other dogs, we never allowed them to be off leash.

My wife and I found a shady spot under the portico of Penfield Pavilion and we spent about two hours chatting with other dog folks and friends who were also taking advantage of the unusually beautiful day. The day was just special.

I miss those pre-summer “dog” days and especially our pristene Fairfield beaches. But more than anything, as the warmth of spring approaches, I miss those simple Sunday walks we took as a family, and I regret that I haven’t been able to get our grandson Lucas down to Fairfield so we can take him and our dogs for a special walk.

I was glad for the reminder from my friend Nicole about how special our Fairfield beaches can be before the onslaught of those inevitable summer crowds.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at