Here in New York, we’re looking at the coldest day we’ve seen in in several years — it’s so cold, in fact, the dogs haven’t even asked for walk (which is unheard of around here). We’re comforting ourselves with hot chocolate (me), bully sticks (the dogs), a cozy heating blanket (all of us — and who knew a single heating blanket could fit one human, two dogs, two cats and a giant stuffed hedgehog?) and fantasies of summer vacation.
Of course it will be a dog vacation, because what fun is going on vacation without the dogs? Well, okay, on days like today, I wouldn’t mind a week on some tropical island, relaxing on a lounge chair with oversized sunglasses and a drink with an umbrella in it. But since I haven’t won Lotto yet, I can’t buy my own island with a private dog-friendly beach…nor do I have a private dog-friendly plane to fly there. And anyway, the dogs would just hog the lounge chair.
Thankfully, I have Canine Camp Getaway, which satisfies my dogs’ need for fun in the sun (and in the shade, and in the pool, bar and pretty much everywhere else), as well as my own need to kick back a bit and relax, without having to worry about work deadlines, what to make for dinner or whether my dogs are safe and happy. Dog camp may not be everyone’s dream vacation, but spending a week with dogs and dog lovers actually suits me quite well — and let’s face it, is there anything better at the end of the day than Yappy Hour with friends (both two-legged and four-legged)?
With Canine Camp Getaway’s June vacation nearly sold out, and September filling up fast, you’d think other hotels would be taking the hint: dog-friendly properties = more customers. Yet not everyone seems to be getting the message.
In a random sampling of “dog friendly” hotels, I found that more than half charge a (sometimes hefty) dog deposit or “cleaning fee” (It costs you a hundred bucks to clean the room after Buffy the miniature poodle stays over for two nights? Really?). Many still regulate the size, weight or breed of dogs they will accept (and my 97-pound dog points out that it’s not only not “friendly” but downright rude to have strangers questioning her about her weight!).
Atlantic City has finally gotten some dog-friendly hotels (presumably someone finally saw that “Dogs Playing Poker” painting and realized there was an opportunity there), though there’s still not a lot to do with your dog once you get there.
Disney, I’m told, has added a doggie daycare center for those who want to bring their pup along for vacation…a step in the right direction, to be sure…but the hotels on site are still not dog-friendly.
California does a better job with dog-friendly hotels, beaches and restaurants…but if you live on the East Coast, you’ve either got a really long drive to contend with, or you have to worry about bringing your dog on a less-than-dog-friendly airplane.
So, what do you do if you’re a dog owner who hates to leave your dog behind, or a dog who’s too big to sneak into Mom or Dad’s suitcase? First off, do your research: when planning your vacation, call several area hotels and ask about pet policies, any hidden charges, available dog amenities and local activities for dog owners. Some hotels will not allow dogs to be left alone in the room — even in a crate — so be sure you know the hotel’s policy on this, and if your dog must be with you at all times, be prepared with a list of dog-friendly restaurant options, or a local doggie daycare center. Don’t count on leaving your dog in the car — even if the temperatures are moderate, an unexpectedly hot day can put your dog’s life in danger.
If sharing time with your pet is an important part of your vacation plans, contact pet stores in your destination cities and ask about dog-friendly events, restaurants of hot spots — sometimes there are “unofficial” hangout spots where dogs and dog lovers gather that only the locals know about. Local dog meetup grounds can also be a great resource for this — contact the group organizer if you’re looking for suggestions for the best hiking spots, dog-friendly parks or other fun events.
Even if you’re spending much of your vacation sight seeing, be sure your dog gets enough exercise and entertainment to minimize stress — a long hike and some playtime each day will leave your dog feeling relaxed and happy. And you’ll not only feel better about heading out with friends if your dog is happily tired out first, but you’ll be glad you got some extra exercise when you’re eating out and enjoying that extra glass of wine, or that rich slice of double chocolate cake.
Of course, if your dream vacation involves seeing your dog have a great time, check out Canine Camp Getaway of NY — designed by dogs, for dogs…and their people, of course!
It may be too cold to do much more than “armchair traveling” right now, but it’s a great time to curl up somewhere warm, relax and dream about your (and your dog’s) next vacation. Happy travels!
Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.