Park Slope for Pets’ contributing blogger, the Cranky Observer, shares his thoughts on the year-round nighttime dog-walking routine he’s come to love.
For some reason, nighttime dog walking gets a bad rap. For years, there were cartoons about lonely middle-aged people nervously navigating dark city streets in order to give their pets a last-minute circle around the block. Then, of course, there’s the image of dog walkers maneuvering through the gauntlet of Manhattan streets as they dodge everything from partygoers and bar-hoppers to homeless people’s shopping carts.
The truth, of course, is significantly different, and nighttime dog walking actually is one of the most pleasurable aspects of pet ownership. The Slope’s streets are, today, relatively safe, and it’s no longer necessary for dog walkers to create informal meet-ups in order to make sure they can circumnavigate their blocks in safety. Nor are the streets as crowded as Manhattan — even if you are out just as a subway train disgorges its disembarking passengers.
In fact, in summertime nighttime dog walks are enjoyable breaths of fresh air — even for those dwelling in modern, air-conditioned homes. (Years ago, the thought of returning to a stifling apartment was something that kept some owners and dogs out on the streets far longer than anyone imagined possible.) Anyone who has walked a dog on a Park Slope summer evening will tell you that there’s something particularly enjoyable about the experience, especially when the sounds of a Prospect Park Band Shell concert are wafting through the air. Ambling past stoop-sitting neighbors, hearing some music drift down from an open window, or even listening to a sound-blasting car go by…they’re all part of the charms that make us New Yorkers.
Spring and fall, of course, are equally pleasurable. Except when a concert has just let out or fireworks have just been set off, the streets are quiet but not deserted. And there’s even a sense of camaraderie among the pet owners making their way through the streets. (It’s another one of those times when you might see the same person at the same time and at the same place night after night…and finally begin to nod “hello” to each other after about five years!) After all, people have to do something beside play with their phones while their dogs engage in a five-minute sniff-fest!
Winter, though, poses a number of challenges. Even nodding — let alone saying “Good evening” — is complicated when people are wearing multiple layers of clothing and various kinds of warmth-generating headgear! Somehow, though, people tend to be friendlier in the adverse conditions, and it’s not unusual to hear people warning each other about icy spots and other winter hazards.
Those who can endure the blasts of the wind that blow up from the river also can get a chance to savor a moment or two of winter. Freshly fallen snow turns the neighborhood into a postcard-perfect scene — and it is a rare dog that doesn’t play for a few moments in the fluffy white stuff. In the end, it’s all a matter of putting on the proper footgear and layers. (The occasional sight of a dog walker treading along in house slippers through snow and ice still baffles me. Have they been caught unawares by the weather? Or they simply so brave that they don’t care whether they suffer frostbite or a slip-and-fall broken leg?)
So, for those of you who might occasionally complain about that nightly chore…forget it. It really is a special time to enjoy your neighborhood. Check out the buildings and admire the architecture. Keep tabs on the people you run into along the way. And, above all, notice how much your pet really does enjoy that walk. It’s something both of you can do.
For more tips for pets (and their owners) in the neighborhood, check out Park Slope for Pets.