Dog Days of Autumn

October 05, 2022 / Good to Know, Local Characters, Outdoor Adventures, Things to Do & See, Uncategorized

Dog Days of Autumn | Heidi Wakeman

Good Harbor Beach is considered one of the best and most scenic beaches in New England. During summer months, both locals and tourists flock here to take in the sun, play in the surf and relax with the family. With the new prepaid parking system, the traffic has improved and Gloucester residents (with beach stickers) are guaranteed a spot in the lot. From sunrise to moonrise (on those full moon nights), this beach is a summer must! 

However, our four-footed canine friends are banned from Gloucester beaches from the April 1 through September 30. This local ordinance was recently amended to extend the dog-free time period, due to the nesting of threatened Piping Plovers. Each spring for the past seven years, a population of these migrating shorebirds return to Good Harbor Beach to find a mate, make a nest, and raise their young. It is a great privilege to host the Piping Plovers—although it is not without impact. Dog owners are asked to respect the avian guests by staying off the beach, or risk receiving a hefty fine. Human beachgoers in the summer also can enjoy a poop-free beach due to the dog ban. 

But come October first, beaches are open to dogs in Gloucester—however, with a caveat. Off-leash days alternate between Wingaersheek Beach in West Gloucester and Good Harbor: odd days for the former and even days for the latter. (Think G-O-O-D, four letters, like E-V-E-N!) You can bring your pups to either beach, but you must have them on leash if it is not the off-leash day. 

Gloucester beach trash policy is Carry In, Carry Out. There are no trash can at the entrances, so bring an extra bag and remember to scoop your poop! At Good Harbor, parking is available along Nautilus Road at the footbridge, at Witham Street, and in the lot until November 1. Enjoy a scenic walk with your dog at gorgeous Good Harbor! It’s a fall favorite!

Good Harbor Beach Goes to the DOGS!

October second is our opening day

The season begins for dogs to play

And swim and run ’round the sand

For May through September, canines are banned

On Gloucester beaches, to protect the bird

The Piping Plover, perhaps you’ve heard

Of this precious, plucky, protected one

But right now this poem’s about the fun

Our pooches have while out playing ball

A simple celebration in the fall!

We cross the footbridge and undo the leash,

Off they run down Good Harbor Beach!

There’s folks we know with Shepherds and ‘Doodles

Retrievers and Pugs and Huskies and Poodles.

There’s Bulldogs and Boxers and Mountain Bernese,

I see Shih-Tzus and Shibas, and some small Maltese.

The littlest Chihuahuas may bark the loudest,

Protecting their people, prancing the proudest.

The giant Great Danes by the dunes, like the deer

I did spy one summer morning down here.

Alas, Good Harbor has gone to the dogs,

Switch out your flip flops for some warm cozy clogs

Just remember a sweatshirt, a scarf or a hat

For the wind can be fierce and you don’t want that!

You do want the freedom you see them inhabit

Chasing after a gull as if it’s a rabbit.

Barking, woofing, yapping, howling

When they don’t get along, there may be some growling

To mean  ‘Hey, that’s my stick’ or ‘I’m gonna getcha’

Just divert them with a ball or a toy to go fetch-a

Into the creek or into the ocean,

Although they can’t speak, I can see their emotion:

Joy! Communion! True exaltation! 

Perhaps we too relish the beach liberation. 

From swimsuits and picnics and tourists and sunscreen,

To Spaniels and Schnauzers and all in between.

The Dog Days of summer are sultry and lazy

The Dog Days of autumn? The dogs can go crazy!

It lessens the sting of a short season’s close,

To head to the beach, at high tides and lows

And meet up with others, who know the sweet pleasure

Of even day dog walks at Good Harbor, what treasure!

We meander and mingle as our pups freely roam

No leashes are needed until we head home.

Just be sure to follow and find your dog’s pooh

Please bag it and take it, the least you can do!

These days are the greatest for our four legged friends,

How happy we are when September ends.


Heidi Wakeman is a poet and educator living in Gloucester, MA, where she chairs the Open Space and Recreation Committee and serves on the board of the Gloucester Writers Center.

Click here to read about more outdoor adventures in Gloucester during the fall season.