Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dog Days

So unless you live in Austin, the dog days of summer have probably given way to some cooler, if not soggier, weather. But if your idea of a "dog day" is one spent with your pooch, you probably already know that vacations and canines don't always mix. More and more hotels are getting on board with pet-friendly policies, but most are not really set up to accommodate you and your hound. Have you ever tried to share a Motel 6 with a bernese mountain dog? Let's just say two's a crowd, and leave it at that. Pet-friendly timeshares, on the other hand, typically come with multiple bedrooms, extra bathroom, and designated living and dining areas. Not only does this give you more room to move, but it more closely resembles your setup at home, making it easier for the two (or more) of you to get into a routine.

Of course you wouldn't leave your dog alone at home unattended for an entire day (would you?), and so you shouldn't do it on vacation either. Some resorts have excellent kennels nearby, and a few even offer a "doggy day care" for a fee. Which is fine in a pinch, but you really need to work your dog into your vacation plans. I am sorry to report that unless your furry friend is a service dog, Las Vegas Casinos and all Disney parks are off limits. Ditto for the Smithsonian and other museums, as well as water and themed parks. You'd think this all would go without saying. But you would also think that pregnant women would know that they shouldn't go zip-lining, or that tequila and skydiving are a bad combo. Alas, the things I have seen in my ambassadorial duties.

So obviously some destinations are better than others when Fido is tagging along. Beaches are popular with people and pooches. While some beaches prohibit dogs, and most others restrict their access in some way, you can almost always find a way to get some sun and fun, as well as time with your pet. Florida, Oregon, California, and Florida's coasts are all considered to be pet-friendly, and also home to many timeshare resorts. Or how about a lake or the mountains? Better yet, how about a lake and the mountains? Lake Tahoe, Big Bear Lake, and Lake Havasu City - to name a few - are all great family destinations, with or without dogs. These areas also have some of the highest concentrations of public land in the form of national, state, and local parks, which are typically open to pets with well behaved owners, if you know what I mean.

Maybe you are more of a city slicker, and think that you will have to board your dog for your vacation week. While that is an option, you might want to take a closer look at San Diego, San Francisco, or Boston. In addition to having great parks, dog runs, and timeshare resorts, these are notoriously impossible cities to drive in. But, they are famously walkable. And as anyone who owns a dog knows, a tired dog is a good dog. Further, more and more restaurants are offering outdoor seating, even in urban areas. This may have started as a way to accommodate smokers, but it is turning out to be a boon for restaurants with dog-owning patrons. Just about every board of health in the country prohibits dogs from being inside an eatery (other than service dogs), but a deck or patio is fair game. Unless of course your dog smokes.

A final word about pet travel, coming from someone who travels for living: not everyone is as crazy about your dog as you are. I know, I know, it's shocking and unbelievable. After all, he's so cute. Perhaps he is, but I still don't want him jumping up on my clothes and licking me in the face. I also know that his mouth is cleaner than mine, but that's not really saying much, is it?

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