Falling back into Daylight Savings Time for me has meant falling into night time dog walks. If you are like me and don’t get out of work until 5, then you know that by the time the work day is over, so is the light of day. If it were up to me, I’d get the dogs out for a nice long walk at 5 AM, but the only reason they get up at 5 AM is to eat breakfast so they don’t have to sleep another four hours on an empty stomach!

So walking in the dark right now is our only option, and I’ll admit I was not looking forward to this transition. Number one, it would most likely mean leash-walks only, which the dogs and I both dislike. It would also mean limiting our range of walks—it’s not like I’m going to drive to Shimmo so I can walk on the Polpis Bike Path in the pitch dark or travel to Madaket to give their bike path a good old college try at night. But I’m delighted to report that night walking has offered us some surprising new experiences and has not been the dark drag I feared it would be.

Trails. My first foray into night-time walking was at the South Shore Land Bank trail. I wanted my dogs to be able to run off leash after a long day at home. I figured if I had a big enough flash light, I’d be ok, since the obvious drawbacks of a trail walk are tripping over things. And we were fine. What I was not expecting was to find other people on this trail in the pitch dark, too. One walker had no light, and only the reflection of my flashlight in his Rottweiler’s eyes gave them away. Another dog ran along side his cycling owner, a bright bike-light leading their way.

If you have a dog that runs off, you might need to stay leashed up on an evening trail walk; the deer and rabbits are rife. Even at 5:30 two deer were standing in the path and only slowly moved off at our approach. The aforementioned Rottweiler took off after a deer, and I came across him later sans owner. If you want your dog to be able to run off leash after dark, most trails won’t present much of an obstacle. What made me wary of going back to the trails, however, was the screech of an owl, who I was sure was intent on carrying little Ike off into the night sky.

Bike paths. Though I don’t normally like to walk the bike paths, I thought it might be easier than the wooded trails at night. My dogs—news to me—didn’t seem to mind being on leash, and because we were on the tarred path we could all go at a pretty good clip. The dogs actually enjoyed the new sights and smells that this never-before-walked territory offered them. And on Nantucket, it will be spring and light again before I use up all the miles of bike path! Be aware of bikers and joggers, who also brave the dark in order to get in some exercise.

Beaches. My sister decided to walk the beach at night, since there were no roots or stumps to trip over or tree limbs with which to lose an eye. Probably less wild life for the dogs to chase, too. She tried Monomoy and has been going ever since. I walked the bike path to Surfside and was glad we did. The moon reflected off the water, lighting up half the shore, the dogs got a chance to blow off some steam and forage for tasty beach treats, and we were the only ones at that popular spot for a change.

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I remember when Ike was a puppy and I got up each morning at 2 AM to take him out. Did I want to get up at that hour in the frigid air of December? Of course not. But most nights rewarded me—a full moon, the milky way, Northern Lights in full display. None of which I would have seen if not for Ike’s tiny bladder and having to do what I didn’t want to do. . . .

And so it is with my new night time dog walks. Each walk offers up a new surprise . . . especially lately with the moon making lace of the cloud edges and the wind dancing with the falling leaves. At South Shore, fog rising from the dunes was backlit by a nearly full moon—a sight I’d never see at mid-day. Like many an experience I avoided because I thought I wouldn’t like it, this one has proved me wrong. The dogs and I don’t mind the leashes—or the dark—at all. We are glad to be out, glad to be together, glad to be walking Nantucket.

A Few Tips Before You Walk at Night. Bring a flashlight or wear a head lamp. It’s not just so that you can see, but so that others can see you. It’s a good idea to have your dog wear a reflective vest or collar—in the event of an escape, a car’s headlights will pick it out easily. It’s probably not a bad idea for you to wear something reflective, too. And even though it’s dark, and no one is going to see whether you’re being a responsible dog owner or not, be sure to bring your poop bags and pick it up.

Nantucket Dog Walk

Walk. Walk your dog. Walk Nantucket.

Monday, January 2, 2017