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The Netherlands lies more north than wherever most of the readers of this text live. In fact, it shares a lattitude with Canada(*). This means that our summer nights are shorter and winter nights are longer. For a while now, when we walk the dog after I come back from work, it's dark. And black spots are hard to spot in the darkness.

Last year we had the same problem, until one day we saw a little white light racing towards us. It had a dog attached! Someone had attached a light to their dog! We thought this was a great idea, and as it happens, little lights are available in abundance here. People hang them on their bicycles (or themselves) to fulfill the legal criteria for being lit up without having to pedal harder just to power the lights. And this, it turns out, was perfect: with these little lights, Kayenta is lit up for everyone to see. And she doesn't even need to pedal harder!

I also find that it helps a bit with the perception. For Haarlem standards, Kayenta is a fairly big dog. People here don't have that much space, so they tend to go for dogs that are a bit smaller. People with a dog this size often have a big dog to make a point: I have a big dog to be threatening. But a 'big' dog with a little light dangling from her collar? Well, that's just adorable!

As for Kayenta... I don't think she even notices she's extra pretty!

(*) - Amusing side note: when I went to Canada for the first time to visit MAui, people often suggested I pack sweaters and other warm things, even though it was summer. American TV series have led us to think of Canada as the frozen north, not our direct overseas neighbour!

Kayenta's light does seem to grant her a +2 Charisma bonus. She's not the kind of dog that will pop out of the shadows and go GRR at you, but now people can tell there's a big dog coming. Or, well, they see a little bobbing light coming, mostly. Some people have commented to us that they couldn't guess WHAT was coming at them with that bobbily light. But most importantly, she's more visible to traffic with the light on... at least when she's pointed the right direction.

Last year, when we started using the light, we immediately got comments amounting to "What a good idea!" and a few more dogs with lights popped up in the area. This year, since the time it started getting dark early in the evenings, we haven't seen any dogs with lights, which is unfortunate. I thought we were going to be trendsetters there for a while. I suppose people have forgotten about it over the summer, when the lights aren't really needed. That, or people ran into some of the complications Arno and I did.

Kayenta lost her first light when the bungee that held it on her collar snapped. That wasn't such a big problem; the things were only 2 euros or so for a package of 1 white and 1 red light, complete with batteries. We end up not using the red ones, and just use the batteries out of them. Battery drain is another issue... the bright little LED lights are super-bright at first, but dim a bit over time. The amount of watch-size batteries we've gone through sets my environmental senses on edge. Another problem we've run into is where to hang the light. Kayenta had it on her collar all the time when we first started, but since the light works on a push-button mechanism, she would often turn it on by laying or rolling on it. We would wake up in the middle of the night to a bright beam of white, sometimes flashing light coming from the dog bed. At least this was detectable; if she managed to turn it on during the day, we often wouldn't notice it at all. I finally took it off her collar and put it on the leash instead. This worked a little better, and at the very least saved some of the battery power. But, Kayenta recently took a corner a bit fast and smashed the light all to pieces against a wall... I managed to recover both halves of the casing and a battery and taped it back together, but the whole mechanism was a little twitchy after that, flicking on and off at minimal impacts or going into flashing mode by itself. We finally broke down and got a new one, and now we're in the practice of just putting it on her collar every time we go out, and attempting to remember to take it off when we get home.

Aside of the apparant frailty of these lights (they ARE meant to go on a bike, not a dog...) I like that they're easy to turn on and off and loop on Kayenta's collar-ring. The issue I have with them now is that it's just not visible enough! When we were putting the light on the leash, it hung about half a foot over her neck. If the leash was taut, you could see it from almost every side, but the light tended to dangle down to Kayent's shoulders... and at that point it was a 50-50 chance that it'd be on the same side as the street. Now that it's on her collar, we don't have to worry about that so much, but the light is only visible from the front. What I'd really like to find for her is a lit or glow-in-the-dark harness that would show up from all angles... I haven't exactly been active in looking, but I'm sure something like this must exist, right? It's sure not in the pet shops in Haarlem, though...

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