Dog Power

Stressed and tired? Take a restorative nighttime walk with your dog.


Writing something for this page is almost always the last thing I do before I send the issue to the printer. This time, though, I was several days away from having the issue completed and working in the wee hours of the morning, when my power went out. 

I have a battery backup for my desktop computer, and it gives me a few minutes of power so I can save all the files I’m working on and shut down the computer. But once that was done, I realized that everything I had in progress was trapped on the now-powerless desktop machine. I was tired, but I had been drinking coffee all night, expecting to work for a few more hours. The only thing that wasn’t started already was the editorial. Well, I thought, I have a charged laptop; I can write something before I quit for the night. 

I was working in my little office, an outbuilding that’s 50 yards or so away from my house. The laptop was inside the house, and as I got up to walk there, the dogs got up, too, thinking we were all headed inside to sleep, I’m sure. 

As we walked across the yard, we all spontaneously stopped. The power outage was affecting my whole neighborhood – there were no electrical lights burning within view – but there was a nearly full moon shining brightly. All three dogs – senior guy Otto, “fun uncle” Woody, and my latest foster project dog, Coco, stood clustered around me, sniffing the air and looking around. 

At some point my gaze dropped from the moon and the stars and fell upon the dogs. I watched them experiencing the night with their whole bodies – the chill in the air prickling their skin, the sound of a dog yelping off in the distance – or was it a coyote? – pricking their ears. Their noses lifted as they drank in the scents on the air. Otto puffed his cheeks in and out, eyes shining, gazing toward the neighbor where all the feral cats seem to emanate from. Woody sat down, and then lay down in the gravel. He’s content to do whatever I’m doing, even if it doesn’t make sense. Little Coco shivered a bit and earnestly looked at me for a clue; why are we all just stopped in the middle of the yard in the middle of the night? As she looked up at me, her face filled with concern, her floppy ears flopped backward and upright, which gave her such a comical, flying-fox look that I laughed out loud. And with that, the moonlight spell was broken. 

I fetched the laptop and raced the dogs back outside to the office, re-energized and determined to try to share the moment with you. The gifts our dogs give us – the wildlife they help us see, the weather they help us feel, the scents they lead us to, the warmth and humor and companionship they offer us so freely – these gifts have more than enough power to get us through the long dark nights of winter, if we just take a few moments every so often to feel them.