Dogs must be walked, regardless of the season or the type of weather. Truly hot, cloudless days are the only ones we avoid; otherwise, we’d spend all our time flopped down in the shade with our tongues lolling out of our mouths.
In late summer, we walk early in the day or wait until early evening to avoid the worst of the heat. One thing we can’t avoid, however, are spiders and their infernal webs.
On the wooded trails we favor, a certain type of spider sets up housekeeping directly across the path, usually at chin or eyebrow level. My dogs, being low to the ground, tend to trot merrily under such hazards, never noticing them at all–but unless the sun glints off the web to provide a warning, I don’t notice them until it’s too late. From one step to the next, you’re caught in a sticky net that clings to you, making you paw and snort like a wild thing.
To avoid having what is known as an arachnaleptic fit, here’s what I’ve learned to do: pick up a stick or small branch at the start of the walk and wave it in front of you continually to ward off spiderwebs. You’ll look like a demented conductor leading a silent symphony–with a rustic and leafy baton–but the stick will intercept webs before they have a chance to settle over your head.
Next: know your enemy. In Western North Carolina, the most common trail-troubling-late-summer-spider is an orb-weaver called a Spined Micrathena (family Araneidae, species Micrathena gracilis). Only females spin webs, so they’re probably the only ones you’ll ever encounter. For a long time, I thought that weird spiny formation on their backs was an egg sac, but after doing a bit of research, I learned that it’s actually part of the spider.
If I can duck under a web, I will. If I have to move it to get by, I try to pull it to one side of the trail and park the spider on some leaves. If I walk into it without seeing it, I flap and dance and look like all kinds of a fool while my dogs watch in amazement. After I settle down (Spined Micrathenas aren’t poisonous, but I don’t want them OR their webs on my head), I once again begin conducting my late-summer symphony for spiderweb.
Spiderweb across the trail,
Falls on my forehead like a veil–
Causing me to shriek and flail–
Which makes said web an epic fail!