Last Sunday was a dog day -- or should I say dog's day -- if I ever saw one. And I lost count of how many canines I saw or met while walking two of our three at Penfield Beach.

I hadn't planned on going to the beach, but with a real estate agent's open house going on at our home, we had to take all three canine friends someplace and kill four hours. We tried the Fairfield Museum, but after a walk around the outskirts of the marsh that borders the property, we knew these energizer bunnies needed a much longer workout.

"How about the beach?" my wife said. "It's just down the road, the weather is gorgeous and I need a decent walk too for exercising my ankle."

When we pulled into the Penfield parking lot -- the beach is now open to anyone on two or four legs -- we discovered that 15 or 20 other families had the same idea. The place was crawling with doggy friends of every breed and description. It was the perfect Indian Summer day for canines.

We began our walk in a neighborhood right near the beach. Our two Jack Russells and a beagle mix we'd rescued a year ago could have walked for hours.

This walk served another purpose. Now that we're seriously trying to look at houses while selling ours, we couldn't resist checking out the outsides of homes for sale in the beach area, particularly on Lalley Boulevard just down from the Penfield lot. With dogs in tow, we jotted down addresses and real estate companies so we could tell our broker later in the day.

We walked through the neighborhood for about an hour and returned to the beach lot, where my wife announced that her ankle had enough exercise and she was going to sit in the car. She reminded me about one of the more interesting family programs the museum was hosting that afternoon, and I suggested she take our little Jack, who was caged now, back with her.

Then my other Jack, Patches; the rescue, Queenie; and I hit the beach. "What an absolutely spectacular afternoon," I thought, as I looked out over the glistening blue water and surveyed boats, saw a few brave swimmers and more dogs than I could ever imagine in one place. What a heavenly afternoon.

Many of the dogs were off leash, walking next to their owners close to the water. Others were retrieving balls and rubber sticks, often running into the Sound. I hadn't been to Penfield Pavilion in so many years, I'd forgotten how nice it is. This was just the perfect day.

My two companions were itching to walk close to the water also, so we headed east toward Jennings Beach. The beagle mix loved the water and kept wandering in an out while the gentle waves slapped the shore. The Jack took a little while to get used to the water -- this was his first encounter. But eventually he conquered his fear and I could barely pull him away.

A lady had a tiny poodle rescue and was admiring my brood. Of course, she wanted to know all about how we'd rescued Queenie and whether Patches was also a rescue. Rescue people are so compassionate and caring.

After a delightful walk along the beach, I decided to hang out with my dogs on the pavilion boardwalk. I found a quiet set of steps leading to the beach and sat down. Our rescue was tuckered out and plopped down for a little nap. But "Bozo" -- that's my endearing nickname for Patches -- was too distracted by other dogs and people playing Frisbee and other "in-air games." He never ran out of energy.

A writer friend, Tony, came along on the boardwalk with his wife and their really cute dog. We chatted, agreed this was the most delightful place to be on a quiet, beautiful Sunday afternoon and they moved on.

That was when I glanced at my watch and saw that we'd been at the beach for over an hour. I said my goodbyes to Tony and returned to the car. Since it was still early, I decided to take my two characters to St Mary's in Blackrock and do one last walk.

I told my wife that this had been the most spectacular afternoon, and I just wanted to bottle it for the day of our first winter storm so I could have great memories walking on the beach in October. These special experiences remind me how beautiful Fairfield really is. I'm just hoping to get back to the beach once before the really bad weather sets in.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.