Leave the dogs at home or take ’em with you? This is the eternal question facing every dog owner. I’m going to try to help.
Regular readers of my column know I’ve spent many years having travel adventures with my golden retrievers — first Lucky, now Rusty. Why travel with a dog? I’ve answered this before, but to review: Sure, it’s a hassle, and it means you just can’t do some things (fine dining? Unlikely…). But traveling with your dog gives you peace of mind that your pet is being well cared for, and you don’t have to worry if your plans change. Most important, dogs make friends easily, as do people with dogs. The best part of travel for me is meeting locals, or fellow travelers, and swapping stories. I’m inherently shy. That’s a terrible quality for a journalist. Lucky and Rusty have solved that for me. It’s no exaggeration that I have enjoyed 100s of great encounters with all kinds of people that would have been unlikely without my sidekick journalist in tow. So for me, the answer is obvious. I travel with my dog.
But where? Dogs, for good reason, are not welcome everywhere. I do sympathize with people who are allergic or simply afraid (I’ve been both), so I’m not one who thinks dogs’ rights trump people’s rights. But I am certain we can find a place for everyone. And life is richer, and usually more fun, when there are dog-friendly places to go, as when there are family-friendly places.
“Pet-friendly” has become a marketing term, however. Hotel chains and other destinations have figured out that the dog-owning public is a BIG market. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that slightly more than one-third of U.S. households own dogs. That’s 43 million families. And they all have to go somewhere on long weekends.
Pet-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean “dog welcoming” however. Sometimes is just means “dog tolerant.” It’s a big difference — it can be the difference between a great, restful week and a “just-get-through-it” week.
I’ve been driving around with my dogs for a long time, usually with an eye towards understanding the tortured, frustrating economics of middle class middle America. I’ll keep doing that. But it struck me recently that I have a lot of valuable experiences about dog traveling that I should share. So today, I begin an occasional series of what I’ll call “very dog friendly” destinations. Let me start out by saying it will be purely observational. I’m not going to write reviews of hotels, or coffee shops, or dog parks. I’m just going to share, based on my experience, tales of joy from the road. Your mileage may vary — all dog owners know they have to be flexible, and things can change. So confirm my observations – make sure pet policies haven’t changed — before you spend any money yourself.
More than anything, I hope to connect you with some places that I find go over-and-above to treat dogs well, give them a little credit for that, and give you a little hope for finding a truly fun place to visit with your pooch.
The name for the series comes, of course, from my beloved Lucky, my first real travel companion. So here goes.
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