Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
It is finally happening — I get up in the morning and put on a sweatshirt! Not all people embrace fall and incoming winter like I do, but like it or not, here it is. There are many things I enjoy about fall weather — not sweating all the time, foliage, walking at any time of day without boiling, extra good photos of my dogs in leaves. I could go on, but I’ll stop, and instead just talk about things to be on the lookout for as you enjoy the nice weather.
Annoyingly, I’m going to start with the topic of poop. I’ve been on several different walks with my dogs lately and seen big piles of dog poop on all of them. Not off the trail where no one will see it, but directly in the middle of where my foot almost went. I am begging you, truly begging you, to pick up or move your dog’s poop. With the recent brouhaha over walking trails at Northwood Park, it has brought to the forefront again how much cleanliness matters.
Not all who share our trails have dogs, like dogs or want dogs. Many of us who have dogs are used to poop, but even plenty of dog people (even me) don’t like to step in a pile right in the middle of the trail. You don’t want kids running through it, you don’t want dogs eating strange poop, you don’t want to trip and put a hand in it. I will end the gross possibilities here, but please be respectful and pick up your dog’s poop. Rest assured that you will always need an extra bag when you don’t have one, so keep extras on hand.
On that same note, some people don’t like dogs. This is a strange but true fact. Some people are afraid of dogs, some people have pristine white outfits they don’t want muddy prints on, some are allergic. Not everyone who is out walking can physically handle a dog jumping on them, and even more don’t want to.
All dog owners have had moments where you momentarily lose control and your dog embarrasses you. Do your best to be aware of others and brush up on training so that these moments are rare and not plentiful.
True confession — I like it when it gets dark earlier. Not necessarily at four, but I don’t mind 7:30 p.m. darkness. This lets me do my indoor chores and go to bed early without regret. It does mean I need to be better about planning my walks though. As fall marches on, the days get shorter and shorter. The impending darkness has snuck up on me before, which can make a nice walk in the woods slightly more difficult and nerve wracking.
Plan your timing or make sure that you have a flashlight on hand. If it is getting dark and your dogs tend to stray, consider leashing them. Dawn and dusk are great times for wildlife movement, and this can be risky if you can’t see your dog.
Animals are getting ready to hibernate, building winter homes and gathering food. They are out, about and on the move. Be aware of fast-moving animals that can get your dog lost, like deer and foxes, as well as dangerous animals like bears and porcupines. Porcupine quills can happen year-round, but the fact that many people are out enjoying the woods this time of year makes dogs especially prone to quills. If you have a quill-loving dog or a less-astute, very curious dog be aware. Quills are an emergency. Call your veterinarian right away and do your best to keep them from pawing or rubbing the quills. This breaks them off and can create more issues going forward.
The one bad thing about fall is that we get a tick surge. Do not assume that the end of warmer weather means you can stop prevention. Keep your dog current on tick prevention either year-round or at least until there is a solid ground cover of snow.