Sometime during the summer, I got into the habit of taking an evening stroll around the block with Lou the Wonder Pup. It didn’t matter that every morning we’d walk this little Shih tzu as though he were a Labrador; 3 miles around the neighborhood was a pretty standard distance. That would sap his energy for a time, but by dinnertime he’d have so much pent-up hyperness that I’d hook up his leash and off we’d go again.
So went the summer. As of September 1st, we’re in “Meteorological Fall,” per Tom Skilling, Weather Guru at Chicago’s WGN TV station. (An aside: That man knows weather and you can tell he enjoys everything about it from the physics of rising air masses down to minutiae of record temps. You just have to love his enthusiasm and his knowledge).
You really can’t tell that we’ve flipped the page over to a new season, except for one thing: it’s getting dark outside a lot earlier at night.
I haven’t wanted to stop walking Lou each evening. It’s a great time to decompress and relax a bit as he sniffs a sign post here and a tree trunk there. But it’s getting trickier to find the time to walk him before the sun suddenly disappears.
The other night right around twilight, I grabbed Louie’s leash and off we went down the driveway. By the time we reached the first corner, I could barely see him. He is, after all, an almost entirely black dog and the light was fading even more quickly than I thought it would.
We wandered a little further across the subdivision and then right across our path scurried three huge raccoons. At least I think that’s what they were. Those puffy, rounded animals streaking across the road were bigger than Lou — not that I could find him to make a true comparison. Somewhere near my shins came a low, menacing growl, followed by a quick tug on the leash. He pulled and barked as he ran around me, but I could only feel his movements. I couldn’t see him at all.
He calmed down but even as we continued our way around the neighborhood, I felt like I was walking an invisible dog. We reached the stretch where a canopy of tree branches arch over the road, the cicadas shrieking loudly and the leaves blocking out any remaining light. I could hear the jingle of his collar and occasionally feel the leash pull to one side or another, but otherwise… nothing.
It was the strangest, weirdest walk I’ve ever been on with him. It was also the first time I felt so aware of us walking together, of our surroundings, of darkness and the wildlife living unseen around us. Meditative with an edge.
And it’s only September. I’m going to have to rig up some reflective collar or harness or something for him to wear for our nightwalks. And, even though I did carry a little flashlight with me, I might need to invest in a seriously huge hand-held flood light….
Do you walk your dog/kids/husband at twilight? And are you depressed about losing the daylight as we head into autumn proper or are you looking forward to hunkering down at home?