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Dog in the water, Nantucket

Surf's up for the dogs!

There’s no way around it. It’s hot our there! You can hydrate all you want, but nothing beats a dip in the ocean too keep the summer heat at bay. And now that it is swimming season, it’s important to remember to be safe as well as have fun.

The sea conditions vary depending where you are on the island, from the crashing waves of the south shore to the calmer ripples of the north shore. So be sure to know your dog’s swimming ability and whether they even want to go in the water at all. It’s not for all of us. Also keep in mind that some beaches have posted signs that prohibit dogs. For instance, Jetties and Surfside are closed to canines until the end of the summer season. But fear not, if your dog is like me and loves swimming, there is a beach for you.

If your dog is not the Michael Phelps of canines, the absolute safest bet is to stick to the north shore beaches like Dionis and Steps. Even on the choppiest days, the waters are shallow and there is almost no current or undertow. I like when my mom throws a toy from the shore line and I have to swim out and get it. Or sometimes it’s nice just to wade in the water and feel my fur swaying in the water. It makes me a little envious of long-haired dogs.

If you and your dog are more advanced swimmers, you can check out Miacomet or Cisco on the south shore. It is really important to explore the conditions before adventuring into the water. The riptides and undertow can be deceiving. It may be safe for human activities like body surfing, but dangerous for dogs. Us dogs may have twice as many legs, but we are a whole lot shorter. If full grown adults can get sucked out by a rip tide, image being 18 inches off the ground. A medium size dog like myself could easily get swept away by a wave just standing at the water line.

Apart from swimming there are couple other safety tips to be aware of if you and your dog are heading to the beach. Watch out for seals. Attention all dogs: Seals DO NOT want to be your friend. I’ve learned that the hard way. Don’t let that cute face and plump body fool you. They are nasty when provoked and surprisingly fast.

And finally, I have said it before, I’ll say it again. CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOG! We can’t pick up our own poop, so you’re going to have to help us out with this one. Kicking some sand over a pile of doo doo only sets someone else up to step in it. Or if we’re feeling particularly devious, we may decide to roll in it or eat it. Worse yet, if a dog leaves some “business” by the water line and the tide take it out, you can ruin everyone’s beach day. Entire beaches were shut down a few times last year due to high bacteria count. So bring a bag or make sure your dog has a chance to go before packing up for the beach.

One more thing, don’t forget to rinse all that salt water out of our fur when you get us home. It’s not for our skin and can even cause hot spots for some dogs.

So with all that in mind, I wish everyone a safe and happy summer at the beach.


J Dawg, who voices the paws-on-the-ground perspective of island life, is created by Janet Forest, owner of Nantucket Pet Sitter, which you can follow on Facebook, too.