Pre-Holiday Decompress in Ponca, AR

Wild elk in Arkansas

Elk lounging roadside in Ponca, AR

If the current political climate or the prospect of spending the holidays with 30 cousins and all their babies crammed into a tiny house with nary a bottle of wine among you has you feeling more #stressed than #blessed, then I suggest you head to a place where cell phone service is non-existent and the only sounds are that of bugling elk or unnamed critters rustling through the leaves.

In preparation for the whirlwind of travel, shopping, and social engagements this time of year always brings, that’s exactly what Henri and I did last Friday night- a last minute, barely planned ditch of civilization.

It was the perfect 24-hour reset and something to feel truly thankful for.

With just enough time between obligations to sandwich in an overnight, Henri and I drove to Ponca, AR for a stay at Lost Valley Canoe and Lodging. Normally, weekend stays require two nights but when we inquired earlier in the week they told us if we called back Friday morning and the cabin hadn’t been rented, they’d let us have it.

Friday morning. Score #1.

After my appointment with some very cute and very rowdy beagle puppies, I headed home to pack. One carry-on size bag seemed sufficient for a no make-up, sleep naked, come home in the clothes you wore overnight trip. My bag- sweater, tennis shoes, moisturizer, tooth brush. Henri’s bag- blanket, stuffy, food, bowls. Done. Only two more stops before hitting the road. Grocery and liquor. In Arkansas, those are two different stores.

With a full ice chest and an hour of winding roads lined with the remnants of fall color ahead of us, we rolled down the windows, turned on Kenny Wayne and headed East.

My Mema always says I ‘get my ass between my shoulder blades’, but thankfully there’s something about leaving the city that just relaxes me. As soon as the buildings are few and the pastures are many, as soon as I realize there are no bars on my cell phone or that the only structures are farm houses and churches, those shoulders revert to their natural position. As I relaxed, my mind started to wander and I began to think of the elk.

Rocky Mountain Elk were introduced to the Buffalo National River area to replace the Eastern Elk that were hunted into extinction. Fall is the best time to catch them as it’s mating season and the bulls are in full rut. The herd tends to feed in the fields that lie along the Buffalo National River between Ponca and Boxley just after sunrise and then again in the late afternoon. I’d never seen them, but we’d timed our departure so as to be driving through the viewing area- a 7 mile range on Hwy 43- at the right time and making our cabin before sunset.

Friday afternoon. Score #2.

Between Ponca and Boxley there’s an Elk Education Center and an elk lookout. I don’t think the elk know about the lookout because they aren’t always there. However, if you want to find them, simply drive from Ponca down Hwy 43 to the south. Keep your eye on the fields on the east side of the road. Roadside elk-viewing spots can be had anywhere from the Ponca access to the trailhead for the Buffalo River Trail. If you see cars pulled over to the side of the road, join them.

After our roadside elk viewing pit stop, where I left Henri in the car and tried without success to find a hole in the fence, we continued on to our cabin. I was super-intent on making what I was sure would be a gorgeous sunset.

Our cabin was actually only about five minutes from the elk stop so after checking in at Lost Valley and being advised to ‘just gun it’ when going up to Hillside Cabin #1, we arrived. This is not a cabin for the lame or handicap, or the Toyota Avalon. In fact, in another five years I’m pretty sure my hip will give out and I’ll need a Sherpa to make it at all. Please God let me have a truck by then!

All this being said, the cabin is fabulous! A wrap around deck with rocking chairs, a hot tub and a charcoal grill does not disappoint. It even comes with a nice gray kitty. The only drawback is…no view of the hills, just woods. Fortunately, long summer days on the water have made me an excellent sun chaser and spying a sunny hilltop in the distance, I got it my mind that we should just drive in that direction. My plan worked.

Friday sunset. Score #3.

We drove in the direction of the mountaintop which led us to the entrance of the Steele Creek trail. From the entrance it’s just downward, not good for sunset viewing, but I found a great little spot across the road to throw a blanket and plop down. As the clouds changed from white to pink to dark blue and the mountain slowly sucked the light from the sky, I babbled to Henri about the majesty of sunsets. With patient eyes he stared, if only to appease me. He’s used to my ramblings.

Once I was satisfied with having seen the best of what would transpire that evening, we returned to our cabin for dinner.

At the store, we’d picked up all the necessary supplies for a long quiet evening of snacking, good eating and drinking. Cheese and crackers would tide me over while I built a fire and enjoyed a drink, and when I started to get really hungry, I’d planned to fire up the charcoal (bring your own) grill for a steak. Bacon-wrapped filets, roasted rosemary potatoes, and Michael David Petit-Petite were on the menu.

Henri split his time sniffing around our hillside and cleaning out the cat food bowl which I relocated to a table top out of canine reach. My rule for out-of-sight free-range is that I just need to hear his rustling or the jingle of his collar. This summer I discovered an LED collar at an outdoor store and it might be my favorite new dog accessory. If I can’t see the collar or hear him, I call him and he returns.

The sky was clear and starry and the night a cold, quiet reminder that winter is coming. It was perfect hot tub weather and a relaxing end to the day.

Saturday morning. Naked.

The crisp chill of the Saturday morning air led to one more dip in the hot tub while drinking my coffee. And the realization that if Travel Tails were a TV show, there are a lot of things I might not do. Like, sit naked in a hot tub while drinking my coffee. Or spend two days without make-up (lipstick doesn’t count).

Check-out was at eleven and we’d planned to grab some lunch and get in a hike before heading back to town. The hike was the whole point of the trip and not getting it was a major disappointment. Unfortunately, we discovered too late that many of the trails in the Buffalo National River area do not allow dogs. They allow horses, with their big hoofs that tear up trails and giant piles of crap that no one picks up, and there’s a HUGE controversy over a factory hog farm that was allowed to be built, but NO DOGS. I won’t ruin this story with a rant, but suffice it to say that I don’t get it!

We settled for a drive through Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and lunch at Low Gap Café. Neither was actually a ‘settle’ as the view at Horseshoe is nothing short of stunning and lunch was great. Horseshoe doesn’t allow dogs and is yet another reminder that I need a truck, but if you’re a frisbee golf player, you should get yourself there ASAP. I didn’t even bother trying to take a picture because I knew there was just no way to do it justice.

Low Gap doesn’t have an outdoor patio so Henri had to wait in the car. They do, however, have excellent food and music on the weekends. It was a wonderful little surprise and certainly a place I’d eat again.

Once we returned home, I tweeted my disappointment in the availability of dog-friendly trails to @BuffaloNPS, the official Twitter source for the Buffalo National River. They responded to let me know that “Henri would love the Mill Creek Trail (Pruitt), Forrest Trail (Buffalo Point), and Overlook Trail (Buffalo Point)!” They also let me know that Hawksbill Crag/ Whitaker Point is a popular dog-friendly trail in the Upper Buffalo near Boxley, which is closer to where we were but temporarily closed due to a wildfire.

She gets political.

I’d guess a majority of the population of Arkansas is familiar with the Buffalo. For those that aren’t, shame on you. Get there. STAT. In addition, check out the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. I don’t get political very often but when there’s a factory hog farm near our nation’s first national river and its existance is a threat to a vast and beautiful wilderness, I get a little opinionated.

For the rest of you, plan a visit. I have no doubt that afterwards you’ll understand what we are trying to protect.

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Penguin Palace in OKC

A gift from guest services

Our sweet gift from Haley & Allie. And they spelled ‘Henri’ right!

I’m generally not a huge fan of art museums. Not because I don’t like art but because the places are always so stuffy. No food, no drinks, no gum, no touching, and although I’ve never seen a sign that says “Quiet Please,” I always feel like the loud kid at the library waiting for someone to shush me.

21c Museum Hotels aren’t like that at all and what hotel priding themselves on Southern hospitality wouldn’t be dog-friendly?!

If you haven’t stayed at one of the six museum hotels, you’re missing out. From the location and building design to the food served, each location boasts a local flare. Part boutique hotel, part contemporary art museum, 21c is making art accessible and fun. Henri and I are regulars at the Bentonville, AR location but living a mere twenty minutes away, we’ve never needed to stay the night. So when the newest hotel opened just three hours from us, it was time for another adventure.

Located on the West end of downtown Oklahoma City, OK and occupying the historic Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, this 135 room space was designed with great attention to the kind of details that would accentuate the history of the building as well as preserve its architectural character. Giant columns and original floors are left exposed in the lobby and the door of the elevator shaft that moved cars from floor to floor is painted bright red. In the rooms, carpeting resembles tire tread and faucet knobs look like the steering wheels of old Fords. From the public spaces that include the galleries, bar and restaurant to the guest rooms, art is staged in every nook and cranny. Only over-night guests with key cards are allowed past the first floor, so I suggest you book a room for the full experience. There’s plenty of other things to do in OKC and you won’t regret choosing 21c as your weekend base camp.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

A quick drink at the OKC Memorial

Getting a drink at the OKC National Memorial.

21c check-in isn’t until 4:00 p.m. That gave us just the right amount of time to make OKC before rush hour and spend some time at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Technically, the memorial space ISN’T dog-friendly, but we wandered into the green space from the side and didn’t see the signs until we were leaving. Several park rangers saw us, but no one asked us to leave. Maybe they thought Henri was a service dog…? In any case, the only comment made to me was that I shouldn’t let him drink the water in the fountain because it was chemically treated on a regular basis.

If you’re in, near or around OKC and you haven’t been to this site, it’s worth a detour. If you don’t do the museum, it won’t take much of your time and on a Thursday afternoon in October it wasn’t crowded and parking was a breeze. Placards and video boards throughout the space allow for a self-guided tour and park rangers are available for questions if you have them. It is a beautiful, peaceful space, and a powerful reminder of what happened there.

Bleu Garten Food Truck Park

After checking in at 21c and being out of the car for a bit, we were in need of food. Unfortunately, there is no portion of the bar, restaurant or patio at this 21c that is dog friendly. In search of options, we discovered Bleu Garten Food Truck Park in Midtown. It’s conveniently located across the street from Midtown Mutts Dog Park, which was a perfect place for Henri to stretch his legs and handle potty duties.

Bleu Garten. What can I say? Except what I said in my tweet.

Bleu Garten, Oklahoma City

Bleu Garten provides an amazing space that includes open air seating, fire pit, covered areas with TVs and two bars: one with beer taps and wine, the other with liquor, BOTH with bowls of dog treats. In addition, each night they’re open they welcome a rotating list of food trucks to provide a variety of dinning options.

The night we were there, I had a Pimento BLT from Pitchfork. It was as good as it sounds, and while I ate my sandwich, I chatted with some local girls who were there with a 9 week old Doodle named Millie. They suggested I skip the touristy Bricktown in favor of the Paseo Arts District or The Plaza. When the guy we met at the botanical gardens dog park the next day made the same suggestion, it was a done deal.

On Friday morning when I began to stir I realized Henri had to potty. By the elaborate dance he was doing, he meant that we should go quickly.

In a state of haste, I threw on my 21c robe, slipped on my cowboy boots, and headed downstairs with my dog.

A sight I’m sure, and why this would be so much more entertaining for y’all (and embarrassing for my Mom) if a camera followed us. Fortunately, the staff was highly amused and the private party taking place was Grease themed. The women at the check-in table were in robes and curlers a la Beauty School Drop Out and I was one teen angle short of fitting right in!

After returning to our room I ordered a breakfast of yogurt with honey, granola and dried fruit. It was way more than I could eat, so Henri got to share.

Myriad Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens are within easy walking distance of 21c but there’s a lot of urban renewal going on in the area and sidewalks are hit or miss. Also, when I got hustled in broad daylight at the national memorial, “No, I do not want to give you a blessing from Jesus,” I decided walking anywhere might not be in my best interest. Driving in downtown OKC is thankfully easy and the gardens are only about a 5 minute car ride from the hotel.

Five minutes. As in right in the middle of downtown OKC.

Myriad Botanical Gardens boasts 15 acres of natural beauty that includes splash fountains (now closed for the season), an off-leash dog park, and on the day of our visit, the children’s garden, a bustling scene of happy laughter, was staged as ‘Pumpkinville.’ Since dogs aren’t allowed into the children’s area, ‘PupVille’ had a place outside the entrance that was perfect for photos.

Taking photos at Pupville

A Pupville photo opportunity.

Now that Halloween is over, they are setting the scene for Christmas. So even though you missed Pumpkinville, you haven’t missed the holiday fun. The Devon Ice Rink opens November 11th, Winter Shoppes and the Merry Carousel return weekends starting November 25th, and I was assured that if your pup had a Christmas wish list to share with the jolly ol’ elf, he’d be glad to listen during Saturday’s with Santa.

We spent over an hour strolling the grounds and eventually made our way to the off-leash area for some sniffing and peeing. That’s where we met the cutest little puppy and his Dad. We tried to get the scoop on dog-friendly places to eat, but having lived in both Austin and New Orleans, he assured me I wouldn’t find anything interesting in OKC.

He doesn’t know me very well!

Paseo Arts District

Established in 1929 as Oklahoma City’s first commercial shopping district north of downtown, the faux Spanish village with its stucco buildings and clay tile roofs is now home to many of OKC’s local artists. We weren’t sure how dog-friendly Paseo Arts District would be but we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.

Our first stop was Betsy King Shoe Boutique. Betsy was happy to welcome Henri into her shop and she was VERY displeased to discover we’d been told there was no good food in OKC. While I tried on a cute pair of animal print sneakers, she made us a list of some of her favorite patios including suggestions for what to try. Several spots at the Plaza made her list, as did Cheever’s in Uptown, and Picasso, right next door. Needless to say, you can always trust a woman with fabulous shoes to know exactly where to go!

In our meanderings through the Paseo, we discovered several dog-friendly shops and galleries. In fact, only one didn’t welcome Henri and that was because he was too big; carried dogs were welcome. Our favorite stops included The Purple Loft Art Gallery, where you will sometimes find the owner’s dogs at work with her; Craig’s Emporium, an eclectic mix of things you didn’t know you wanted; and Bone Dust Cowgirl, a vintage clothing and custom jewelry store where I almost lost my mind and my savings. One pair of Cayman Tail and one pair of Ostrich boots later, I left my business card and a request for a call if they come across black Ostrich quill with a walking heel. 8 ½ women’s, please.

After that unexpected score, I decided it was time to test Betsy’s recommendations. She’d told me that Picasso not only had a fabulous Basil Mojito but a ‘Dog Dish’ just for pups on the menu.

I have to be honest here. I had kinda discounted Picasso. A quick internet search of Paseo restaurants revealed a “local health-conscious café” with a “farm-to-table menu with vegan options.” Oh, look. All the food trend buzz words. Eye roll. I was hungry and hoped to find something not too weird, but having not actually looked at the menu, I was relying on Betsy. Trust the woman with the shoes, I tell ya.

First, let me start by telling you that Picasso has six menus including a drink menu that’s longer than the other five put together. Second, there are plenty of delicious sounding non-vegan options. Our waiter told me that the goal of Picasso was to create a place with something for everyone at the table. So guess what I had?

Fried Green Tomato Po Boy

Vegan? Me? Noooo!

Fried Green Tomato Po’ Boy with Picasso greens, cucumber chow chow, and garlic aioli on a fresh hoagie bun from local bakery, Prairie Thunder. With a side of Parmesan Risotto, it was FAN-Freaking-Tastic!

The Basil Mojito? Perfect.

Henri’s Dog Dish consisted of chicken and rice with fresh spinach and fancy carrot curls. For those of you wondering if humans and dogs share the same plates, they don’t. The Dog Dish is served in a disposable paper bowl.

Good job, Picasso, for exceeding expectations on every level, and thanks, Betsy, for the recommendation. Next time we’re in OKC, we’re hanging out with you!

Once Henri finished picking the chicken and rice out of his bowl and scattering the carrots for the birds hopping around on the patio, we paid our tab and made our way back to 21c. It was my plan for us to rest a bit, then head back out and get into something else. I had a great recommendation from the 21c staff, but even the promise of a newly opened wine bar with a dog-friendly patio, didn’t rally us. OKC Abstract was having a huge party in the gallery space and that was as far as we got. An hour of that had Henri ready for some quiet time. While one of the abstract relators held Henri for me, I grabbed a glass of wine from the bar and took it to our suite.

Although I wish dogs were at least allowed in the lounge portion of the bar and/or on the patio at 21c OKC, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt more welcome in a hotel. Not once did we enter or exit the lobby without someone greeting us, usually calling Henri by name and sometimes stopping to pet him. On Thursday evening, an employee offered to hold Henri’s leash outside the bar while I grabbed a drink and on several occasions someone offered to take a photo for us. I’m pretty sure all of the employees we encountered have dogs of their own and that lent itself to the genuineness of the hospitality. We shared stories and photos of our dogs, they made recommendations about places to go, and they seemed truly interested in our adventures and experience.

Each 21c is different, but I’m guessing you can expect the same great attention, if not access, at every location. Their Furry Friends Policy states that pets must be kept on a leash or in a carrier in public areas, and while pets may be left unattended in guest rooms, the front desk should be notified with information regarding how long you’ll be gone and a phone number where you can be reached. A fee of $150 per stay will be charged for any pet, and though not a hard limit, the preference is for pets to be under 60 lbs. Both the weight restriction and fee are waived for service animals.

“In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse lock yourself in your room and defend yourself against the inevitable horde of zombies. Feel free to use any guest room items and/or equipment to protect yourself.” -From the 21c Safety Guidelines.

I’m guessing if this occurs, payment for additional cleaning bills or repairs will also be waived.

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Autumn Adventures

Dog at pumpkin patch

Henri sits patiently for the perfect fall photo

As much as I hate to admit it, the temperatures are slowly dropping, the leaves are starting to change, and soon the days will be much shorter and the nights a lot longer. It may be the most beautiful time of year, but for me, it’s the saddest. The boats will be winterized, the tan lines will start to fade, and I’ll be clinging to every warm ray of sunshine like a cat looking for a good nap.

Thank God for football! It distracts me from my depression.

I suppose the good news is there’s lots of seasonal stuff to do…Fall Color Tours, Halloween parties, and Oktoberfesting. In celebration of all things fall (y’all), here are some suggestions for autumn adventures.

Wine Tours

As the landscape changes from the lush green of summer to the vibrant hues of fall, there is no better time to visit a winery. Strolling through a vineyard while sipping a new vintage and enjoying a crisp afternoon, might be just the thing to take your mind off the impending Equinox. Henri and I are frequent visitors to our local winery, Sassafras Springs. It’s the perfect place for me to do a little writing while Henri lounges on the deck or plays in the creek. We call it ‘work’.

For a bigger adventure, check out the Monticello Wine Trail in Virginia. Most of the wineries are dog-friendly and at Keswick Vineyards, winners of the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup, they host Yappy Hour every Sunday until the end of October. Need another reason to check out Keswick? It’s the only winery I know of that has a fenced dog park on the property. It’s not huge but it’s bigger than a small backyard and you can have lunch at the picnic table while your pooch makes friends off-leash. Visit the dog-friendly tasting room and pick up a bottle of their Les Vents. There are two dogs on the label and a portion of Yappy Hour sales are donated to local rescues.

Oktoberfest

The Pumpkin Ale is starting to flow but nowhere will you find a festival like this. In the middle of October, head south to Austin, TX for Dogtoberfest on the 15th. This event has been named “Most Awesome-ist Pet Related Event” in the Austin Pets Directory Annual Readers Poll six years in a row. Last year it was attended by over 8000 people and their BFFs. Hosted at the The Domain, an outdoor shopping venue, you can participate in the DogtoberTROT, a 1k walk for two and four-legged friends, then stay for the main event which includes a silent auction, canine costume contest, wiener dog races, and a variety of pet-related demonstrations.

After the event, which lasts from 10-4 p.m., walk over to the entertainment district known as Rock Rose for dinner and drinks with your pooch. With a dog-friendly rooftop patio that overlooks the area, Dogwood is a favorite spot. If you can’t find a seat, try Jack and Ginger’s right next door.

Howl-oween

At the end of October, you’ll want to check out all the spook-tacular fun at Dog Party USA in our hometown. Dog Party is where I met Henri, and Chaddie, one of the owners, tricked me into adopting him. They’ll be celebrating their 11th Anniversary with the annual Halloween Party from 5:30-8:30 p.m. This year’s theme is ‘Peace, Love & Paws’, and if you want to win the costume contest, you’ll need to get creative. The competition is tough! The event is FREE and includes food, drinks, live music, games and prizes. I don’t know what we’re wearing yet but after going as Kim Possible and Rufus one year, I promised Henri I’d never dye him with kool-aide again. He was pink for weeks!

Feast of St. Francis

In addition to all these fun events, let’s not forget to give special thanks for all our furry friends on October 4th, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. The national shrine is located in San Fransisco, CA but many local dioceses honor the tradition of the patron saint of animals by hosting ‘Blessing of the Animals’ services. Even though the Pope said all dogs go to heaven, who doesn’t need a good blessing once in awhile?

Happy Fall, Y’all!

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5 Dog Travel Dos and Don’ts

Lolita Art Pictures

No Dogs by Lolita Art Pictures on VisualizeUs

If you’re like me, and I assume you are or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, then you’re one of the estimated 51% of people who frequently travel with their pets. That puts you in a unique position to be an ambassador for the trend and your behavior can either help or hurt our cause.

As a professional trainer and traveler I have a lot of opportunity to witness the actions of pet parents. Inattention is the number one problem but lack of preparation is right behind it. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a short and certainly incomplete list of dos and don’ts that I think will help you and your dog (and the rest of us with our dogs) be welcomed guests at any dog-friendly establishment.

DON’T use flexi-leashes on outings.

Flexi-leashes are the bane of my dog training existence and with little exception I hate them. Your dog doesn’t need to be 25 feet away from you on the walking trail or licking the zucchini two booths over while you pay for your tomatoes at the farmer’s market. A flexi might be good for potty duties, but for most other situations it’s a safety hazard that affords you little, if any, control, teaches your dog nothing, and can actually hurt people. Stop using them!

DON’T allow your dog to go up to strangers in restaurants or bars. 

If you’re fortunate enough to be in a place that allows your dog, be considerate of others. Not everyone thinks he’s adorable. Keep him close to you and pay attention to the reactions of other patrons. If somebody’s eyes are bugging out of their head maybe it’s because a dog looking just like yours once attacked them. Instead of condemning their irrational fear, send them a drink. If someone wants to pet your pooch, let them come to you instead of allowing your pup to wander over to them. Even if they’re ok with it, it’s better to be in the habit of sticking tight.

DO pick-up after your dog. 

This is the number one complaint of non-dog owners and is frequently the first reason given as an excuse for banning dogs from an area (Big Dam Bridge walkers in Little Rock, AR., I’m talking to you). One would think this could go without saying, but since every time I go to the park, I see poop that hasn’t been picked-up, I know it can’t. That key ring in your purse? I don’t know anyone who actually uses it. Hang your bag dispenser there. You only carry a wallet? If it can hold a condom, it can fit a poop bag. Sure, sometimes you get caught without one- condoms and poop bags- but maybe you should keep them in the same drawer. Being responsible is sexy!

DO abide by posted policies.

No Dogs Allowed. All Dogs Must Be On A Leash. Please Pick Up After Your Dog. You might feel as if there are a million tiny impositions on your fun with Fido but if you know the policy, please try to abide by it. Admittedly, some things are more of a guideline than a rule but make sure you know the difference before you go running down the beach off-leash. Bending and breaking rules for your own convenience doesn’t help us in the on-going campaign to make more places dog-friendly. If a place doesn’t welcome your dog, protest with your dollars by going elsewhere instead of sneaking or lying about your ‘service dog’ to gain access. Which brings me to…

DON’T pretend your dog is a service dog. 

This is another one of those that really chaps me, maybe more than flexi-leashes. Yeah, it’s easy to do if your dog is well-behaved. Yeah, you can go online and order a vest and a certificate that identifies your dog as a working animal. Yeah, I know flights are cheaper and room deposits are often waived, but did YOU know it’s ILLEGAL?! Yes.

 In many states, it is an actual criminal offense to portray your dog as a service animal if he isn’t.

Service dogs are a life-saver for people with disabilities and pretending you have one when you don’t will make it more difficult for someone with a real need, if your dog happens to take a dump in the middle of the mall (I’ve seen it happen) or snatch a chicken strip off the neighboring table. That Border Collie trembling in the hotel elevator as if death is surely upon him isn’t fooling anyone with his fake credentials.

Just Behave!

Billions of dollars are spent by pet owners every year and accommodating travelers and their pets is becoming big business. The only way to continue opening doors for our pets is to be model citizens when we are on the go. If we want to not only enjoy the benefits of a dog-friendly world, but encourage establishments to open their doors and expand their policies to include our furry friends, we have to BEHAVE.

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Moonlight Paddle

Canoeing on the White River

Henri enjoys the scenery at sunset

Saturday. 8:56 p.m. I sent a text to my Mom, “Henri and I are having a night paddle! We paddled to the brewery at sunset and we’ll paddle back in the moonlight. It’s kinda awesome!”

Mom replies, “May you both have your life jackets on and have fun!”

My response, “May neither of us fall in the water cause it’s dirty and gross! The bluffs are pretty though. So I look at that.”

Two guesses how this story ends…

Sunset at Beav-O-Rama
(Yes, that’s a real place)

Several times this spring and summer I’ve been tagged in an invite to join a group of folks for a ‘Moonlight Paddle’. The paddle begins a little before sunset at Beav-O-Rama. The group paddles about an hour up the White River, banks on the shore, then takes a short walk to Saddlebock Brewery. After the moon rises, the group paddles back.

This past Saturday night I was in town without plans, and my friend Amanda, along with her dog, Violet, agreed to share their canoe with me and Henri.

Violet the Rat Terrier mix

Violet takes paddling very seriously

Amanda is a seasoned paddler and feels about the river the way I feel about the lake. Always ready. We’ve know each other a while but we’ve never paddled together. So I wasn’t really sure how it’d work out for us. I’m a novice, and according to most of my more advanced friends, paddling together can make or break a relationship.

As one girlfriend once put it, “I either had to get my own boat or get a new boyfriend.”

My strategy with Amanda was to follow her lead and do what I was told. The only problem we had on the way to the brewery was Violet- who’s used to paddling solo with her Mom- wondering why I was in her seat.

 

This is a smooth, easy paddle for a novice- if you’re in the right kind of boat.

As I indicated in my text to Mom the water isn’t especially lovely, but the surrounding scenery is. High weather-worn bluffs with cascading greenery, the occasional Heron or splash of a fish, birds singing, and green pastures with grazing cows languishing in the cool the water.

Remember the cows.

Once at the brewery, where leashes are kinda optional, we enjoyed relaxing on the deck. We played some baggo, sang some songs, ate and drank. As we readied ourselves for the return paddle, it became apparent that one member of our group was in no condition to manage her boat. She had come in a kayak, a not-designed-for-still-water-very-unstable kayak. The safest option was for me to take her boat and her to ride with Amanda.

Moonrise on the White

As I’ve already said, I am a novice. The sum of my paddling experience is exactly two float trips, one paddle boarding excursion, and less than a dozen ocean kayaks.

Sure. I got this.

It seemed the wise decision was to leave all of my stuff in Amanda’s boat and just take Henri. There was a small ice chest behind the seat of the kayak, but I couldn’t reach it without affecting our stability. With straps on my shades and a life vest on my dog, we traded vessels.

Unsteady doesn’t begin to describe how I felt in this boat! My strength is in my legs, not my core, not to mention that I’m easily distracted and not a fast/strong paddler. Fortunately, it was a patient group.

Then, it happened.

I was paused in a cove-like area talking or looking at something, and suddenly, we weren’t in the boat anymore. All I could think as we went over was ‘clear Henri’. Somehow, I also managed to grab the ice chest.

For a few brief minutes, I wasn’t quite sure where Henri was. I knew he was safe because I’d pushed him away from me and the boat, and he had his vest. He apparently swam to the nearest sympathetic paddler he could find and when the poor guy tried to help Henri onto his kayak, he dumped too. Sorry, dude. Thanks for trying to save my dog. I owe you a beer.

Once I realized Henri was in a bit of a panic, I had someone else hold my boat so I could get my dog. I called him and he swam to me, then together we swam to the shore.

To the same shore where the cows had been “languishing in the cool water”. Do you know what else cows do in the water?! Yup. That.

We dumped our boat in what will forever and henceforth be referred to as…

Cow S**t Cove!

Thankfully, I didn’t have time to think about that as the incident ensued, but I had a LOT of time to think about it as we paddled back to our cars.

I also had a lot of time to think about it as I drove home, windows down, Henri and I drying to a foul, muddy crust in the humidity of an Arkansas July midnight.

Once home, I pretty much stripped on my front porch (Sorry, Mom. I don’t think anyone was looking.) and left everything outside. I carried Henri to the bathroom where we both got in the shower. For once, Henri didn’t seem to mind.

Sunday. 9:49 a.m. I sent another text to Mom, “So much for NOT falling in the water.”

Circle of Life

While you’re still laughing and I have your attention, I want to take a brief minute to talk about protection and conservation of our natural resources. There’s a reason the water on that portion of the White isn’t so great, and that reason could be runoff from pasture land.

In these parts, it’s a big issue.

Excess nutrients found in fertilizers and manure contribute greatly to the depletion of oxygen in our water systems. Without oxygen, the ecosystem can’t survive.

In 2012 a huge stink (pun totally intended) was raised when an industrial scale hog facility was built on the banks of Big Creek, just 5 miles upstream from the Buffalo National River. The Buffalo is our nation’s first designated ‘national river’ and we need everyone’s help to protect it. Please visit the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance for more information or get involved protecting the watersheds in your own community.

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Meet Me in St. Louis

Road trip selfie

ROAD TRIP!

Just in case you’re a regular reader who doesn’t like baseball and beer (you still like the beach, right?!), I have good news for you. There’s more to St. Louis than the Cardinals. It’s an easy girls weekend get-a-away, and it’s really dog friendly in case said girls weekend includes two dogs. The Explore St. Louis website has an entire section dedicated to pet lovers and the St. Louis Petlover Coalition issues ‘Pet Friendly establishment’ stickers to businesses.

I first discovered the pet lovers link when confirming my reservation at the Westin St. Louis. I inquired if there was anything specific they might recommend for us to do and my contact sent me the link. This was only the beginning of the great hospitality we experienced while staying at this 255 room hotel located just minutes from Busch Stadium, the Gateway Arch, and the mighty Mississippi.

We rolled into town on a Friday night about 2 hours before a ball game. Traffic was getting thick, so we opted to take advantage of the valet parking. For only $10 more ($20 self-park, $30 valet), we did not have to get back out there until we left on Sunday. As much as I love traveling, I really hate driving. And I really, really hate driving in city traffic in an unfamiliar place. Re-routing, re-routing.

Once unloaded- do you know how much stuff two dogs and two single women have?!- we went to the front desk to check-in. The on-duty manager immediately greeted both dogs BY NAME. Now, you’re supposed to know my name; it’s in your computer with my reservation. But when you know the name of my dog AND his traveling companion, you’re scoring major paws up. It only got better.

We headed up to up to our room with a very suspicious Charlie in tow. Though Charlie is used to car travel he’s never been in the car over three or four hours. We’d just done almost six. Additionally, Charlie goes from one familiar place to another familiar place. He’s never stayed in a hotel, and elevators, though he has been on one, are totally suspect. What do you mean the ground is moving and we are trapped in here?

I do not mean to make it sound like Charlie panicked, he did not, but the difference in Henri’s casual ‘whatever’ attitude and Charlie’s cock-eyed observations was noticeable. Until we got to the room.

Westin Welcome

Welcome to the Westin St. Louis

Our room was prepared for our arrival with two signature Westin Heavenly Dog Beds, dog bone shaped poop bag dispensers, place mats with food and water bowls, and…wait for it…a welcome basket that included not only snacks for the humans but a big bowl of freshly prepared (it was still warm) hamburger, rice and veggies for the dogs.

Much like a bloodhound and his nose, Charlie is guided in all things by his rumbling gut, and suddenly, strange places weren’t so bad. After eating and unpacking a few familiar things, all was right with the world.

 

Downtown St. Louis

First on our agenda was an evening constitutional for the dogs. At check-in, we’d been pointed in the direction of the large green space at 9th and Clark, on the corner opposite the hotel, as a good place for potty duties and/or a grassy stroll. After that, we were off in search of the Tito’s Airstream I’d spotted just down the street from our hotel. I was sure they were there for the Pooches in the Ballpark event and hoped they would have the much coveted (by me) Vodka For Dog People dog swag.

SCORE! Not only did we snake the swag and a cocktail, the airstream is an air-conditioned lounge, which further reinforced for Charlie that travel was good. We chatted with the Tito’s folks about their Route 66 tour benefiting animal welfare organizations, and learned of a newly opened dog-friendly bar with some interesting baseball inspiration. The bar was right next to the the place we’d planned to walk for dinner so we added it to our agenda. After finishing our drinks, we thanked the Tito’s folks for their hospitality and walked the several blocks to Bridge.

Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar is only about a half mile from the Westin and features dog-friendly seating at the street-side café tables located on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. I suspect Locust street might be pretty busy during the day or on a regular, non-game Friday night, but this particular evening there wasn’t much traffic. Bridge boasts an extensive beer and wine menu featuring 200 plus beers with 55 on tap, and over 100 wines with more than 20 available by the glass.

This was the perfect choice for us. Jennifer is always looking to try to new beers and log them on her ‘UnTapped’ app, and I’d seen something on the menu called ’Wine Over Whiskey’ that I was sure I needed.

Bourbon and Wine

Wine Over Whiskey

We started with an appetizer of Smoked Striploin shaved thin and served atop toasted focaccia with tomato jam, Gorgonzola and arugula. My apologies for the foodie photo fail. It was delicious and half gone before either of us thought that perhaps we should have taken a picture. Consider it a compliment to the chef.

The appetizer portion of Striploin was large enough that we decided to split the entrée of Mac and Cheese made with roasted poblano pepper, tomato, Schlafly IPA, cheddar, and pretzel crust. The pretzel crust was a great addition but since I’m not a big IPA fan, I didn’t enjoy the flavor as much as Jennifer. That Smoked Striploin was amazing though, and I’d get it again and not share. I’m also in the process of burning through a bottle of Bulleit Rye trying to recreate the Wine over Whiskey cocktail.

After dinner we moseyed next door to Tiny Bar, the Tito’s rep’s recommendation. Aptly named, the 250 square ft space takes its inspiration from 3’7 pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns, number 1/8, Eddie Gaedel. With only one at bat (he walked and was quickly replaced by a standard size pinch runner), he is the shortest player in major league history. Like Gaedel, Tiny Bar is small on space but big on style.

The bartender, Jen, who frequently brings her Chihuahua to work with her, welcomed us first with a bowl of water for the dogs and then by taking our order. A laid back and unpretentious environment, the chalk board menu features signature craft cocktails including the 1/8: a shaken concoction of rum, Velvet Falernum, orange curacao, pineapple syrup, and grenadine served on the rocks (please note that I just used ‘unpretentious’ and ‘craft cocktails’ in the same sentence). They also serve draft beer, Bud and Bud Light by the bottle, wine by the glass, Tito’s- obviously, and a couple varieties of good bourbon.

Since the place only has about 10 seats and they were all occupied, we plopped down on the floor next to our dogs. We eventually moved to the outdoor cocktail table because the high-ceiling architecture lends itself to a rather loud echo and Charlie seemed to be reaching his ‘new things threshold’. We only had one drink before the dogs let us know it was time to go.

It was a relaxed stroll back to the Westin with a lot of what seemed to be locals walking their dogs. St. Louis gets a bad rap sometimes, but I didn’t feel unsafe.

Once back in our room, Henri was more than happy to take up two dog beds since Charlie wasn’t using his. If his bed was anywhere near as comfortable as mine, I can’t blame him. It was easily the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever slept in. ‘Heavenly’ indeed.

Westin Heavenly Dog Bed

Henri approves of the amenities at the Westin

 

A note here about big city dog walking

At Tiny Bar, we noticed Charlie was chewing his foot (part of the reason we didn’t stay longer). Unable to see anything that could be an irritant, we decided to just rinse his paws when we got back to the room. This is something I’ve never had or thought to do with Henri, but because of the obvious irritation, we did it with Charlie.

Boy were his feet dirty!

All kinds of debris dislodged with that quick rinse. So I feel like it’s worth mentioning that if you have a dog with fluffy Clydesdale feet and you’re doing a bunch of walking on busy, big city streets, it might be worth a quick rinse once you get back to your room just to be on the safe side. We rinsed Henri’s paws too after that, and though not near as bad as Charlie’s, it was worth doing. It will definitely be something I pay more attention to on future travels, and paw wax is now a part of our travel arsenal.

Ballpark Village

On Saturday morning, we woke up pretty excited. We were about to take our dogs to a Cardinals baseball game. Of course, I had to caffinate first, and this is where the ability to open your back door and let your dog out to potty while you start the coffee pot is grossly under-appreciated. Fortunately, Jennifer and Charlie get up a lot earlier than I do and Henri had already been with them.

I’m not a big breakfast eater, and we still had travel snacks and the fresh fruit from our welcome tray. However, the Westin’s Eat Well breakfast menu, in fact, the entire menu featuring ‘All Day Dining’ from 11-11 and ‘Late Night’ from 11-6:30 is pretty great. I really loved the variety of healthy and gourmet options available. Breakfast options included fresh smoothies, and all day options featured everything from Sesame Seared Salmon Salad to Tenderloin.

Ready and out the door by 10:30, we headed downstairs, where the dogs were, again, greeted by name. We walked the short distance to Busch Stadium in hopes of roaming and getting in a few tourist shots before it got too crowded or hot. It also seemed like a good oppurtunity to let the dogs orient to the surroundings. I don’t think about these things when I travel with Henri because he’s used to it and usually just goes with the flow. It was a great experience for me to travel with another dog and notice the differences between the two.

Since we didn’t have to check-in with Purina until 1:15, we decided to grab a light snack. The ONLY restaurant in Ballpark Village with a dog-friendly patio is Drunken Fish. That works out ok though, because they’ve been voted Best Sushi and Best Happy Hour in St. Louis. I haven’t been to any other place in St. Louis for sushi, so I can’t comment other than to say “I’d go back to this one.”

Appetizer on the patio

Edamame Hummus and cocktails

The service was excellent with immediate greets and bowls of water for the dogs. The staff was super-friendly, and I think most everyone in the restaurant, including the manager, came out to say hello to the pups. Our server made sure to tell us about the free appetizer if we checked in on Yelp and I’m really glad she did! The Edamame Hummus is a ‘zesty, smooth blend of edamame soybeans’ served with fried wanton chips, and is yet another thing I’ll be attempting to recreate at home. Following our appetizer, I had a simple cucumber roll and Jennifer a salad; both were fresh and tasty.

After lunch, we headed to the game and it was arguably one of the coolest things I’ve done in a long time. I’ve been to several baseball games with Henri, but Purina does a really great job with the Pooches in the Ballpark event. When the game was over we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel.

Another great thing about the Westin is the noon check-out. Aloft does it too, so maybe it’s a Starwood thing. Not being a morning person, I’m a big fan. #SPGlife

Turns out we didn’t need the extra time this trip because we had brunch plans at the home of an old friend of Jennifer’s. It’s too bad ‘Janine’s’ is a private residence. Fresh fruit, biscuits and gravy, two breakfast casseroles, grilled asparagus, bacon…Sorry y’all!

If you need a brunch plan, check out our review of the Boathouse in Gateway to the West.

Brunch left us pretty full, and frankly in need of a nap, but we had one more stop on our way out of town.

AKC Museum of the Dog

Henri and Charlie pose

Henri and Charlie are ready to explore

Located about 20 minutes from downtown St. Louis, the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog opened in the historic Jarville House in 1985 and is the world’s finest collection of art devoted to the dog. The 14,000 sq. ft. facility includes three levels and six galleries displaying over 700 original paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, bronzes, and porcelain figurines, as well as a variety of decorative art objects depicting man’s best friend.

My two favorite exhibits were the temporary Faces, Families, and Friends: Dog Photography of Lynn Terry (showing April 14th- August 7th) and the permanent exhibit honoring war dogs. I maybe teared up a few times reading some of those soldiers’ stories.

 

The dog museum is part of a larger public space, Queeny Park. In addition to the museum it features the Tails and Trails Dog Park. The museum attendant told us we could go there, but when we did, we discovered it is a private, membership only park accessible by code. This unpleasant surprise made me mad, so I tweeted St. Louis County to let them know of my disappointment. They got back to me to let me know that day passes to the dog park WERE available. Once home, I did some digging and got the scoop.

There are two sides to Queeny Park: the Mason side, where the dog museum is located, and the Wideman side, where the Greenfelder Recreation Complex is located. You’ll have to go to the rec complex to purchase your one day guest pass. The cost is $5 and you’ll need to show proof of rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccination. The complex is open 7 days a week Monday-Friday 8:00-4:30 and Saturday-Sunday 8:00-4:00.

Sometimes my random indignance is useful.

Third Time’s A Charm

This is our second trip to St. Louis and who knows, we might do a third! There’s no shortage of places to stay or things to do with your pup.

We really loved the hospitality and the downtown convienence of the Westin. You will need to sign a waiver of responsibility acknowledging that you agree to the terms, including not leaving your dog unattended in the room, but there are no extra fees or deposits. The weight limit is what I call a ‘soft 40’. Dogs over 40 lbs are allowed at the hotel’s discretion; just call.

If you’re taking your first trip to the Gateway City, then stay downtown. There’s plenty to do during a weekend and it’s all within walking distance. If you’re not up for a stroll, then take a carriage. A lot of them are dog-friendly and it’s a easy way to see the city.

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Pooches in the Ballpark

Standing on the field at Busch Stadium

Besties on the Ballfield! Denise & Henri with Jennifer & Charlie

I’m a baseball girl. If you know me, you know that. I like the Tigers for their pitching, and the Yankees ’cause it makes my brother happy when they win. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one Arkansas minor league team and it’s the Travelers. I grew up going to their games with my granddaddy and was a ‘Travelerette’ back before the ‘Angels’ were even a thought. All that being said, I was raised on the St. Louis Cardinals. So let me just tell you…even if this trip had been a disaster, I still got to stand on the field at Busch Stadium with one of my best friends and my dog!

It was a MasterCard moment.

It was also an awesome girls’ weekend in St. Louis! Henri & I, along with our friends Jennifer and Charlie, joined over 300 other dogs and their owners for the 12th Annual Purina Pooches in the Ballpark event.

Obviously, being on that field was the highlight for me. If you want to see a bunch of grown-ups acting like kids at Christmas, tune-in for the Pooch Parade at Busch Stadium next year. I’m pretty sure the dogs were all wondering what was wrong with us.

Parade line-up started at 1:15- when the gates opened- for the 1:45 parade. The line wrapped around about five levels of concourse and both humans and dogs were decked out in their game-day best. You can check out our Facebook album or use the hashtag #PurinaPooches for highlights. I figured Henri wasn’t interested in dressing up beyond his red harness and Pooches bandana. Besides, I had us covered. My toes were painted OPI ‘Big Apple Red’, which is the perfect Cardinals color; I was wearing my baseball flip-flops, my Brighton baseball charm necklace, and my Cardinals shirt.

Henri and I have been to several minor league games and to the Ranger’s game last year. Almost all of them do some sort of dog parade. We’ve never participated as I was always content to just take pictures. But this. THIS was a big deal. The day I emailed Jennifer the itinerary for game day, I got a text saying “There’s an on-field parade?!” Yes. Yes, there is.

The parade is around the warning track and you’re not allowed on the grass. When you first take the field, they encourage you to keep moving and tell you not to stop. Fortunately, I think the ‘field police’ realized just how excited we all were, and as long as you weren’t holding up the line, they just smiled. I can imagine we were pretty entertaining, happy strangers excitedly swapping phones and taking photos for one another.

“Did you get the scoreboard?”

“Did you get the Arch?”

“Can you see the field?”

“Hold on! Your dog’s not looking.”

“Charlie! Charlie, look. Charlie, sit. Charlie!” Kiss, kiss, kiss. “Here, Charlie!”

Most of the photos feature Charlie’s rear, but thankfully, when he got on the big screen, he was facing the camera.

I can honestly say, this was the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time and my smiling face as we snapped a picture with FredBird is a dead give-away. It’s now the profile picture on my personal Facebook page.

After the parade, we headed to the designated seating area. The dogs were spread out over the Coca-Cola Pavilion just beyond the outfield and though not all the seats were in the shade, shade was easily accessible, as were wading pools, misters, and water bowls. Thankfully, we were in the Scott Credit Union MVP Deck, and not only had seats in the shade but our own bartender.

It was ‘all hands on deck’ by Purina staff and everywhere you looked was somebody in a red shirt with a gallon jug of water refilling bowls, wetting bandanas, and petting or photographing dogs. There was even a veterinarian walking around the area making sure everyone was okay.

The all-you-can-eat buffet consisted of BBQ beef brisket, Italian Chicken, hot dogs and kraut, cheese dip and chips, salad, and cookies. Beverages included Bud heavy, Bud Light, sodas, and water. Each ticket holder also received a ‘Wag Bag’ filled with coupons, food and treat samples, and a St. Louis Cardinals/Purina photo frame/leash hanger to commemorate the occasion. That’s where our FredBird pic is going!

All this for only $150.

It’s a bargain. Trust me.

The other parks don’t do it like this.

There’s always an on-field parade but I’ve never had a buffet much less free beer, and you usually have to stand in long lines and approach individual booths to get your swag.

The only complaint I had was the heat (tips for beating that are posted at the end of this story) and Purina can’t control the weather. They can’t even control the game date because that’s dictated by the MLB. Other than the bricks at the entry gates burning little dog feet- and I bet that is fixed next year- this is the Best of the Best.

With a full itinerary of events- dock diving and frisbee exhibitions, Pooch Parade and costume contest, all-you-can-eat buffet and beer, plus a cool commemorative frame- Purina does it right! (And y’all know Henri is raw fed so I’m not just saying that for food endorsements).

If you love Bird Dogs and Red Birds, or just any ol’ dog and the Cardinals, this is your game.

Like I said…

Two tickets to Pooches in the Ballpark… $300

Gas to St. Louis…$75

Two nights at the Westin…$584

Walking the warning track at Busch Stadium with your dog and your best friend…

PRICELESS!

 

Beat the Heat Tricks:

Keeping cool

Staying’ cool!

  • Both dogs were wearing Good2Go Cooling Bandanas that we picked up for $10.00 at PetCo. Best $10 I’ve ever spent on my dog!
  • I packed Henri’s gel cooling mat into our ‘doggie’ (diaper) bag and had it available for lounging. Both dogs used it at one point or another.
  • Paw Wax! We actually couldn’t find any Paw Wax (PetCo, why are southern stores out of this in the middle of the summer?!), so we used Burt’s Bees Lip Balm to help protect paw pads from hot concrete. Good in a pinch!

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Ask The Experts: Travel Health & Safety

Doggie life jackets are an important boat accessory

Safety First! Henri & Stella sport their life jackets on the boat

With summer practically here and many of you considering travel with your pets, I thought it would be a good time to talk about health and safety issues. I’m a professional fun-finder for sure, but for this post, I went to the real professionals. Veterinarians.

Since vets are a lot like dog trainers in that if you put three in a room the only thing they’ll agree upon is what the others are doing wrong, I decided to ask several (and I did not lock them in a room). Here’s the question I posed:

What do you consider to be the most important health and/or safety consideration when traveling with your pet? Feel free to address domestic and/or international travel, as well as any location about which you have specific knowledge or experience.

Dr. Laura Hokett
Best Friends Animal Hospital

Is it a good place for my pet? Will they be welcome and have a good time or would they be better off/happier in a daycare/boarding situation? Is there a good place I can take or leave my pet while there, if needed? After RVing with my dogs, those are my biggest concerns. It was always a bummer when they were not welcome in a national park.

Health-wise, I think it’s important to have a dog first aid kit: styptic powder, bandage material, nail trimmers, tweezers, and probably some Benadryl for allergic reactions.

Dr. Vava Hooper
Animal Hospital of Centerton

One of the most important things to consider when traveling with your pet is finding a secure and safe way for your pet to be in the vehicle you are using. Airlines are typically easy—they have specific requirements for what size, material, and lining you can or can’t use for both in-cabin and cargo travel. Trucks are probably the most difficult—we all know a loose dog in the bed of a truck is dangerous. However, what kind of crate you should use and what kind of wind/weather protection you should provide depends a lot on the season and weather conditions when you are traveling. Cars are also a little tricky…most people think that putting a pet in the backseat is all you need to do to make them safe. Small pets are often placed in a carrier or car seat in the back with no further restraint. This can, in fact, be very dangerous with sudden stops causing injury to the face/head as the pet flies forward. Large breed dogs loose in the backseat with no seat belt or other restraint have even been thrown through windshields.

The bottom line is find the appropriate sized carrier or restraint device and USE IT. We have “Click It or Ticket”. Our pets should be just as automatic for us to “belt in”. Carriers can be secured with a seat belt, most have a special built in pass-thru for the belt to hold the carrier. If using pet car seats you should also be using a harness, not a collar, to hook them into the restraint clip. For large breed dogs you can even get a zipline that allows the pet to go back and forth in the seat but not come forward into your area or the floor board. Seat belt harnesses come in sizes appropriate for almost every dog (or cat).

Being that it’s summer, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the other popular vehicle in which our pets find themselves riding…Boats. Please remember that having life jackets on the boat is not the same as wearing them, for yourself or your pet. Dogs who love the water often exhaust themselves playing around and then get into trouble. You can also never predict when a showoff comes by producing large waves that cause your pet to go under and panic. Most dog life jackets have a loop to grab to easily remove them from the water in an emergency or just for convenience of getting them back into the boat. My favorite is the leash attachment—otherwise my dachshund (yes, she loves swimming!) would be downstream or across the lake without me!

As always—make sure you have all of your pets medications and a copy of their most recent medical history in case of emergency. Just keep in mind, keeping your pet on “lock down” for a journey is much better than dealing with injuries later!

Drs of Animal Medical Clinic
Animal Medical Clinic

We put our heads together and came up with three important points to consider: regional diseases, travel stress, and planning ahead.

Regional diseases and hazards are very much something to consider when traveling. Influenza is escalating in the Northeast and heartworm disease is worse in areas where there are a lot of mosquitos. Lyme disease is more common in the Eastern United States. Coccidiosis is in Arizona, New Mexico and other mountain areas. For hikers and campers who may find themselves more than two hours from emergency care, an injectable of steroid could be the difference between life and death in the case of a venomous snake bite. If heading to tropical climates, talk with your vet about taking along medications to resolve intestinal issues should they occur.

Travel stress can involve anything from motion sickness in a car to problems with altitude. Special considerations should be taken when traveling with brachycephalic (short-nose) breeds who don’t fly well and overheat very easily. Mountain travel to high altitudes can be hard on dogs that have heart disease.

Planning ahead is the real key to without-a-glitch travel. On domestic travel, a health certificate is good for 10 days, and you can usually get it just a few days before traveling. International health certificates can take weeks to a month or more to fully complete and require specific attention to detail. One unchecked box can have your dog stuck in a kennel in another country for several weeks while it gets resolved. Some countries require rabies titers and microchips, and you should always check with airlines well in advance.

Dr. Robb Jones
Jones Mobile Vet

There are several safety considerations to think about when traveling with a pet and many factors that go into those considerations. If you are taking a short trip in a car, it may be as simple as dealing with motion sickness which can be a big problem for some pets. A veterinarian can prescribe or recommend one of several medications to combat motion sickness. If your pet is prone to anxiety, there are medications or training regimes than can help with that as well. For longer car trips, one should plan the route to take into account the pet’s need for restroom breaks. Planning a stop to eliminate and walk around every few hours will help your pet stay comfortable. When traveling in a car with a pet, it is very important to have your pet restrained in some way. Whether that is a seat belt harness or a travel crate, a restrained pet is much safer in an accident and is much less likely to distract the driver. It is illegal in some states to have a pet free roaming in a moving vehicle. It is also very important to factor in the weather. On a comfortable sunny day, the inside of a parked car can become dangerously hot in a matter of minutes. NEVER leave a pet in a parked car.

Airline travel is a whole different topic and is much more challenging to do safely. It is very important to monitor the weather if your pet is going to travel in the baggage compartment. The temperature swings from sitting on the tarmac to high altitude can be very problematic for pets and some sedative medications can make it more dangerous for them. Be sure to consult your Veterinarian and make sure they know where your pet will be traveling. Airlines will require a “Health Certificate” that is issued within 5-10 days of travel. So if you are returning home and your visit is longer than that, you will likely be required to get an additional Health Certificate before your return flight.

The Take Away

I think the big take away is plan ahead and talk with your vet. Know where you’re going and what health concerns, if any, need to be considered. Always use safety devices such as seat belts and life preservers, carry a current copy of your vaccination/medical history, and add some dog-centric specifics to your first aid kit.

Special thanks to all the vets who took time out of their busy schedules to respond to my question and help those of us hitting the road and the water do it safely.

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Finding Tanyard Creek Falls

Wadding at Tanyard Creek

A photo op near the lower portion of Tanyard Creek Falls

Whether living in Northwest Arkansas or just visiting, one of the greatest things about the area is the natural beauty of the Ozarks and the ease of accessing it. You don’t have to schedule an overnight float trip on the Buffalo to enjoy the scenery. A short drive can have you off the pavement in no time.

After Fayetteville’s Pup Crawl on Saturday and in anticipation of the Bentonville Film Festival starting on Tuesday, we needed a break from leashed city walking. Tall grasses and deep sniffs were in order and the good bit of rain we’ve had lately had me pretty sure that a local waterfall would be at it’s peak.

Pet Watering Station

In Memory of Mousse.

Tanyard Creek Nature Trail in Bella Vista, AR is less than a 20 minute drive from downtown Bentonville. The trail is dog-friendly, complete with a water station, and boasts one of the area’s most easily accessible waterfalls. The area is well-maintained and the entire loop is only 2 miles. It’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll, which was when we went. Apparently, everybody had the same idea.

It wasn’t so crowded as to be unpleasant or that I couldn’t let Henri off-leash, but if you’re looking to avoid people, then this isn’t your place. It’s an easy walk, so it’s perfect for families with young kids or older adults who are no longer interested in advanced rock climbing. The trail is well-maintained and marked with metal placards describing a variety of species of plants and trees, as well as natural and man-made structures.

It’s more of a nature walk than a hike.

Here’s the trick to finding it: Put Tanyard Creek Practice Center and Golf Shop in your GPS. The trailhead is near the big parking lot on your right after you turn onto Tanyard Creek Drive and before you get to the golf center. If it’s a nice day, there will likely be lots of cars. You can’t miss it!

There is a sign at the trailhead to point you in the right direction, except then, just a few feet further is another sign that says to go a different direction. I guess the good news is that it’s a loop so it’s hard to get lost. We just started walking.

The first thing we discovered was a sprawling meadow. It really sneaks up on you because you go from parking lot to open field pretty quickly. I honestly think if Henri hadn’t been off leash and wandering, and I stopping to wait on him, we might have missed this very picturesque scene.

We continued our strolling until we crossed a small bridge and then we guessed left. Good guess! We came to a fork in the path, marked by a sign that said go right to the falls. It took us straight to the man-made observation deck overlooking the falls and thanks to all the rain, we heard it before we saw it.

Sprawling meadow at Tanyard Creek

From pavement to prairie

View of the falls

View from the observation deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the area surrounding the observation deck is currently blocked off to foot traffic to allow for re-growth of vegetation, but if you really just HAVE to get to the falls, you can start below the observation deck and make your way through the creek bed and over the large moss-covered rocks.

This nature trail is a great place to meander and explore. You can blithely follow the trails and creek beds, or educate yourself by stopping to read the placards. We discovered a swinging bridge and came across the foundation of an old homestead where some teens had found a great spot to tie up and sway away the afternoon in their hammocks.

Hammocks tied to trees

A private party

Wooden swinging bridge

For the sure-footed and brave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember, you’re only twenty minutes from downtown Bentonville. So after your walk, take your pooch to Pedaler’s Pub. They’ll provide your BFF with a bowl of cold water and if he’s lucky, a piece of pepperoni from the kitchen. Humans can choose from a variety of local craft beers or wines on tap, and I highly recommend the Italian pizza with prosciutto, arugula, fresh mozzarella, and shaved parmesan on a roasted garlic olive oil base. Your outing won’t be complete without a stop at Three Dog Bakery for a special gourmet treat and some snacks to go for your well-behaved, deserving pooch.

You can accomplish all of this in just a few hours, but if you suddenly realize you’ve wasted an entire afternoon, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Rex: King of Queens

View of Manhattan from Queens

Rex enjoys a view of the Manhattan skyline from Long Island City in Queens

Telling someone you’re going to Queens garners the same response you might get telling them you’re going to Siberia. They’re both far away unknown lands with only one way in and one way out. Nobody ventures there intentionally.

Rex and I know, however, that Queens deserves way more credit than it receives.

While roughly half of the population of Queens is foreign born and the diversity of this borough manifests itself in neighborhoods that resemble somewhere in India more than somewhere in the United States, the neighborhood I know and love best is Long Island City (not to be confused with Long Island or with the fact that LIC is a neighborhood in Queens and not an actually city).

The attraction to Long Island City is that it’s one stop from Manhattan on the E, M, F, N, Q, R, and 7 trains. In other words, you can’t find a more connected area. It only takes 10 minutes on the train to get to Midtown Manhattan from anywhere in LIC, a commute most New Yorkers would kill—or pay way too much money—to have.

While the only dogs officially allowed on the subways are service dogs or dogs that fit in a carrier, nobody has ever stopped Rex from getting on a train. Granted, I don’t flaunt him in front of subway employees and if I see that someone is scared of him or might be allergic, I move to the next train car. Let’s face it, the trains are loud and smelly as it is; what’s an adorable pooch gonna do besides make a few people smile?

What’s better than the ease of transportation is the view. You can’t have a view of Manhattan if you are in Manhattan, but if you hop across the East River to Long Island City you can see everything from Midtown to Downtown.

Prior to Mayor Giuliani, one could cruise past abandoned factories and empty lots in LIC to pick up girls by the hour or get your next fix, but in 2001, the area was rezoned to allow for residential use and the landscape is now unrecognizable in some places. High-rises are popping up everywhere you turn and the population is growing rapidly. Still, with all the new construction, parts of the neighborhood are stuck in the 1970s, and roaming from block to block is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan sidewalks. You can walk 5 minutes without seeing another person, a magnificent rarity in a city where you tend to be more intimate with a fellow crowded-train rider than the person (or hound) with whom you share your bed.

With its pleasantly deserted blocks and the kind of sunshine you don’t find too often in the city, LIC makes for a quiet refuge. The sky isn’t blocked by buildings like in Midtown nor is there the smell of cigarettes and gas like you might find in Brooklyn. The warmth shining down makes you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and forget your worries for a moment.

On a blustery Sunday morning in early April, we headed across the river in search of fresh air and coffee. We had opted for the 30-minute drive from our home base in Brooklyn instead of the hour long subway ride. Two loops around the block and we found free parking on the street.

The plethora of parking is another great thing about Long Island City. Like anywhere in New York you have to look for signs about street cleaning, church services, active driveways, etc., but even on a gorgeous day it only took us a few minutes to find free parking. You will also come across paid parking lots if you feel like giving up but I’m of the mentality that driving around for an extra 10 minutes is worth saving the money for much needed coffee.

After parking, we walked toward the water in search of LIC Landing by COFFEED. We found it and Rex was fit to be tied.

Long Island City Landing, Queens

LIC Landing provides cafe seating and green space

Mom! Look! There’s grass in the city!

This ‘coffee’ location is built like a concession stand- a fancy one. There is a pick-up window but you can get table service under the Hunter’s Point South park pavilion. The surrounding area features a 2000 sq-ft outdoor event and green space, which will be home to both public and private events, and all of it is set against a stunning backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

LIC Landing roasts their own coffee, bakes their own pastries, and sources a lot of the produce featured in other offerings from the roof of their flagship location. Yeah, they grow their food on the roof. Welcome to New York. They also serve craft beers and fine wines.

Maybe the best thing about this company is they donate 3-10% of all gross revenue to local charities; Hunter’s Point Park Conservancy benefits from proceeds at LIC Landing and you can plainly see where their money goes. This is a cup of coffee you can feel good about enjoying and at $2.25 it doesn’t break the bank.

Rex wasn’t too keen on the sitting part, so with coffee in hand we ventured north along the boardwalk. Thankfully, each step Rex took was a little closer to canine serenity and he calmed down enough for us to take a breather on a bench. Sitting on a bench by the East River, gazing across the water at Manhattan…Rex’s leash in one hand, a steaming cup of joe in the other…. Inhale. Exhale. What more could you need?

Exercise! Apparently, Rex needed exercise. Half a cup down, I felt ready to move again.

Not too far from our bench is one of my favorite dog parks in New York. Many of the dog parks here are dirt or pea gravel, but the dog run at Hunters Point South is all concrete. I know you’re thinking that’s not great for the dogs, but since grass is, in general, a lost commodity unless you’re in LIC, concrete is a godsend for doggy parents who don’t want another muddy mess. Or travelers headed back to a hotel room.

After Rex expended some energy and I had seen enough butt sniffing to last a lifetime, we leashed up and headed out. There was a flea market we were missing.

The current trend across NYC is outdoor flea markets with food vendors. Most occur every Saturday and Sunday from mid-April until the end of October and the one in Queens was just a 10-minute walk northeast from the dog park.

As a tourist side-note, if you head straight north along the boardwalk, you will find the iconic Pepsi Cola sign. The 80 year old neon sign is 60 feet high by 120 feet long and once sat atop the Pepsi bottling plant in LIC. It has been situated in the park since 2009. Calling it one of “the most recognizable features” on the waterfront, the sign was recently designated a city landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

On this particular day though, we were more interested in the flea market.

Long Island City Food and Flea

LIC Food & FLea. Photo credit: qns.com

A smaller version of what you would find at the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg (which is huge and wonderful, but doesn’t allow dogs), the LIC Flea & Food is an eclectic maze of everything from ramen noodles to refurbished dressers. You can spend enough time there for your skin to go from pasty white to full on lobster—trust me—but, if you don’t have a lot of money to blow, you may just want to wander for an hour. There are plenty of sites and sniffs to be had, and we had transitioned into snack mode.

My usual tactic is to make an initial loop around the perimeter to see what all of my choices are, but right out of the gate I saw Oconomi, a stand selling Japanese vegetable pancakes—a classic savory Japanese street food made with cabbage and other vegetables (and sometimes meat) that is all mixed together then fried on a skillet like a pancake. I chose a meatless version of cabbage and scallion with the classic sauce, which resembles a tangy BBQ.

Although this is my personal cup of tea, you could try a burger, pickles, chocolates, or any number of other snacks. When it’s warm, why not grab a drink, too? Then sit to enjoy it in the beer garden located at the back end of the lot. Just make sure you have cash as not all vendors have card readers.

LIC Flea & Food is definitely dog-friendly and I’d read reviews saying that many of the vendors put water bowls out for the pups, but we didn’t come across any. Maybe it was the cold weather or maybe they were just a little underprepared for opening weekend, but a couple of laps with mom stopping to look at jewelry, dresses, art, and food had Rex panting. I was getting thirsty myself, so to the brewery we went.

Directly across the street from the market is a brewery that, according to Yelp reviews, allows dogs. Unfortunately, upon reaching the door we encountered a sign that read, “Sorry, no pets until further notice.” You just can’t trust the internet.

Thankfully, I had a backup plan.

Off leash at Big Alice

Rex enjoys socializing at Big Alice

Another 10-minute walk north is Big Alice Brewing. They’re a nano-brewery serving up very small batches of craft beer made from locally grown farm ingredients. The tiny batches they make allows them to experiment with innovative and unexpected flavors like the Jalapeño Rye, which has an amazing aroma, but none of the heat. We learned they accomplish this by taking the seeds out of the jalapeños prior to brewing—a fun fact that was just one of the many things, including dog treats, the bartender contributed.

He had a treat in his hand for Rex before I was even fully inside the door. He also put a water bowl out for him, and made sure the other patrons were okay with me taking him off the leash before I did so. We need more people like him in the world.

Some other things I learned about Big Alice: Not only do they allow well-behaved dogs, but they allow well-behaved kids (Kate and Rex got along just great!); they have no desire to be a bar of drunken chaos and therefore close around 10pm; and they allow you to bring in outside food to eat while you enjoy their brews.

If all that doesn’t have you marking your thirst-quenching Queens agenda, then let me tell you about the space. Located in an industrial pocket of the neighborhood, the walk there was of the pleasant deserted nature I previously mentioned. The inside of Big Alice Brewing reflects its surroundings- concrete floors, a metal bar, a huge skylight, and only seats about 10 people. The simplicity of design makes you appreciate that these people’s number one focus is brewing.

After my fair share of taste testing and relaxing, my pancake was wearing off. The plan was to walk the 20 minutes back south to the car then drive to Astoria (a 10 minute drive, 20 minute train ride, or 30 minute walk from Big Alice) for a late lunch at Gastroteca. We never made it.

3:00 pm was fast approaching and just as I began to fade, we stumbled upon an Indian food cart. I’ll never tire of this convenience found so few other places in the world. Rather than take Rex somewhere he was bound to be jealous of all the patrons’ food, I grabbed some vegetarian fare from the incredibly friendly gentleman at Mysttik Masala and took it home.

If you don’t have a nearby home to take your togo, don’t fret. You and your 20-pound dog will be welcomed (for an extra $25 per night pet fee) at Z NYC Hotel. This 14-story tower has unbeatable views of Manhattan, an industrial chic atmosphere with clean and comfortable guest rooms, a rooftop bar even native New Yorkers have been known to rave about, FREE self-parking, and complimentary transportation for you and your pup to and from Manhattan every hour on the hour. If the subway is more your style remember that you have nearly every train necessary to go anywhere in NYC just steps away. Z NYC Hotel is located very near the places Rex and I ventured— a 12-minute walk to LIC Flea & Food and 4 minutes to Big Alice Brewing. How’s that for convenience?

As a visitor to New York, just know that you don’t have to spend all of your time in Times Square or Central Park to enjoy the city. Queens may not have the hype, but there’s a lot more room to breathe.

P.S. If your best friend weighs more than 20 pounds, check out Wyndham Garden Long Island City. It’s not the unique boutique that Z NYC Hotel is, but for a refundable $250 pet deposit and the lower rates you’ll be saving bundles. Even with the $27 per day parking, you could end up saving money. The Wyndham Garden has great views of the Manhattan skyline and the Queensboro Bridge and happens to be just a 4-minute walk to Big Alice Brewing and wins out with a 6-minute walk to LIC Flea & Food!

P.P.S. If you have a Broadway show or a day of shopping on 5th Avenue planned, drop your pooch off with Olivia at Lucky Paws. It’ll take you about 10 minutes to walk there from either hotel; daycare for 5 hours is $20 and longer than that is $30. The dogs get to play with each other all day with uninterrupted supervision and they get put in their own little cubicle to eat so nobody else steals their food! Olivia lives upstairs from the daycare and loves 4-legged overnight guests if you think it’ll be a late night. All of the dogs sleep on their beds in her room or even in bed with her. You’ll never feel guilty leaving your pup behind with Olivia!

Snow in Saratoga Park

Kammie & Rex

After moving to New York City from Arkansas in May 2014, Kammie Melton finally found her first big girl job and settled in Brooklyn. Shortly thereafter, she adopted Rex, an 11 year old Husky-Beagle mix, from Animal Care Centers of NYC. Kammie is frequently distracted by food trucks and rarely makes it to actual restaurants. Rex just wishes she’d eat meat.

A follow-up to Brooklyn Ain’t Ruff, this is their second guest post for Travel Tails.

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