Posts Tagged ‘Janice Costa’

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 New Online Shopping Option for Pet Supplies

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I’ve never been a “buy everything on the Web” kind of person; I only started shopping online in the past couple of years, and mostly for things I can’t find in local stores.

I rarely consider shopping for pet products on the Web because (A) there are several reasonably well stocked pet stores within minutes of my home and (B) my dogs prefer the in-store shopping experience (especially since most of the local pet stores keep treats behind the register!).

But with two dogs and two cats, I spend a LOT of money on pet products. And I really need to start watching my costs, since I’m the only one in this household who brings in an income (ironic, since I have two working dogs — you’d think, being working dogs, that they’d get a job and bring in some $$, wouldn’t you?).

While I like the “live” shopping experience, the truth is, the Web not only offers better prices, but there’s something to be said for having your pet supplies show up on your front step, instead of having to lug two 30-pound bags of dog food and two 20-pound containers of cat litter from the store to the car, and from the car into the house (the dogs don’t help with this either…though if I get lazy and drop them just inside the front door, they will happily tear the bags open and engage in an all-you-can-eat buffet!).

So once I decided to do some pet shopping online, the next question was, where? Amazon seemed like the obvious starting point; they carry pretty much everything on the planet, and probably stuff from other planets, too. But the problem with Amazon is that they carry everything but it’s from everywhere else…which means ordering six different brands of products means buying from six different stores that go through Amazon, which means paying shipping for six different companies because you don’t spend enough with any one company to get free shipping (which you think you’d get from Amazon, but you don’t unless the item you want is actually coming directly from Amazon, which wasn’t the case with anything I wanted).

Coincidentally, I was complaining about this very issue when I received an invitation from to try out their Web site. With two dogs and two cats, each of whom are on different foods, and who like very specific treats (different brands — God forbid anyone like the same thing and make my life easy!), I went to the site expecting another “If I go here, I’ll only have five more places to go” experience.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. They not only carried everyone’s food brands, but they carried the specific formulas and flavors my dogs and cats prefer (one’s a senior, one only likes salmon, one is on a high protein diet and one throws up anything except chicken and oatmeal, sensitive systems). And they offered free delivery, which was a huge bonus.

Next we browsed the dog treats section. Dog treats are important in our house. So we browsed…and browsed…and browsed. Lexie settled on my feet on the couch and stretched out to view the treat choices over my shoulder.

My foot fell asleep by page 15 or so, and we still weren’t done browsing all the treats. I’m quite sure someone went to bed with visions of sugar plums in her furry little head (or visions of freeze dried chicken treats, as the case may be!). Endless choices = happy dogs, especially since they had organic and wheat free choices. The prices were also quite reasonable; the hard-to-find peanut butter treats that my sister’s Morkie pup loves cost considerably less than in the local pet store.

The ordering process was simple, and the next day, I had an email saying my order had shipped. Which is good, because I’m the kind of person who realizes I need dog food just about when I get to the bottom of the container. Even more surprising, a day later the whole order showed up. In my experience, free shipping means free shipping via the pony express (i.e. you order now and hope it shows up by Christmas), but this was the kind of shipping that you could actually realize you’re down to the bottom of the food container, order more (without paying a rush fee) and still get the food before your dog misses a meal. Hard not to be impressed by that.

There was a lot to like about this site, from the ridiculously large selection of treats and food options to the ease of shopping and super speedy delivery.

What didn’t I like? They were still selling chicken jerky treats, including at least one company that imports from China. Granted, the stuff hasn’t been recalled, but it’s hard to imagine anyone anywhere hasn’t heard the FDA warnings, or the numerous stories about deaths and severe illnesses tied to chicken jerky originating from China. And even though the stuff is legal to sell, I still feel that a company that makes a living from (and presumably cares about) animals shouldn’t be promoting or selling this stuff. That said, perhaps I’m being idealistic here. I did notice that they don’t carry the three big brands that have been primarily cited as being associated with these problems (though I’d still feel better if they didn’t carry any chicken jerky from China at all)

They also don’t stock my personal favorite supplement, Glyco-Flex III (though to be fair, they stock a very good selection of glucosomine options — far more than other sites I’ve visited). So I still have to go to one more place for that.

But by and large, there wasn’t much I could think of buying that wasn’t available here. The prices were good, the shipping fast and free, and my dogs were so excited when the box showed up, they didn’t even miss the pet store trip!

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.

Dogs in Search of Snow!

Monday, February 6th, 2012

People from the Northeast often talk about how they’d miss the four seasons if they moved South. Personally, I don’t buy it. It’s like poor people saying they’re glad they’re not rich because being poor helps them remember what really matters in life. As if they wouldn’t prefer to be remembering what really matters in life, minus the “insufficient funds” message from the ATM machine two days before pay day. All seasons are not created equal, and summer is definitely better than winter.

Granted, I’m a summer girl; I live for beaches, kick off sandals, convertibles and the smell of chlorine. It’s no accident that my dog vacation business, Canine Camp Getaway of NY, offers an annual SUMMER vacation for dogs and their people. Seriously, I’ve never been able to fathom why anyone would look forward to winter.

Which is why it’s so ironic that, in the (happily) mildest winter we’ve had in years, I’m suddenly trying to figure out where we can go to find some snow.

But that’s what love does to you, I guess.

Dog vacation in the snow?

How did a summer-loving girl like me end up with a winter-loving dog like Jessie?

I may be a summer girl, but my beloved dogs are not; Jessie wilts in hot weather, and even the shorter-haired Lexie would much rather play roll and tackle in a giant snow drift (preferably with a few breaks to eat some snowballs) than sweat in the summer heat. Jessie may be a senior citizen in dog years, but she’s never outgrown “King of the Snow Drift” games, and rolling her little sister in a pile of the white stuff always brings out the puppy in her.

Unfortunately, they haven’t had much opportunity for snow romping this year. And with February already a week old, it’s looking less likely that it’s going to happen.

Now, logically, I know they’re not really looking at the calendar saying, “Half the winter is gone, where’s the snow?” Yet sometimes I catch them looking wistfully out the window, as if they’re waiting for a snowstorm to appear out of nowhere, blanketing the world in the shimmering white stuff and turning the backyard into a winter wonderland for dogs.

Even if they don’t know that winter is passing them by (dogs supposedly not having a sense of time, though that never explains why they know enough to start circling the food bowls like sharks an hour before dinner time), *I* know it. I’ve seen the wonder in their eyes that first winter morning when they wake up to find snow piled high in the yard. I’ve listened to the joyful yaps as they chase each other through the giant snow drifts, laughed as they’ve coaxed me out into below-freezing temperatures to share in their winter games, and played tug o’ war with the towel meant to dry them off when they finally come back inside.

And I can’t stand the thought of my dogs missing out on that. Or anything they love that much.

Even if it means packing up the car and purposefully taking them someplace (eek!) cold and snowy.

So this weekend, we’re heading north in search of snow. It may take a bit of driving, as the whole Northeast has been explicably in a warming trend. But we’re not worried. With a friend living 30 minutes out of Canada, with five acres of property and two snow-loving dogs of her own, a road trip sounds like just what the veterinarian ordered to chase away my dogs’ non-winter blues.

Do your dogs love snow? Have you ever taken them someplace on vacation just to enjoy a taste of winter? Feel free to share your comments below!

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

A Dog’s First Car Ride

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

When you’re a dog, a car ride is pretty magical. It can be pretty magical for a human, too, especially when it’s the first car ride with a new four-legged best friend.

I had the opportunity to share that first car ride recently when my friend Bob adopted his new dog. We’d spent several days visiting shelters before finding her — a beautiful two-year-old black lab mix — at North Shore Animal League.

Shadow Dog

Newly adopted dog Shadow enjoyed her first car ride!

The adoption process can be stressful for a shelter pet, but she was surprisingly calm, as if she’d already realized that she was going to a great home and had nothing to worry about.

Shadow (as she would later be named) got into the car happily enough, and immediately curled up on the back seat with a sigh; she might not know where home was yet, but she seemed content to be taking the ride.

Unlike my still-insane lab mix — who thinks car rides are about sticking her head out the window, rubbing her body against every part of the car she can reach in case there’s a Shedding Olympics she’s inadvertently been entered in, jumping from front seat to back seat to the compartment where the convertible top folds down, and occasionally gnawing on a seatbelt — Shadow seemed a natural for car rides. She sat quietly, moving her nose just enough to nuzzle Bob’s hand when he reached back to pat her.

No barking, no whining, just a quiet sigh, almost too soft to hear. As if she, too, knew that this first car ride was special, something to be savored.

She’ll have plenty more car rides in her future. Dog parks, vet trips, pet store visits, meetups, holidays with friends and relatives, and of course her annual dog vacation as a staff dog at Canine Camp Getaway of NY.

She’ll probably stuff her head out the window at some point to take in the scents, whine in excitement as she develops and recognizes new favorite places, poke Bob looking for a pat, or maybe even scoot up to the front seat looking for a taste of some drive-through dinner one night. She’ll grow more confident each day, and with each trip, more bonded to her human buddy, more excited about getting into a car that will take her to extraordinary places, places that will help her experience all the joys of life as a traveling dog.

But nothing will ever be the same as that first trip.

When we adopt a rescue dog, it’s an act of faith. We don’t really know about the dog’s past, or what the future will hold. We don’t know the dog’s quirks, or if there are latent behavioral or medical issues. We don’t know if the bond will “take.”

But we rarely realize how much more of a leap of faith it is for the dog. The dog doesn’t know she’s being “rescued.” She follows the person on the other end of the leash, hoping that she will end up someplace safe, where they will feed her, shelter her, care for her. She hopes that the person who picked her out from hundreds of other dogs won’t grow tired of her. She hopes someone in her new home will play with her…exercise her…cherish her. And keep her safe forever.

Even though her having been dumped in a shelter in the first place probably means someone already failed to live up to that trust.

Thankfully, Shadow is one of the lucky ones.

But watching her on that first car ride to her new home, it was clear she already knew that.

Five Travel Products Your Pet Doesn’t Need

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

I am the world’s worst packer. Despite more than two decades of business trips, I can still never figure out what I really need when I’m going on a trip, which means I always end up packing five more pairs of shoes than I will actually wear (yet invariably still won’t have the right shoes for whatever I’m doing).

In theory, packing for my dogs should be easier. They don’t need shoes (despite Lexie’s obsession with my Croc boots), and fashion is the least of their concerns when it comes to travel. In fact, if you asked them, they’d tell you they really only need three things: food, Bully Sticks and tennis balls.

I, of course, can quickly fill up a suitcase or three with backup leashes, travel harnesses, duplicate vet paperwork, travel bowls, a placemat for the bowls, bottled water (in case we somehow end up getting lost on our way to Connecticut and end up in Mexico), a Flip camera (because they might do something cute that’s endemic to wherever we’re going, which needs to be immediately captured on film so I can share it with all my equally dog-obsessed friends on Facebook), roll up dog beds (which they will step over as they jump onto my bed), a first aid kit, a squeaky Cuz, a backup squeaky Cuz in case someone de-squeaks the first one, extra toys, extra treats, just-in-case dog towels and a few dozen other things I probably don’t really need.

But as bad as I am with the packing thing, I’ve recently realized that for some pet parents, this packing thing has gotten totally out of control — and pet product manufacturers are taking advantage of this, trying to convince them that they need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on pet “travel necessities” that no pet in the history of the world has ever wanted or needed.

Even I know that there’s such a thing as taking it to extremes. And in the spirit of that, I’d like to share my top five list of things your dog really DOESN’T need for travel.

1.  A $60 “specially molded” plastic travel water container designed to ward off heat, snake attacks and nuclear explosions.
The first time I saw one of these, I thought it was a joke. But apparently some people will pay top dollar for one of these special, “pet designed” water containers. I love my dog, too, but seriously, consider this for a minute. “Specially molded plastic” may sound impressive at first glance, but in reality, it’s just a catch phrase for “cheap material made in China.” And the water doesn’t taste any different coming out of these containers. Besides which, given the opportunity, your dog would probably drink out of the toilet. Trust me when I tell you that your dog doesn’t need a $60 travel water container. Want to keep Fido’s water cold on the trip? Buy a $6 plastic thermos and be done with it.

2.  A car seat “hammock.”
If your dog is anything like mine, she can sleep in a moving vehicle, in a bathtub, under a table, or sprawled in the four inches of space between the couch and the coffee table with her paws sticking out of the side. She doesn’t need a hammock. Honest. And if she’s anything like my younger dog, she’ll just view a hammock as an opportunity to bounce herself, trampoline-like, right into the front seat with you where she can change the radio station and wreak doggie havoc on the roads. If you don’t crate your dog on trips, throw a sheet over the back seat and be done with it.

Dogs do not melt in the rain. And bright yellow rain slickers just look silly on dogs (and on people, for that matter!).

3.  A bright yellow rain slicker and rain hat.
Dogs do not melt in the rain. They’re dogs. They can get wet. They’ll dry off. Even if you don’t have a special, hand-embroidered towel with their name on it to rub them down with. Yellow rain slickers just look silly on dogs, and if your dog is wearing one, chances are, all the other dogs are laughing at him. Additionally, studies show that 27% of all dog bites are caused by dogs embarrassed to the point of violence by silly dog outfits. Help your dog stay in the 73%.

4.  Little booties.
As I’ve been telling Lexie for years (trying to get her to understand the whole “the Croc boots are mine, not yours” thing), dogs have paws, not feet. They were designed to walk on their feet. Therefore, they do not need shoes. Unless they have an injury, or you are walking them somewhere with broken glass, forget the silly little booties and let them walk the way God intended them to. Trust me, if dogs really needed shoes…Croc would have already come out them.

If dogs were meant to wear shoes...Croc would already be selling them.

5.  Designer carry bags with names like Coach, Versace or Gucci.
Here’s the thing: Dogs can’t read labels. So that $6,000 designer carry bag you put them in isn’t impressing them, or their little four-legged friends, for that matter. Sure, if you got a nice bacon-scented carry bag, you could make your dog the envy of all his doggie buddies. But putting your dog in the latest fashion statement carry all is not going to transform him into a furry fashionista who’ll peruse Vogue with you and obsess over who’s getting kicked off Project Runway this week. If your dog travels in a carry bag, practical, comfortable and waterproof are all your dog really needs.

Got a silly pet travel product you’d like to tell us about? Share it in the comments below!

Fall Road Trips

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Ever since I launched my first dog vacation business, my dogs have played the dual role of companions on the home front and doggie road warriors, up for any adventure, any time, anywhere.

And while their annual Canine Camp Getaway vacation may be their favorite trip, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy all the little side trips we take throughout the year — to dog fairs like  Hounds on the Sound, dog charity fundraiser events like the Canine Companions for Independence DogFest and friends’ homes where they not only welcome my dogs, but would be disappointed if I showed up without them (in at least one friend’s case, I think she’d actually be less disappointed if the dogs showed up without me than the other way around!).

Last weekend we spent at Fido’s Festival in Woodstown, NJ, which is some of the most fun you can have if you’re a dog (according to Lexie), and not a bad time for humans either (despite the absence of the kettle corn guy, which I had to admit was a tiny bit of a disappointment).

For the dogs, they had dock diving, lure racing (an obstacle course that dogs run while chasing after a squeaky toy or “lure” that runs on a pully system on the ground — often referred to as “crack cocaine for dogs”), agility, games, treats, vendors and a costume parade. For the humans, there were educational sessions in the open air pavilion, hayrides, shopping galore, rescue booths with adoptable dogs, games, free samples, a food court filled with every type of food you can imagine (except for the aforementioned kettle corn…yes, I know I’m harping on it, but I’m STILL disappointed about that) and lots of fun dog people and dogs to hang out with.

It was, my dog and I agreed, a nearly perfect weekend (and could have edged into perfect territory if only there’d been less traffic on the way home. And a kettle corn booth).

Hounds on the Sound

Hounds on the Sound is another of our favorite dog festivals.

Still, it was one of those weekends that makes you love fall, even though it means summer is over and won’t be back for what seems like ages.

This weekend, we were hoping to make it out to Barktober Fest at Camp Bow Wow in Cherry Hill, NJ (another really cool event), but bad weather and a temperamental car but the kibosh on those plans. So instead, I’m sitting on my couch, wrapped in a blanket with a cat on my head and a dog on my feet, trying to keep warm while the temperatures drop as if Mother Nature got confused about which month it is (Note to Mother Nature: October is the month where you dress up and get candy. December is the one with the snow. They’re totally different months, even though they both end with “ber.” Or, in this case,”brrr!”).

It’s not that I mind a day curled up on the couch all cozy and warm, wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by pets and whatever sweatshirt/shoe/toy Lexie has decided to carry into the den in hopes of enticing me into a game of keep away. But it’s also not as much fun as a road trip on a sunny fall day, walking around with the dogs, enjoying the fresh air, seeing new places and meeting new friends.

Sadly, by next month, the outdoor dog events will peter out in the Northeast as winter begins to take hold. That means fewer road trips.

Oh, there’s Winter Woofstock in Toronto, which I’m told totally rocks, but I’m not convinced I can do 22 hours of driving in one weekend (especially since my car now knows I’m looking for a new car, which has made it testier and more temperamental than usual).

And of course there are always the various Pet Expos, but you can’t bring your dog, and my dogs have an issue with me attending dog events without them.

Do any of you road trip in the cold weather with your dog? Any great dog-friendly, cold-weather destinations you would recommend? Feel free to share!

Does Your Dog Get Car Sick? Try Home Baked Ginger Dog Biscuits!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I am fortunate enough to have two dogs who not only love to travel, but who view car travel much the way I might view a trip to any Club Med: If someone offers the opportunity, jump on it, and worry about where you’re going, exactly, later. I mean, there aren’t any bad Club Meds, right?

Some dogs love car travel. But if doggie motion sickness is ruining the trip for both of you, try baking up a batch of ginger dog biscuits to settle your pup's stomach.

Of course Club Med costs thousands of dollars, while a drive around town costs you a few bucks in gas. Fortunately my dogs don’t seem to get the difference. Even a short car trip to run errands is cause for celebration with them, and they are equally happy going to Hess (bonus points if they can scare the gas station guy with a good loud bark!), driving through Dairy Barn or just taking a run to my parents’ house. It’s about the journey, and a car journey is a wonderful thing in their world.

But not all dogs feel that way. Motion sickness seems to be an increasingly common ailment among dogs, and in recent weeks, I’ve spoken with three different friends whose dogs get car sick.

I feel for them, as it’s no fun traveling with a dog who throws up in the backseat.

But I probably have greater sympathy for the dogs, as I was one of those people who suffered from motion sickness for most of my childhood, and I know how awful it is.

Fortunately, motion sickness in dogs is generally easily treatable, just as it is in humans. In fact, many of the medications used for human motion sickness can also be prescribed for dogs. (I actually found this out when Lexie jumped six feet off the ground to snag a bottle of medicine from my top shelf, resulting in frantic calls to the vet. While she didn’t actually consume anything but the bottle, I learned from that particular call that my motion sickness medicine isn’t harmful to dogs, and may, in fact, be prescribed to treat dogs with similar problems).

However, before you go the drug route, you may be able to stave off motion sickness with something easily found in your spice rack: ginger.

Ginger is a great way to settle the stomach, and this is equally true for humans and canines. For years, I carried candied ginger in my purse for long drives, or trips on the LIRR where accidentally I ended up in one of the seats facing backwards.

While not all dogs will eat candied ginger, you can easily include this is a delicious home baked dog treat which may help settle your pup’s stomach for car trips. So if your car is making your dog sick, try baking up a batch of these and giving your pup a couple for the ride!

Delicious Ginger Dog Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix oil and water in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, mil and ginger. Add the water mixture slowly to the mixed ingredients. Knead and roll out the dough on a flat surface. Cut with cookie cutters (you can find fun bone or dog-shaped cookie cutters in most craft stores or on Amazon). Bake for 30-35 minutes. Set out on cooking rack to cool, or leave them in the oven until they are dry for extra crunchiness. Enjoy!