Posts Tagged ‘dog vacations’

Fantasies of Summer Vacation (With Dogs, Of Course!)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

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.

dog camp, enjoying the pool!

You're not the only one who fantasizes about enjoying vacation poolside in a comfy 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.

A Love Letter to My Dogs

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Dogs are easy to love. Mine are especially lovable — even when they’re barking ferociously at the UPS guy (Jessie) or running through the house wildly swinging my pocketbook over their heads and dumping credit cards everywhere (Lexie). In fact, rarely does a day go by when I don’t discover something new to love about my dogs. It’s hard not to be charmed by their loyalty, intelligence, humor, joyfulness and sheer goodness.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share some of the many things I love about my dogs.

I love that they are always filled with joy, whether it’s a fun-filled Saturday or a dreary Monday morning; whether it’s rainy, snowy, hot and muggy or freezing out; whether we’re playing ball, going for a walk, or just lounging in bed doing nothing. They’re joyful regardless of the situation, as if it’s just a natural state of being for them. And sometimes It’s nice to be reminded that joy doesn’t need a reason.

I love that they see the possibilities in every day, and every situation. Sure, it’s hurricane conditions out there, but Mom MIGHT take us for a walk…she MIGHT drop a hot dog off the grill tonight…she MIGHT be walking into the kitchen not for a glass of water but to get us a treat…she MIGHT let us up on the living room couch, even though we’ve never ever been allowed on that couch. And although she says “Leave the cat!” so often we could practically recite it ourselves, when she opens her mouth as we’re nose poking the cat, this time she MIGHT say, “Yes, please, chase the cat, go for it!” All things are possible in a dog’s world.

There's nothing in the world better than a dog's love, except, perhaps, two dogs' love!

I love that their devotion knows no bounds; as imperfect as I am, they think I’m the best dog Mom ever. And they think that whether I’m tired and cranky, whether I’m in sweats or dressed to the nines, whether I’m playing with them or ignoring them to work on the hated laptop. Who else loves you with that level of constancy?

I love that they have a sense of family. They love each other, our cats, our friends, our friends’ dogs, and assorted parents, siblings, nieces and nephews (and their dogs), welcoming them as part of our extended “pack.”

I love their adventurous spirit. Road trip? No problem! Whether it’s their annual Canine Camp Getaway dog vacation, a day trip to check out the Pet Expo or a simple run to the grocery store with a stop off at Mom’s house, they’re always up for it.

I love their many moods and sides, love how they can be charming, serious and silly by turns, romping and playing ball one minute, barking excitedly and tackling each other, and then an hour later, be sitting quietly at (or on) my feet, sharing a contemplative moment.

I love their sense of honesty and loyalty. My dogs don’t hide who or what they are; they “say” exactly what they mean (if I’m clever enough to pay attention). And their love is equally honest, with nothing held back. They always believe the best of people, and are never petty or spiteful; they never even seem to be disappointed in me (even when they might have reason to be). There’s a purity in their interactions with humans and each other which is refreshing beyond words.

I love the wordless communication that we share; how we can read each other’s minds sometimes. It’s like a form of music, magical and powerful and beautiful.

I love the comfort of their warm, furry bodies, love the happy swishing of their tails, love the cold noses that like to flip the laptop closed when I’ve spent too much time writing and not enough time playing. And I especially love the four beautiful brown eyes that stare at me in hopeful anticipation, whether they’re waiting for a walk, a ball toss, a treat or just a pat on the head.

Most of all, though, I love that my dogs make me want to be a better human, so that I can live up to the person they believe I am right now.

If Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, then I am truly rich. For I am loved by the two best dogs on the planet!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your loved ones (be they four-legged or two-legged)!

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.

A Car Ramp for Jessie

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Back in November, I began my search for a new car that my dogs would love as much as I did. Now, I’m not a car person, and I wasn’t really ready to buy a new car (my beloved convertible took an unexpected turn for the worse), so I didn’t expect the process to be much fun.

It wasn’t. I hated the pushy car salespeople and the boring online research. I fell asleep several nights on my laptop trying to decipher crash reports and safety ratings. Just the thought of a monthly car payment stressed me out beyond belief. And as much as I knew the dogs needed an SUV, I hated the idea of driving some monstrously big Mom-mobile when I was used to the ease and speed of my little convertible.

But despite these challenges, I eventually found and fell in love with the perfect car: a 2012 Nissan Rogue with enough little extras to make driving fun — and enough space to fit two dogs comfortably (including one dog with greater-than-average personal space needs).

The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the extra challenges caused by the added height of the Rogue. Now, by SUV standards, it’s pretty close to the ground. In fact, that’s one of the things I loved about it — no “monster truck” feeling getting in and out. But for a 10-year-old, 100-pound dog with some arthritis, it’s still a bit tougher to enter and exit than the old convertible (which was so low to the ground, if you pulled up too far in a parking space, the curb grabbed your bumper and you couldn’t back out without leaving your bumper there attached to the curb…not that I know this from personal experience, or anything!).

As a result, the dog was getting fewer car rides, and suddenly everyone was less than enamored with my wonderful new Rogue.

Clearly we needed a solution, so suddenly I was back in the market, this time for a dog ramp.

Now, dog ramps look easy, don’t they? Your dog walks up them and walks down them. Simple, right?

In theory, sure. In reality, you have to worry about length, weight capacity, slippage, side rails, whether they fold up or retract, whether they slice your fingers off while you’re trying to fold them up or make them retract, how much space they take up in the back, whether they have sharp edges that will slice an ill-placed hand or paw, how heavy they are to carry, how much time they take to set up, and whether your dog will actually use them after you do all this research and eventually buy one.

When I bought my new SUV, it was clear that a ramp was necessary to help my older dog enter and exit more easily.

I went through something similar a year ago when I picked up dog stairs to help my dog make it up more easily onto the bed. My bed is a bit higher than a typical bed, and I’d noticed that the dog had recently started needing a running start to jump up onto it. So the stairs seemed like an ideal solution.

I spent two months researching different brands, and several more weeks price shopping before finally placing my order. They arrived, looking and working every bit as well as described. Except for one tiny problem: The dog hated them. She ignored them, jumped over them and flat out refused to use them. Treats, praise, coaxing didn’t help at all. And it wasn’t that she didn’t know how to use them — she just refused.

For six months, they sat in a corner of the bedroom doing nothing. I even thought about giving them away, or selling them on eBay, but never quite got around to it. Then one day, the dog was pacing around the bed, clearly looking to get up, but seemingly unsure of her ability to make the jump. So I pulled out the stairs again. Coaxed her up with some treats. Coaxed her back down with some treats. And suddenly her eyes lit up in the doggie version of “Eureka!” You could actually see her mind clicking: “STAIRS! Stairs for ME! Stairs to MY BED!” That night, she probably climbed on and off the bed 20 times. And while I didn’t get much sleep (a 100-pound dog entering and exiting the bed isn’t the most graceful creature in the world), it thrilled me to be able to give her back the ease of spending time on the bed with me when she wanted to.

So you’d think with the stairs thing being conquered, the ramp thing would be easy, right?

It should be…but it wasn’t.

It turns out my dog doesn’t much like dog ramps. Not big ones, wide ones, ones with rails, ones without rails. She didn’t like the slippery ones or the non-slip ones, the fold up ones or the loud retractable ones.

My fingers didn’t like them either. Trying to assemble these in the dark so my dog could join me for a simple trip to Mom’s was an awful lot of work…and dangerous work for a klutz who can barely do this type of stuff in full daylight, forget at midnight in a coat and gloves.

And suddenly I had a eureka moment myself. Why was I trying to talk my dog into a dog ramp she clearly hated when she loved her stairs so much? So I pulled out her stairs, dragged them up to the back of the car, set them up…and she saw them and lit up with joy, as if to say, ‘Oh look, my stairs!” She walked right up them and into the back, happy as a clam.

So now when we travel, her stairs come with us. They’re a bit heavy to carry back and forth from the house to the car, but they open up in two seconds (no sliced fingers), and the dog seems happy with the arrangement. So I’m thinking we might just buy a second set and keep them in the car full time. They do bang around a bit in the back, so I need to think about how to secure them to the side so they take up less space. But overall, they do the trick.

And since we’ve worked that out, both dogs now love their new car!


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.

Five New Year’s Resolutions Your Dogs Want You to Make

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

It’s that time of year again, and you’re probably busy making some New Year’s resolutions. Many of these are universal — lose some weight, save more money, get more organized. Or perhaps you’d like to keep your house cleaner, change jobs, or work on improving your relationships.

Your dogs have some New Year’s resolutions they would like you to make as well, and if they had the dexterity to work on your laptop, they’d probably already have added them to your list. Since they can’t, I’m sharing a few that the dogs have shared with me. Trust me when I say that life is far too short — especially when you’re a dog — and spending time with your dog is more important than dusting the furniture more often. Many of your resolutions — like getting more exercise — can also incorporate your dog so you’re both happier and healthier.

Below are the Top Five New Year’s Resolutions Your Dogs Want You To Make, as shared with me by Jessie, Lexie and friends. Happy New Year to you all!

1. Get us more exercise.
Young dogs need exercise to keep out of trouble (a tired dog is a good dog, or at least a dog who is less likely to jump up and steal the bag of cheez doodles off the counter and make a run for it). Middle age dogs need exercise to stay flexible and healthy. Older dogs need exercise to keep their bodies strong and lean and stave off arthritis.

Agility classes are great exercise for humans and canines, and a wonderful way to strengthen the bond with your dog.

“You can go to the gym, join a tennis club or take up volleyball. Without your help, all we can do is spend extra time chasing the cats (which always seems like a good idea until the lamp gets knocked over and the cats start making those weird Exorcist noises). We need YOU to take us on long walks, play ball with us, bring us to the park or enroll us in agility, flyball or other dog sport classes. Keep us active — physically and mentally — and we will be able to share more precious years with you on this earth.”

2. Socialize us.
Dogs that are well socialized are healthier mentally as well as physically, and they are more stable, calm and well mannered than those who are not socialized regularly. Mental stimulation can also increase a dog’s lifespan by as much as two years, according to some studies.

“Don’t YOU get stir crazy when it snows and you’re stuck in the house for two days? Sometimes our whole lives can feel like that, and we want to get out and see the world, too! Take us out to dog fairs, local hiking trails, dog-friendly pet stores, obedience or dog sport classes. Train us to become therapy dogs and bring us to visit the homebound, the sick, the elderly and the children who need some help learning to read (we’ll both feel better for helping those unfortunate people who are unable to have dogs in their lives full time!). Include us in your social activities. As an added bonus, we’ll help “screen” your friends (those who don’t enjoy dogs probably have other serious flaws as well, so you’re better off finding out early so you can instead choose animal loving friends, as everyone knows dog lovers are kinder, smarter and all around better humans than the non dog lovers!).”

3. Take us for Wellness Checkups
No one likes to go to the doctor when they’re not sick, and it’s easy to skip those wellness visits at the vet when money is tight and schedules are crazy. But an annual vet trip (twice annual for dogs seven and older) is important in monitoring your dog’s ongoing health. It’s also a great way to learn about new treatments that can keep your dog healthier for longer. Stem cell therapy, laser treatments, nutritional supplements, homeopathic treatments, doggie chiropractic care and new theories on diet can be all provide dog owners with valuable tools that can come in handy for maintaining your dog’s long-term health. Ask if your veterinarian gives free seminars about dog-related topics; if not, ask around, as more vets are offering free educational opportunities that are worth exploring.

“We may not love going to the vet, but we trust you to make sure we stay healthy and happy. Please do what you have to so that we can live long lives, free of pain and discomfort.”

4. Make time in your life for us.
Juggling work, family, chores and bills can be challenging, and lately everyone seems increasingly time pressed. But the old adage “life is short” applies seven-fold to dogs, and it’s easy to forget how quickly the time goes by. Dogs are pack animals, and they don’t just require food, exercise and sleep, they also require love and attention, petting and playtime. Dogs are a great reminder of what’s truly important in life, and in the greater scheme of things, it’s okay to let some of the chores slide sometimes while you focus on what’s really important: your living, breathing, always-loving-you dog. So put down the vacuum and toss around that tennis ball instead; get off the laptop and pet your dog; get off the phone and talk to your dog (who will likely be more attentive and happy to listen to you than whoever you were going to call anyway!).

“You are gone all day at work, then at night you have friends to visit, parties, chores, erands to run. We spend the whole day, every day, just waiting for you to come home. You are our whole world; we would die for you without a second thought, so please don’t forget us! We understand that you have to work to pay for the kibble, the bully sticks and the stuffed squeaky hedgehogs, but we’d rather have a few less toys and more time with you. Please enjoy us while we are here, and let’s wring every moment of joy out of this life together!

5. Take Us On Vacation!
Vacation is how we celebrate life, letting go of our day to day responsibilities to just have some carefree time full of fun. It’s the “magic time” that we spend with our favorite

Take your dog on vacation to Canine Camp Getaway where even the pool is dog-friendly!

people, our closest friends. We tend to be at our best on vacation, relaxed, happy, joyful. And who’s a closer friend, who’s more deserving of our best than our dog? Dogs are with us during the worst of times, supporting us, being patient with us, loving us no matter how busy or tired or cranky we get. Shouldn’t they also enjoy the best part of us?

“You may not realize it, but we work hard, too! We guard our home and protect our loved ones from trespassing squirrels and evil mailmen, we support you when you are sad, or tired, or cranky, or overworked, and we are always, always here for you, even when your head is somewhere else and you barely seem to notice us kissing your hand, warming your feet it just sitting next to you, supporting you and loving you. Won’t you take us somewhere fun where we can play together without all the distractions of ‘real life,’where we can celebrate life and the love we have for each other? Take us to Canine Camp Getaway of NY next June, and give us the best gift a human can give a dog — time together to play and have fun together!

Wishing you all a wonderful 2012!


Janice, Jessie & Lexie