There is no better way to start the New Year than with a walk on a favorite trail, enjoying the peace and tranquility of a winter-quiet Island. My 82-year-old mother and I intended to do that at Fulling Mill Brook.

Not far along the trail from South Road, we encountered a family — parents and two small children — with a leashed dog. We thanked them for leashing their dog. I explained that my mother and I have been menaced, jumped on, and nearly knocked down by loose dogs. Invariably, the owner, some distance away, calls out, “It’s okay, he’s friendly!”

The family said that moments before two Chow type dogs came out of nowhere and chased them aggressively down the trail for a good distance before the dogs trailed back off to wherever the owners might be. The family still seemed shaken. It is outrageous that this family’s nice outing was ruined and my mother and I decided we couldn’t continue our walk — she is not quite nimble enough to sprint down a wooded trail.

I ask dog owners who allow their dogs off leash on trails and beaches to consider the following:

Some people are afraid/terrified of dogs (I have an 85-year-old friend who was knocked down by a loose dog at Lucy Vincent).

We all share these public spaces. My quiet communion with nature does not impact your experience, but your loose dog profoundly impacts mine. If your dog is off leash, you should keep it within sight so you can call your dog back before it can rush at, jump on, bite or chase people, children or wildlife.

Loose dogs affect wildlife and hunters. I have been watching shorebirds when a loose dog scatters every shorebird within a half mile. In winter, seals often haul out on our beaches to rest, warm up and conserve energy. A loose dog chasing it back into the water puts these marine mammals at risk. A hunter may be up in a tree stand, having worked for weeks to set up for taking a deer to feed a family for a year, only to have a loose dog chase deer and move them from the area.

Clean up after your dogs and take it with you. Do not put dog poop in a blue plastic bag and leave it on the trail, hanging in the bushes, or at the trailhead.

Walking your dogs in a cemetery to poop and pee among family gravestones is not okay.

Farmers/livestock owners have the legal right to shoot/kill your dog if it is chasing, worrying or attacking their animals (MA General Law Ch. 140, Section 156). Leash your dog when walking in or near areas where livestock is kept.

At the very least, carry a leash and be prepared to get your dog under control when you meet other people.

Prudy Burt

West Tisbury