Explore. Sleep. Repeat. at the Dog Friendly Wanderoo Lodge

This is a story. A story about how one night in Eureka Springs, Arkansas became two; celebrating birthdays with strangers became partying with friends; and how the Joy Motel became the Wanderoo Lodge 

Tim Freeman, owner of the newly remodeled Wanderoo Lodge, was born for this job. Literally. His great grandparents were the original owners of Camp Joy, which eventually became the Joy Motel. The Joy is where Tim remembers swimming with his cousins in the pool. He grew up on this land, so it’s only natural that this Eureka native is the one remodeling and rebranding it after years of neglect. 

Road signage for Wanderoo Eureka

Welcome to the Wanderoo!

Of course, I didn’t really know any of this when I booked my stay there. Nor did I know that I had lived across the street from Tim 15 years ago in Fayetteville, AR.  

I booked my stay at the Wanderoo because that was the location of the Float Eureka office. Ozark Mountain Ziplines is also located on the property, but Henri said that sounded like a terrible idea.

I reached out to Float Eureka to discuss a post for the blog. Rachel, one of the owners, suggested a comparison of standard vs inflatable boards when paddling with your dog. Great idea! I asked if I could also stay at the lodge. Thus, an adventure was born. 

I’m pretty sure this is the way it happened for Tim and his buddies who own Float Eureka. They’ve only known each other five years, but many travels, beers and conversations with the right people and awesome ideas are often born. Throw in a little kismet- the Joy wasn’t for sale when Tim first returned to Eureka looking for a place to buy, but soon went on the market- and wonderful things began to happen.

The Wanderoo was meant to be.

Bar with riverbed inlay

A river runs through it at the Gravel Bar.

Check-in is at 3:00 p.m. We arrived around 4:00 p.m on a Friday afternoon just as they were putting the finishing touches on the opening-that-night Gravel Bar. I am proud to say I was the first person to order a glass of wine and I was standing right there when they flipped the switch on the ‘river’ inset into the bar top. It’s a pretty fabulous piece of craftsmanship done by local, when you see his work you’ll call him an artist, Shaman Hill of Rustic Creations and Designs.

Jinx, the property cat

Jinx does what Jinx wants.

After my glass of wine on the dog-friendly porch, Henri and I strolled back to our room. Roaming off-leash without much notice from other guests, he casually followed behind me. As I approached my room, I noticed a cat sitting on top of my car. Seemingly lackadaisical, I hoped he was friendly. He was.  

Jinx is the property cat and I guess he knew just who’s car to lay on ‘cause I had treats. I saw Jinx a few other times during our stay and I must say he’s pretty cool. He’s very social and friendly, and though he’s not afraid of dogs, he shows no interest in antagonizing them like some cats do. Jinx just goes about his business. Be sure you take him some treats.  

Had I known the Gravel Bar was opening Friday night, I wouldn’t have made dinner plans downtown. As it was, I’d promised some clients I’d meet them and their very well behaved dog- shameless self-promotion– at Local Flavor, a dog-friendly favorite of ours.

The Wanderoo offers a $15/day shuttle to guests and since it runs until midnight, Henri and I took advantage of that. After dinner we returned to a bustling Gravel Bar and though opening night seemed a success, we called it a day. I didn’t want either of us worn out for our paddle the next morning.  

The King Wanderoom is sparse, but spacious and comfortable with a large window that overlooks a salt water pool. There’s no art on the walls, but you’ll enjoy the amenities of a mini-fridge, Keurig-style coffee pot, microwave, and flat screen TV. With one table and two chairs, and one additional chair, there was plenty of floor space for a slow 12 year old dog to do a couple of tosses of fetch. The bathroom is clean-lined with subway tiles and fluffy, white towels, and the king-sized bed was comfortable with plenty of pillows for a good night’s sleep. 

The King Wanderoom at Wanderoo Lodge

The King Wanderoom is perfect for a good night’s sleep or a baseball nap.

Since the Gravel Bar doesn’t serve breakfast and I’d fed my dinner leftovers to Henri, after coffee we went in search of food. I was told there was a food truck across the street in the parking lot of the old high school, but fair warning…by attempting to get across that intersection, you will be keeping your angels busy. My breakfast sandwich with homemade sausage was pretty delicious, but I’m not sure it was worth the risk to life and limb. 

We were scheduled to meet Rachel from Float Eureka at their office, which used to be the check-in desk of the Joy Motel. Now that the big house is remodeled and the front desk located inside, the outfitter uses the space for their business.

Check-out is at noon, so we did that before leaving. We inquired about keeping our room for one more night but unfortunately they were full. Fortune took a turn, however, and by the time we got back from our paddle a cancelation had opened a space for us. Since it wasn’t the haunted room (every place in Eureka has one), we happily accepted Tim’s invitation to stay another night. It was his birthday after all and opening weekend of his new bar. How could I say no? Dusty, the manager, even threw in a free t-shirt when I complained of not having enough clothes for a second night! FYI. That shirt is super-soft and now one of my favorites. 

It was 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon with a paddle behind us, a night before us, and a comfy place to rest. This seemed like a good time for nap. We went to our new room, hit the air, turned on the Cardinals game, and promptly dozed off.  

After our snooze, I realized I hadn’t really planned Henri food for a second night. I needed to find a grocery store and this is the great thing about traveling with a raw fed dog. If he weren’t raw fed, he’d be on some fancy high dollar kibble that was only available via private shipping from a nunnery in Australia. As it is, a can of salmon and some green beans works just fine. It also gave me a chance to pick up some fruit and protein for my own breakfast the next morning. Hart’s Family Center isn’t a fancy gourmet grocer, but it was just down the road and met our needs.  

Birthday celebrations at the Wanderoo Lodge

Owner, Tim, is ready to celebrate with his guests.

With Henri fed and me showered and sporting my new Wanderoo t-shirt, we headed up to the Gravel Bar to see what was happening.

A LOT!

A lot was happening and it was the perfect sampling of everything Eureka Springs is- friends, family, a former mayor, a manager who side gigs as an Elvis impersonator and his wife, a renowned crochet artist, a server who looks a whole lot like Hannah Montana but dresses like the Swiss Miss in combat boots and has the best color red lipstick you’ve ever seen, a school teacher, a few folks from here and there, a couple of dogs, and Jinx supervising from the front porch.

At least two other birthdays in the house that night contributed to a mood that was festive and upbeat. Cake and homemade moonshine were being shared and laughter was abundant. The name had changed but the J O Y was still there.  

We arrived just in time to watch Tim blow out his birthday candles.

As midnight and last call drew near, plans to head downtown to Chelsea’s started solidifying. I took Henri back to our room and jumped on the over-stuffed shuttle with my new assortment of friends. It continued to be interesting. Why quit now? 

If you are ever in Eureka, go to Chelsea’s. The music and the people are eclectic and generally great. Where else are you going to find a red-headed Dothraki and a Jersey Boy shooting pool together while a band by the name of A Ferocious Jungle Cat lays it down on stage? I eventually had my fill of entertainment and bummed a ride back to the Wanderoo. There were a few people in the pool, even though it was technically closed, but all was quiet. Snuggled next to Henri, my head hit the pillow and I quickly closed my eyes on another successful adventure.  

Back deck at the Wanderoo Lodge

Sunday morning coming down.

Sunday morning brought with it a cool drizzling rain. Henri and I sat outside the back door of our room watching the drops of water hit the pool while I drank my coffee and began writing some notes.

What would I say about this adventure and these people..?

We checked out of the Wanderoo on Sunday morning and headed to brunch at Oscar’s Cafe, where Henri was welcomed with a bowl of water and some bacon. If the gossip I overheard on the porch that morning is any indication, the people in Eureka are expecting great things from the new lodge.

Supported by a solid group of friends and family, as well as a town eager to see the Joy resurrected, Tim has used his background in hotel consulting and love of Eureka to create a new vibe at an old place. I think you can expect the Wanderoo to continue to grow, branding itself as the in-town lodge that is your gateway to Ozarks adventure.

“That boy Tim has a good head on his shoulders,” said an elderly gentleman on the porch of Oscar’s. “He’s smart for his age and if the folks in Eureka will listen to him, he’ll do a lot of good around here.”

That seems like pretty high praise to me and based on what I experienced, I couldn’t agree more!

A note about the pet policy: There isn’t an official one. There are no breed bans or size limits. Well behaved pets can be left unattended in your room with or without a crate. They’ve accepted cats and parrots, as well as dog guests. If you visit with your pooch, don’t be the one who screws it up. Keep your furry friend under control, pick up your poop, and don’t chase Jinx! 

You can find at least a few other posts about Eureka if you search our blog. It’s not far from home and we like it a lot. Here are some more dog-friendly things to do while you’re in town:

  • Shop downtown. Many of the shops are dog-friendly and have bowls on the sidewalk outside their doors. Visit Blackie’s Back Yard for pet-related gifts, toys, and treats.
  • Have a sangria on the patio at Local Flavor. Dogs will need to go up the back stairs to reach the front patio or through the doggie gate to get to the side area. Yes, there’s a doggie gate!
  • Visit Basin Park. From crafts to music, there’s almost always something going on there.
  • Visit the Christ of the Ozarks statue. Weighing over 2 million pounds and standing 67 ft. tall Big Jesus has overlooked Eureka since 1967.
  • Run off-leash at the Bark Park.

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Standard vs Inflatable SUP When Paddling With Your Pooch

Standard vs Inflatable SUPs

Recently I visited a girlfriend who lives on Lake Murray, SC. While there, we decided to take the jet skis across the lake to a restaurant for lunch. It’s been twenty years since I’ve been on a jet ski. Somewhere between zooming across a lake at 23 years old with my 140 lb. St. Bernard riding in front of me and turning 47, I got too old for jet skis. In my defense, the water was pretty choppy and once we switched bikes and I took the heavier one (and had a martini at lunch), I was better. However, the conclusion is this…

I’m more a martini boat than a cigarette boat kind of girl. I prefer the back of a big, heavy Harley to a crotch-rocket, and if I’m going to be on a jet ski, then I need nice calm waters and a cocktail.  

SUPing

I assumed when it came to paddle boards, I’d feel similarly, preferring the stability of a standard to that of a blow-up. I also assumed a 12 year old dog with a bum knee would feel the same. As it turns out, it wasn’t that cut and dry, and I had way more opinions about the situation than Henri did. If you follow this blog that probably doesn’t surprise you. 

To discover our personal preference and try to figure out what board was best for pooch paddlers, we went out with Rachel from Float Eureka. Located near downtown at the newly remodeled Wanderoo Lodge, this new outfitter has everything you need, including a shuttle to get you to, from, and onto the water. They even rent coolers and sell sunscreen, sunglasses, and floating koozies 

*Note: When paddling in Arkansas, you are required by law to have a floating koozie. Our rivers, lakes, and oceans have enough problems without you losing your koozie and can of whatever in our waterways. GET ONE!  

Float Eureka offers several excursion options, but Lake Leatherwood is about 15 minutes from the Wanderoo. It’s the perfect place to test out your paddle skills if you’re a newbie, test boards without worrying about motor boat traffic, or just enjoy a chill afternoon with your pooch. 

Unloading vs. Unpacking

Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard

Tower iSUP: Unpack, unroll, inflate, add fin

The Tower Adventurer 1 iSUP is compact, lightweight and easy to assemble. That makes transport and unpacking a breeze, especially for a solo paddler. After pulling it from the storage bag and unrolling it, it took less than six minutes to inflate using a hand pump. Add the fin, and Voila! You’re ready for the water! 

No help needed with a blow-up and no risk of breaking your toe if you drop your board on it.

Compare that to messing with webbing, then having to pull your SUP off the top of your vehicle by yourself or carrying 60-plus pounds to the water alone, and this first point is a no-brainer!

Paddling Comparison

Since Henri hadn’t been on a paddle board in a while, I decided it would be best to start with the standard. It was bigger, heavier, and I knew it would be more stable. He loaded like a pro, situated himself in the sweet spot, and off we went. 

The Jackson SUPerNatural is heavier than the blow-up by almost 40 lbs and sits lower in the water. It’s wider by three inches, which doesn’t seem like a lot unless you need the extra stability. Additionally, Henri’s added weight didn’t seem to make much of a difference in the way I handled the board, and overall, I was much more confident and comfortable on the standard SUP.

After paddling around a bit and realizing Henri was as chill as ever, we decided to switch boards and give the blow-up a go.

I don’t know if it was Rachel’s mad paddling skills or my exceptional balance (thank you daily yoga practice), but we switched SUPs right in the middle of the lake without incident.

Rachel mounted my board first. Then I switched to hers before transferring Henri. Once Henri and I were on the blow-up, it was time to give standing a shot. He wasn’t quite centered and didn’t seem to have any interest in cooperating with my attempted adjustments to his positioning, so this was a delicate process. I managed.  

The difference in the two boards is pretty drastic, at least in my opinion. The blow-up is lighter weight and less stable, but I found it easier to paddle and maneuver. It also glides through the water much more quickly. Surprisingly, Henri’s added weight seemed more of a benefit than a disadvantage as long as he was centered. If he off-centered or moved, however, it required quite a bit of compensation on my part.  

Final Thoughts (of a novice paddler)  

SUP Comparison

SUPerNatural vs Tower iSUP

Standard boards are probably best for beginners, large dogs, multiple dogs, or dogs who can’t be still. They’re a pain in the arse to load/unload/carry, but they make up for it with stability and roominess. With the extra foot plus in length, I could have easily added my Sportsman cooler and then used it as something to lean against when not standing.

Standard boards: Perfect if you’re planning on an hours-long adventure. 

Shifting from sitting to kneeling to standing is much easier on a standard board. Again, it’s about stability. It’s requires more upper body/core strength to paddle, but it’s less work to balance. If you’re strong but uncoordinated, this may be the perfect board for you.  

Blow-ups, by comparison, are a lot easier to handle for a solo paddler. You don’t need a roof rack and could probably fit at least two in the backseat of a Mini Cooper. They glide more quickly and easily through the water so if you lack muscle, this is a better board for you. You will need a good sense of balance though. If you don’t possess at least a modicum of that, it could be quite the workout. You’ll later discover muscles that you didn’t know you had.

Blow-up boards: Perfect for 20-minute workouts

This is the perfect workout board. I’d love to have one for quick trips to the water as part of my weekly routine, but I would not want to spend all day on one. If you have a dog who likes to move around a lot or you have any kind of injury that affects standing joints or your sense of balance, this might not be the board for you.  

Tips for Beginners 

  • Paddle naked! Or at least barefooted. It’s easier to balance.
  • Keep your head up and your eye on the horizon.
  • Don’t lock your knees.
  • Use your core when stroking, not your arms. 
  • Start with your pooch situated just forward of the “belly” of the board. That’s the center and your dog should be just in front of you. Make adjustments based on your combined weight and paddle style. Get comfortable.  

To learn more about paddling, we suggest you give it a try!

Call our friends at Float Eureka, or your own local outfitter, and let them get you on the water. If you have questions about introducing your pooch to the board and/or gaining his trust, message me or post a question. I’d love to help you enjoy this great sport together.

 

 

 

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How To Survive July 4th with Your Dog: Book A Room

How to survive July 4th with your dog

Prior to 2016, I’d never noticed Henri being especially fearful of fireworks. I mean, he didn’t like them- what dog does?!- but he wasn’t traumatized. It was that year, on the 4th of July that I came home from a cookout to discover a trembling, fearful, hot mess of a dog. We were living in a 1940s style bungalow with about zero noise insulation and our neighborhood had become a war zone. We slept on the kitchen floor that night-Henri seemed to think it was the safest place- and I promised him he’d never have to do that again.

By the time explosion season came the next year, we had fancy noise-canceling headphones, calming treats (we use these), and the pinky-paw swear that I wouldn’t make him stay home alone. The headphones worked great once he realized what they did, the calming treats have been used since, and Henri survived another year. Of course, I missed out on some pretty cool fireworks shows and I’ve still got several large boxes of unexploded Saturn Missles, but we do what we can for our pets.

This year I had the genius idea that we should get away.

As I’ve already mentioned, I live in a residential area turned holiday battlefield. It’s fairly ridiculous, as it goes on for days, but the worst of it is on the 4th and the weekend nights preceding and following. I live in the South. Any excuse to blow stuff up for ONE day is an excuse to continue for several. Far be it from us to waste ammo (sips sweet tea for emphasis).

Why were we staying here?!

To test my get away theory, I decided to book a room at a hotel in a non-residential area. Surely, it would be quieter. Then it occurred to me that I might be able to get a room overlooking some distant display. Could I enjoy fireworks without Henri having to endure the sounds? I called our local Aloft for a chat.

Lucky for me their marketing director has a Jack Russell Terrier who is also afraid of noise. She was more than happy to help me with my special request. I say ‘special request’ because Aloft typically makes every effort to put canine guests in first floor rooms for ease of potty duties. Their ARF program makes sure the pooches have great amenities (though sometimes you do have to ask), and many of the hotels, including Aloft Rogers-Bentonville, have a ‘pet wing’ on the first floor with direct access to outside.

We received a discounted room on the 6th floor of the hotel overlooking one of Northwest Arkansas’ biggest displays. A 20-plus minute fiery explosion was going to go off less than half a mile from our window. I took Henri’s headphones and calming treats just in case.

When the first boom announced the start of the show, Henri’s ears went back. I gave him a scratch and acted like it was no big deal. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but after a few more shots, he settled himself under the desk. I offered him some comforting words and plopped myself onto the bed. When it became obvious that death was not eminent, he decided to join me. Though he turned his head and curled up next to me in such a way as to pretend they weren’t there, he could definitely hear and see them. Fortunately, the insulation of our room and the noise from the TV on the wall, provided just the right amount of dampening of both sight and sound. Our experiment was a success and if things get too bad in the ‘hood, we may head back to the hotel.

Things to try when the sky is falling and we’re all going to die:

Since we can’t all pack up and head to the nearest hotel, I’m providing you with a list of my best suggestions for dealing with dog anxiety. In my experience as a trainer, I have found that it is typically a combination of things that helps the most. If I have personally used or have confidence in a specific suggested product or method, there’s a link. However, I do want to offer this one precaution: if your dog is really unhinged and you suspect he might be a danger to himself or someone else, like a flight or bite risk, call your vet. Get real drugs and save the experiments for later.

  • White noise. There are machines and phone apps, and just recently I discovered you can ask Alexa to “play white noise.”
  • DogTV. Yes, DogTV. I bought a subscription just to see what it was and it’s kinda cool. Henri will lay on the end of the bed and watch it intermittently. Now might be a good time to sign up for a free trial.
  • ThunderShirt or anxiety wrap. If fireworks are going off in your neighborhood as you’re reading this, it may be a little late for you to run out and purchase a ThunderShirt, or they may be sold out. If you’ve got an ace bandage, try the anxiety wrap. You could also try a t-shirt, if your dog wears them, or an old t-shirt of yours if you can make it fit snuggly. This is like swaddling a baby, so you do want a snug, but not too tight, fit.
  • Calming treats (lots of good ones on the market), CDB Oil/treats, Rescue Remedy.
  • Lavender spray or oil (put it on your dog/Thundershirt/wrap/t-shirt/bedding)
  • Pheromone spray (spray on Thundershirt/wrap/t-shirt/bedding but NOT on dog)
  • A distracting toy or chew. Stuff a Kong with peanut butter and freeze it (it’ll last longer). Visit your butcher for a genuine marrow bone. Try a puzzle or treat dispensing toy.
  • Exercise! Take your dog for a long walk, hike, or swim before dusk. Exercise releases endorphins.

If there is something you’ve tried that works and I haven’t mentioned it, please SHARE in the comments. You might help somebody.

 

 

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Chewy On This!

Chewy box delivery

Special delivery!

So, in case you aren’t following us on Facebook or Instagram, or didn’t understand the title of this post, I’m really excited to announce… 

I’M A CHEWY INFLUENCER!

This is how we met…

My Chewy story began with my training clients. They invite me into their homes and lives, and rely on me to help them provide the best for their pets. I value their trust and I’m p i c k y about referrals. Many of my clients were already using their services and making comments like, “I’ll order it from Chewy.” Based on their reported experiences, more and more, I found myself comfortable referencing them. If there was a product we needed quickly- Adaptil comes to mind- or if I was looking for something fun to entertain a bored dog- like the Tether Tug– I was whipping out my phone to check their site or show a product.

It wasn’t until April 2018 (when Henri needed a tux and FAST), that I personally ordered from Chewy. My confidence in their ability to deliver came from my clients’ rave reviews and more than a little desperation. They promised his tux would be here before we left town and it was. I’m still waiting on a Victoria’s Secret order I placed on the 9th that was supposed to be here on the 14th. I called today. They don’t know where it is. But I digress…

It isn’t just the fulfillment of a delivery promise, it’s the ‘above and beyond’ that really impressed me. From suggesting that an unused bag of food or a collar that didn’t fit quite right be donated to a local shelter (with a replacement on the way at no additional charge) to sending a card to a grieving pet parent, it was clear to me that Chewy was doing something different

I finally decided it was time to reach out!

I wanted to Pawtner Up with Chewy in some way, though I wasn’t sure how. Feature their products, write travel content for their blog…? On a whim, I sent them an email. Quick to respond, they invited me to join their influencer program.  

This is how it works…

As a Chewy Influencer, each month I’ll receive a special newsletter with 14 plus featured items. Goodies range from premium pet food to treats, to grooming products and toys. I get to pick TWO and have them delivered straight to my door. Along with saying ‘YES!” to the gig, I asked if I could share with clients and friends. Henri is pushing 12. His opinion of toys isn’t what it used to be and his need for training aides is pretty minimal. Now, if it’s a product that makes travel more comfortable or it involves treats, we might get stingy.

All we have to do in return is offer our honest opinion and y’all know I’ve got plenty those! Church of the Painful Truth, as one girlfriend likes to call it.  

You’ll be able to find our monthly reviews on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook, and if you’re one of my lucky clients or happen to run into me at event, there’s a good chance I’ll be toting a little something extra from our new friends. Our first treat sample was a hit with Henri, most of the dogs at the paddle clinic I taught, and one lone beggar at the Dog Days of Summer event at Sassafrass Springs Vineyard.  

As a Walt Disney World College Program Alum, I learned about customer service from one of the best in the industry. That was in 1990. These days, I’m fairly certain it’s just Disney and Chewy doing it right. Chewy offers 24/7 help online and if you call their 1-800 number a REAL person answers, not a recording asking you to push buttons. Don’t believe me? Try it. It’s 2:45 p.m. central time and I just got off the phone with Alonzo. 

I’m super-proud to say I’m helping Chewy make happiness happen and I hope you’ll follow us and give some of our suggestions a try!!  

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Downtown & Dog Friendly in Baton Rouge

Balcony view of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge

Perfect view of the Mississippi River from our balcony

If you’re going to host the perfect party, then you need a perfect venue. That’s more easily said than done if your party includes 250 people and their dogs decked out in ball gowns and tuxedos. Fortunately for us, the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center was nothing less than that on the weekend of April 20th when we headed to town for a Fur Ball weekend.

Check-In

Check-in at the Hilton is at 3:00 p.m. (check-out is at noon, God love ’em!) and we arrived around 4:00 p.m. Since all our weekend adventures included places we could walk, I pulled up to valet and handed over my keys. With several attendants available, it wasn’t long  before the friendly staff had me unloaded onto a cart and I was watching my car disappear.

Rest A While Park in Baton Rouge

Potty area at Rest A While Park

Before heading to our room, I inquired about a potty area. The Hilton takes up a block on Lafayette between Florida and Convention Streets and the potty area at Rest A While Park is on the corner of Convention and Layfayette. You’ll have to cross Convention to get to the small green space but it isn’t too inconvenient, and at night it is well lit enough that I felt safe taking Henri there alone.

The only unpleasantry is that what should be a downtown oasis with beautifully matured Live Oaks providing shaded seating is in desperate need of a poop pick up. The park is not Hilton property, so I’m not blaming them, but whoever you people are who aren’t picking up after your dogs…YOU’RE THE REASON WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!

After our potty trip we met the valet at the elevator and followed him to our room. For our two night stay in Baton Rouge, the Hilton graciously comp’ed us a king room with a balcony over-looking the Mississippi. This made it really difficult to do our tourist duty, because after 7 hours in the car all I wanted to do was sit on that balcony and watch barges as the sun set over the water.

Friday Night

We had a little over an hour to kill before meeting my girlfriend downtown for Live After Five. That means Henri got to nap while Mommy washed off road dirt and got ready. I did at least grab a cocktail from the Kingfish Lounge in the hotel lobby and take advantage of my balcony view while sipping it.

 

Live After Five in Baton rouge

A little too live for dogs

Live After Five is a weekly concert series presented by the Downtown Business Association. It includes a stage with live music, as well as food and drink vendors, and it is FREE. No one told us we couldn’t be there with a dog, but I’m not sure I’d call it “dog-friendly.” Frankly, it was a little too live for us and we didn’t stay long.

We opted instead to find a nice restaurant with outdoor seating where we could avoid the crowd and the noise. We didn’t have to look far, as Capital City Grill is only about a block from the Hilton and it was on our route.

Metal tables and chairs sit just outside the front door of the restaurant on the plaza of the Manship Theater. Light jazz played on their speakers, but the pleasantness of that was mostly drowned out by the music echoing from Live. Good company, a bottle of wine, and a chance to catch up with one of my besties while Henri relaxed made up for that.

Since Henri had turned down food at breakfast that morning and dinner the night before, I decided he was due for something more tempting than his usual fare. I was pleased to discover a plain grilled chicken breast served with rice and a veggie of the day, which turned out to be broccoli. I placed a togo order for the chicken so it would come in a box and not on a restaurant plate, then ordered the Mahi Corn Maque Chow for myself. Based on how quickly Henri emptied his box, I’m fairly certain his chicken was as good as my fish. Mine might have been better.

With full bellies, we wandered back to our hotel and went to our room to take advantage of the warm night air and our quiet balcony. After another hour(ish) of girl gossip, it was lights out. I selected my breakfast from the room service menu and hung the tag on the door with a note that said “Dog in room. He will bark but he is nice.”

Saturday Shennanigans

Had I known what a good night’s sleep I’d get or how early I’d be awake, I’d have scheduled my breakfast to come a little earlier. I only had one package of caffinated coffee in my room and I was finished with it long before my breakfast arrived. The good news is the delay gave me time to take Henri to potty and realize his tummy was still upset. So when we returned to the room, I called room service to add an order of plain scrambled eggs to my breakfast. Yes, it was for Henri.

You may call him spoiled, but I say he’s well-kept.

Since Saturday night was the BIG night and the reason we’d come to Baton Rouge, I’d planned to take it easy Saturday morning. A trip to the farmer’s market followed by lunch was all we had planned. We took the elevator to the lobby and noticed that Fur Ball set-up was in full swing. We met our table hostess and tireless volunteer, Elizabeth, and Henri scored one of the highly coveted signature bow ties. If I’d known then, what I know now, I’d have taken a sneak-peak into the ballroom to check out those table decorations before the ceiling lights went out and the event lights came on!

Daytime Downtown

St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge

St. Joseph Cathedral built in 1853

When doing my research for this trip the one thing I couldn’t quite figure out was the farmer’s market situation. It appeared there were two markets in Baton Rouge, one dog-friendly and one not, but I never could quite nail down which was which or where they were. One was within walking distance of our hotel, so we just decided to head there. Much to our dismay Red Stick Farmer’s Market is NOT dog-friendly. Additionally, there aren’t two markets, just the one and it moves from place to place. No dogs at the farmer’s market left us with time to kill so we got all touristy.

Downtown Baton Rouge was shockingly deserted compared to Friday night and my Saturday morning expectations. The streets were quiet and there was little traffic. Our first stop was St. Joseph Cathedral, a white, Gothic Revival church with strikingly beautiful red doors marking the locked entrance. I mean, I wasn’t gonna go to confession, but I might have lit a candle, and I would have loved to have seen the inside of that historic building.

With not much else to do or see, we wandered back to our hotel to discover a whole bunch of stuff going on! Military officers everywhere indicated some sort of convention or incident, and musicians setting up in the lobby bar provided even more activity. I soon discovered our hotel was indeed playing host to a military officers convention, in addition to being one of the local music venues for the 3rd Street Songwriters Festival. I located a festival schedule that revealed music would be starting in our lobby at 1. I could not have felt more lucky.

Songwriters Festival

Songwriters in the Hilton Baton Rouge lobby

Songwriters in our lobby

The 3rd Street Songwriters Festival is an annual event featuring local, regional, and national songwriters. Songwriters get a chance to have their original compositions critiqued by a professional panel, as well as participate in traditional Nashville-style rounds at venues along 3rd Street. Our dog-friendly lobby bar, with a lunch menu featuring selections from the Kingfish Grill, was the perfect setting for a relaxed and casual afternoon. I suggest you try the Louisiana Chicken Sandwich. It was more than enough for me, and after scraping off the fire roasted peppers, onions, and BBQ sauce, I let Henri have the rest.

Riverfront Plaza

Fletcher-class destroyer USS Kidd

USS Kid, The Pirate of the Pacific

We enjoyed about an hour and a half of music before Henri’s gas alerted me that he might need a potty break. At the very least, he didn’t need to continue laying beneath the table offending others. We walked over to the Rest A While, but he didn’t go; it was hard to blame him. I don’t like to use public restrooms when the toilet hasn’t been flushed. I thought if we did a bit more walking he might find a suitable location, so we headed toward the Riverfront Plaza walkway.

The walkway meanders along the Mississippi River levee and from where we were we could see our hotel and our little balcony. We strolled the brick-lined sidewalk to the observation deck overlooking the river and then paused in front of the USS Kid for a photo op. As Henri’s tongue began to hang further and turn pinker, I decided a return to our room and a nap before the evening’s festivities might benefit us both.

Fur Ball

Next up on our schedule was the Fur Ball, an elaborate and fabulously organized formal event where your dog can be your date. Our hotel was the party venue and what a party it was! If you’ve never been to a tailgate, a crawfish boil, Mardi Gras, or St. Patrick’s Day in Baton rouge, then I’m not sure I can adequately describe these people to you. They are next level party professionals and they know how to have a good time. 

I’ll be telling you more about the Fur Ball and Companion Animal Alliance, the non-profit it supports, in my next post. Until then, be sure to check out photos from all our adventures on Instagram and follow us on Facebook. You never know when we’ll head back to Baton Rouge or at least stop there on our way to somewhere else.

Booking with Hilton

If you’re headed to Baton Rouge, we hope you’ll consider booking your pet-friendly stay at the Hilton. They comp’ed us our room but they didn’t pay us to say they were awesome. With all the things going on at the hotel that weekend, it would have been easy to over-look a girl and her dog. Yet, somehow, every time we exited the elevator someone at the desk said hello and on several occasions offered Henri a cookie from the treat jar.

If booking your stay with Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, here are the highlights from their 16 point Pet Agreement:

  • Pets must be domesticated dogs or cats weighing no more than 75 lbs.
  • No more than 2 pets per room
  • A $50.00 non-refundable, per stay service fee will be charged to your final bill
  • Pets may be left unattended in your guest room but the “Pet Friendly Room” door hanger must be placed on the door and the front desk notified of your absence

Tell them Travel Tails sent you and PICK UP YOUR POOP!

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Date Me, Date My Dog: Valentine’s Day Tips for Dog Lovers

Custom dog cake from Three Dog Bakery

Cake available from Three Dog Bakery in Bentonville, AR

A good girlfriend recently sent me a silicon wine cup that says “It’s not drinking alone if your dog is home.” A perfect gift that also perfectly sums up how I feel about Valentine’s Day. For those of you who might not be as content as I am to avoid dating disasters and simply spend time with your furry favorite, here are some ideas on how you can find and share time with a significant two-legged other AND your dog.

Dating Sites

Twindog dating app for dog lovers

Available in the app store on your smart phone.

If you’re still looking for love in all the wrong places, then maybe you need something other than Tinder. How about Twindog? Formerly Tindog, the app lets you swipe right to meet that cutie with the hot human, swipe left to avoid someone who just spent $1500 on the newest designer-doodle.

Date My Pet is another online dating service that has been featured in USA Today and on Good Morning America. Not just a dating site, they also feature trending articles on everything from myths about sex to Why You Should Date a Girl with a Dog. I suggest you read that one.

If you’ve been on Match and grown tired of selfies in the bathroom mirror then maybe you should try Pet People Meet. Their website says they are “Dating Partners” with Match.com. I’m guessing that means they use a similar algorithm, but what do I know? I was only on Match for one month when a well-intentioned friend purchased me a membership. I spent the majority of that time cutting and pasting bios into emails that I would then forward to a girlfriend who is a high school English teacher. Needless to say, I had more laughs than dates.

Date Ideas

Whether it’s just you and your dog on Valentine’s Day or you’ve organized a threesome with your mate and your mutt, there are plenty of ways to spend time together. Depending on where you live, finding a restaurant patio for dining in February might be difficult but no worries! I’ve included ideas for doggie dates that’ll keep you indoors and cozied up even if the weather isn’t cooperating.

Visit a Dog-Friendly Winery or Brewery

Vineyard in Springdale, AR

Sassafrass Springs Vineyard

In our travels, we’ve discovered that breweries are an easy go-to for dog-friendliness and whether it’s the taproom or the side-yard, it seems a lot of them will welcome your pooch in some portion of their establishment. Many of the breweries even use their spent grain to make dog treats and/or sell dog swag. So while you’re sipping on your Sexual Chocolate at Foothills Brewing Co in No. Carolina, make sure your pooch gets a little something too.

If fruit is more your thing, then a stroll through a dog-friendly vineyard might be the perfect afternoon. Sassafrass Springs is our local favorite and since we last featured them, they’ve added an indoor fireplace with blankets and cozy seating for three. To locate a dog-friendly winery near you, visit our new friends, the Cork Hounds. We’ll be guest blogging for them in the future, as well as referencing them when we travel. Their database currently includes over 1800 dog-friendly wineries in 24 different states.

Pack a picnic

Picnic at Ascot backpack

Backpack by Picnic at Ascot

How long has it been since you packed a picnic basket with your favorite snacks and headed somewhere with a view? If you choose a short hike instead of the park, your dog will thank you for the woodland sniffs and you’ll likely find a more secluded and private spot to spread your blanket. A hill or mountain top at sunset is my suggestion.

Don’t want to lug a picnic basket on a hike? Try one of these backpack versions instead.

Outdoor movie or drive-in

This is actually one of my favorite summertime activities with Henri. Our local drive-in always has a double feature and I like to go on Sunday nights. It’s a great way to wind down a busy weekend and there are usually less kids. If you live somewhere with a year ’round warm climate, then I bet you can find one in your neck of the woods. A quick search of “outdoor movies in February” gave me lots of options… in California.

Visit a farmer’s market

Another of my favorite activities is shopping the local farmer’s market. It makes a great casual date, especially if it’s followed by brunch. To punch up the romance a bit, skip the restaurant brunch and instead head home with your fresh finds and create something together. If your date buys you flowers, you might have a keeper.

Don’t have a dog? Then visit your local shelter.

Ours is hosting a My Furry Valentine event featuring a pizza and pasta buffet and $14 adoptions for matches made at the event.

Where will you find or celebrate love this year? Tell us in the comments or share with us on social media.

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Every Dog Has His Day on 30A

Christmas at the beach

Merry Christmas from the beach at Pompano Joe’s in Destin, FL!

Before you head to the sugar-white beaches of Destin and 30A with your pooch, there are some things you should know. Let’s start with where dogs are and are not allowed, and what it’s going to cost you if you get busted.

Is your attorney liscensed in Florida? Henri’s is not.

In Okaloosa County, where Destin stretches for about 8 miles along HWY 98, dogs are NOT allowed on ANY beaches, anywhere, whether they are residents or not. NO DOGS. The fine for a first offense is typically $100 ($200 for the 2nd, $300 for the 3rd), but the county deputies can fine you as much as $300 the first time if they so choose.

Just down the road on 30A in Walton County (South Walton) resident dogs with permits and leashes are allowed on beaches between 6 PM and 8 AM during Daylight Savings time periods and between 3 PM and 9 AM during Standard time periods, but non-resident dogs are not. It’s easier to sneak around and blend in on those beaches but if you get caught you will likely be fined. First offense is $100, second $200, and up to $500 for your fifth offense. After that you probably would just go to jail. Code enforcement officers are responsible for beach enforcement in South Walton. They drive white trucks.

So, if you can’t take your dog to the beach, what can you do? Eat and drink, of course! And some hiking and some paddling, and more eating and drinking. We spent 10 days roaming the two counties and dug up plenty of food and fun and LOTS of reasons to return.

Okaloosa Co

City of Destin at The Harbor

Obligatory photo op at HarborWalk.

If you’re in Destin, Florida, then you’re in Okaloosa County. No dogs on the beaches there, remember? Instead, take your pooch to HarborWalk Village, a collection of restaurants and shops located on the bay. You can stroll the village walk and the marina, rent a paddle board or kayak, book a dolphin cruise, catch some live music, or enjoy a cocktail at any of several places that welcome dogs. According to their website, they also have weekly fireworks and Fat Tuesday parades so be sure to check the schedule and NOT have your dog there for that. Except for Mardi Paws on February 13th. You can check out their event page on the Book of Face.

HarborWalk was where we had planned to spend New Year’s Eve but after a day visit to check it out and chatting with some of the employees, we decided dogs didn’t want to do that. It is very family friendly and though it wasn’t crowded on the two days we went, you can easily see how a night like NYE with live music, vacation brained adults, low-flying unsupervised kids, and fireworks might not be a joy for an 11 year-old dog (or his 40-something single mom).

Even though we chose not to spend NYE there (we stayed in because it was so cold), we did find a few restaurants worth mentioning, and on a second trip we discovered an unoccupied pier where we chased off a pelican and took up residence in hopes of a dolphin sighting.

Doggie Dining Available at Harry T's

Harry T’s Welcomes Dogs

Harry T’s Lighthouse, with a dog water and snack bowl located near their outdoor menu and snacks at the host stand, was the first place we found and the most dog-welcoming. There is no back way to the dog-friendly patio but the host will escort you through the restaurant to your seat. Our waiter immediately greeted us with a menu and a water bowl and then asked if Henri would like a treat. Yes. Yes, he would. And I would like to have all the bourbon! Though my parents are the ones who told me about this place, my Dad failed to mention the awesome bourbon selection.

The menu at Harry T’s is pretty standard beach American fare with brunch on Saturday and Sunday, but the reason you go is the view. The patio is the perfect place to watch the tour boats coming back to the marina at sunset. It’s also covered, heated, and zippered plastic ‘windows’ protect you from the wind. Destin isn’t always warm in December.

 

Dog in her cheerleader dress

Sanza was ready for a win. Hail State!

AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar was our next restaurant discovery at HarborWalk. The view isn’t as great but they have a HUGE outdoor TV and multiple TVs behind the outdoor bar. It would have been perfect for watching the Razorback’s SEC basketball opener. I even called to make sure that the parts of the patio with the TVs were dog-friendly and to ask if they’d be willing to change at least one of the small TVs for me to watch the game. I didn’t ask if they had the SEC Network. They don’t. Oh well.

It just so happened to be one of the few warmish days we got while in Florida so I was perfectly content to sit in the sun, eat oysters and drink a bloody mary while watching Mississippi State in their bowl game. And we made LOTS of friends!

Even though they didn’t offer to bring us a water bowl (BYOB), it was by far the one place we went where we saw the most dogs. I’m sure the weather was a factor in that- vacationers don’t always bring their dogs and the natives were staying home because it was only 64 degrees- but when the sun did come out, so did the dog people.

After lunch, I grabbed a beer to go- YES, TO GO- and we wandered down to the marina walkway to check out the boats. In case this is your first time reading this blog, you should know I am obsessed with the naming of boats and although I don’t have a boat, I do have a name. We landed at the end of an empty pier where we sat and stared at the water hoping for dolphins, waiting for pirates, and finishing my beer.

Paw print napkin at Boshamp's

Tasty gumbo. Adorable napkin.

The last place in Destin we need to highlight -for now- is Boshamp’s. The restaurant’s name was imagined by the owner’s sister and combines the names of his three labs, BoBo, Otis, and Shug, and his initials, M.P. to get “Boshamp’s.” Another harbor-side spot with an incredible view, Boshamp’s boasts four decks that tier down to a sandy beach with chairs, hammocks, and games. This place is definitely on our ‘return when it’s warmer’ list, especially if they allow dogs on the lower decks and in the sand. Unfortunately, the day we went for lunch it was cold and misting rain, though a dolphin sighting made up for that.

My gumbo was served on a napkin with a paw print punch-out and according to their website, their oysters come from Apalachicola. This is yet another reason to return to Boshamp’s. It’ll tide me over on that three-hour drive from Destin to Apalach to eat more oysters.

On second thought, maybe we’ll just go back to the Forgotten Coast. I know a few good places to eat and they allow dogs on the beaches.

Walton Co

South Walton, SoWal, 30A- it’s all in Walton County and just a hop, skip and a jump from Destin. This is the stretch that includes Santa Rosa, Seaside, Seagrove, Watercolor, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach and Grayton Beach; I may have missed a few. We checked out some of that during our stay but when we arrived at my parents and needed to see the ocean immediatelyPompano Joe’s in Miramar Beach, just five minutes from the house, was where we went.

Their address says Destin, FL but they are geographically located in Miramar Beach in Walton County. I make note of this because it’s important to know what county you’re in and how much that beach fine might cost you.

Pompano Joe's Back Deck

Just another day on the back deck at Pompano Joe’s.

If you follow us on Facebook one of the first photos you saw posted was taken at Pompano Joe’s. Their back deck faces the gulf and their bottom deck is right on the sand. The downstairs bar isn’t open this time of year and there is no deck/table service, but it’s easy enough to put your pooch in a sit/stay and walk to the indoor bar to order a drink. I could see Henri from the bar while I ordered and we never lost eye contact.

I didn’t eat at Pompano Joe’s during my ten-day stay but we drank there several times and maybe walked on the beach. I don’t know if it would be my favorite place during regular summer season but whoever put that Christmas tree in the sand made it hands down my favorite place during this trip.

I had more fun sitting in my chair, meeting and chatting with new people, and taking family photos for folks in front of that tree than I had anywhere in Destin.

We went there several times during our stay and I NEVER got tired of looking at it. Ever. I have a hundred pictures of that tree and I want a job there next year. Henri and I will just hang out, greet guests, and take Christmas pictures.

The other Miramar spot we visited was Kenny D’s. They serve Cajun style food, and with beads hanging from just about every available spot, it has that N’awlins vibe. You can’t see the water from their dog-friendly patio but the Oyster Chowder is worth a stop and my brother will tell you to add a side of their signature sauce to anything. You should also visit their website and click on “Where’Yat?” Whether you’re from up north and need a translation, or the Ninth Ward and need a giggle, you’ll enjoy it. At the very least you’ll learn whether you want to order your Po’ Boy “dressed” or “nuttinonit.”

Santa Rosa

The Bay restaurant in Santa Rosa

Outside at The Bay in Santa Rosa.

I stumbled upon our next discovery via a Facebook event that popped up in my feed. I get a little weirded out sometimes by how Facebook knows but in this case it worked to our advantage. The Bay is located just off 30A on the Choctawhatchee Bay. If it’s dark and you miss your turn into the parking lot, you’ll have to go all the way across the 3 mile bay bridge before you can turn around. I’m really not sure how that happened.

On Wednesday evenings, The Bay has Wednesday Night Bonfire at the Beach off their back deck, and it is dog and family friendly. Except the night we chose to go it was too windy for a bonfire and the deck was all zippered up to keep out the wind and keep in the warmth.

I didn’t know when we pulled up that there was no bonfire that night. I’d called before going but apparently between my call and our arrival, they determined it was too dangerous. I poked my head through the front door to inquire. The hostess told us there was a back door that we could go through to get to the temporarily enclosed back deck. I couldn’t find it. So when we went back to the hostess stand to ask again, she sent a server out back to meet us.

Since it was just the two of us, we saddled up to the end of the bar. It was the perfect spot. Henri could lounge beneath my bar stool out of the walkway and I could see the band. There was a very well-behaved Boxer named Roscoe at the other end; he’s a regular.

If we lived in the area, we’d be regulars at The Bay too!

I ordered a glass of wine and chatted with the bartender about the menu, settling on the Point Washington Rolls – spring rolls filled with alligator tasso and poblano sounded like something I needed to try. The atmosphere was lively but not loud and the band was a great temptation to linger. I wish I could recall their name. I met one of the member’s wives and her Dad and chatted about rosés and dogs but I can’t remember the name of the band. It’s that kind of place. Laid back and friendly. Oh! And all the kids seemed well-behaved. Not one of them tried to pet Henri without asking.

Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach has been on my radar for quite some time for no other reason except their un-official town motto:

Nice dogs, friendly folks.

Nice Dogs, Friendly Folks

At the corner of Hotz Ave. & Garfield St.

After being in cold, cloudy Florida for several days, I was thrilled to finally get high 50s and sunny. We headed straight to Grayton Beach State Park to investigate the dune lake. It had been my plan for us to paddle this salt marsh ecosystem but I’m a sissy and the only thing worse than being cold is being wet and cold. We settled for a hike through a coastal forest where Oak and Magnolia are bent by salty winds. It wasn’t really a settle.

Cost of admission for Henri and I was a whopping $4.00. It’s a drive-thru entrance/pay station and they have dog treats. The ranger handed me a map, pointed out where dogs were and were not allowed, reminded us to stay off the protected dunes, and wished us a good day.

Since dogs aren’t allowed on the beach at the state park, not even resident ones and not even on the boardwalk leading to the beach, we stuck to the trail along Western Lake. An arching Live Oak, more reminiscent of Middle-Earth than Florida, beckons you to enter and just on the other side of that magical doorway an interpretive nature trail begins with this prayer…

Prayer of the Woods, Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park Western Lake trail

Visitors can choose either: a 1 mile trail that takes you through the dune ecosystem, along the salt marsh, and circles back through the pine flat woods OR a 4.5 mile (9 miles round trip) trail that takes you around the back waters of Western Lake. We took the short trail but spent over an hour meandering. There was lots of sniffing to be done.

I walked much of the trail in bare feet. It’s just sand and marsh and a little mud never hurt anybody. It is worth noting that you should check your pup’s feet for stickers after this hike though. It seems I was pulling them out of Henri’s paws pretty much all week, even after a simple stroll through our neighborhood. What is up with coastal regions and stickers?! We had the same problem in Biloxi!

Gulfside view at Grayton Beach State Park

Gorgeous view of the gulf from the dunes of Grayton Beach State Park.

At one point on the trail we discovered a small passage that seemed well-worn. Following it up the sandy incline and through the barely-big-enough hole made by bent trees and shrub, we found ourselves on the dunes staring at the gulf. Signs and temporary fencing block much of the access to the dune area that separates the lake from the beach, and even though I saw neither of those, I was fairly certain we weren’t supposed to be there. We cautiously made our way to the peak and not wanting to track up the area more than necessary, we sat down to take in the stunning view and listen to the ocean sounds.

If you’ve never been perched atop a sand dune between a lake and an ocean, surrounded by a variety of ecosystems, I highly recommend it.

By noon we were making our way back to the car and dusting off our feet for the next adventure. It was on to Chiringo for lunch, then a scavenger hunt to find the Dogs of Grayton mural.

Dogs of Grayton Beach mural

Dogs of Grayton features resident dogs of Grayton Beach.

Nestled between the planned communities of neatly stacked condos and manicured medians is the small town of Grayton Beach. It’s so small, in fact, that every resident dog of the community can be found on the Dogs of Grayton mural located at Mystic Porte & The Shops of Grayton. We were pointed in the right direction by a gentleman named Billy. His dog, Tip, is on the mural and Billy explained that the dogs with halos had passed over to the Bridge. We counted 174 dogs total. I’m not sure how this began or who maintains it but you can rest assure that I’m going to make finding out a priority!

The narrow roads of Grayton are shaded by moss-draped Oaks and Southern Magnolias. Worn picket fences surround bungalow houses and as best I can tell the main road is Hotz Ave. It should be one-way but it’s not. Or maybe I just don’t know. No matter. No one seemed particularly distressed about which direction I was going. It might be the salt air or perhaps it was the music box tune of the ice cream truck playing in the distance, but everyone is just a little more relaxed here.

We drove down Hotz the first time at noon but the street was crowded, parking was nonexistent and Chiringo was packed. That’s when we decided to detour a bit. First we went to find the mural then I decided to drive 30A to Seaside to checkout the Seaside Square and the food truck situation. BIG mistake! Motor vehicle traffic was bumper to bumper and very slow moving. I saw an entire parking lot full of bicycles and there were people everywhere. Every food truck I could see had a line. I took 395 out of Seaside, back to 98, and looped back to the slower side of life.

Ahhh Chiringo! What more I could ask? I missed out on the lunch special but I’d also missed the crowd. What was left were a dozen or so patrons and a couple of dogs.

Balkie, the Golden Retriever

Balkie was visiting from St. Louis

Relaxing on the patio at Chiringo

Relaxing after our hike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dog-friendly bar in a quirky little beach town with Fleetwood Mac coming out of the speakers and a bourbon coke icee machine behind the bar is exactly my kind of place. I plopped myself down into a plastic Adirondack and pondered if I would ever leave. Stalling as best I could, I ordered the Lump Crab and Avocado Toast. Then I decided to have another Icee. I talked to some people and pet some dogs, andchanged chairs twice before running out of sun. Sigh. It was time to go.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just time to leave Grayton, it was time to return home. We’ll be making another trip to the area in the near and warmer future to check out some things we missed- like paddling the dune lakes- and return to a few of our favorites. In the meantime, follow our adventures on Instagram and like us on Facebook to stay up to date on where we’re going next.

Happy Tails, y’all!

SIDE NOTE: While visiting the Destin/ 30A area many people choose to rent bicycles for their exploring. Rentals can be anywhere from $20-$50 a day depending on the bike you choose. If you’d like to have a bike during your stay then please consider BUYING one from St. Andrew’s By the Sea Episcopal Church in Destin.

St. Andrew’s bicycle ministry gives donated bikes to individuals who have no other transportation but need to get to jobs or appointments. Volunteers keep donated bikes in good repair and ready to be provided to those who ask. In order to support this ministry, they also offer bikes for sale. They don’t advertise because it is not their intent to compete with local rental businesses. However, you can buy a bike from them for a ‘suggested donation’ of $35. You’ll have to pick it up yourself but for the same price as a one-day rental you can keep your bike as long as you want and/or donate it back to them at the end of your stay and feel good about yourself.

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Holiday Gift Guide For Dogs On The Go

Beach travel

May all your holiday travels be tails of fun!

Do you travel with your pooch? Need a great gift for someone who does? Then look no further! Our Holiday Gift Guide for Dogs on the Go will help Santa stuff the stockings of your favorite pets and pet people. Check out our picks (and don’t forget the treats)!

HomeAway Travel Organizer Kit from Solvit

If you follow this blog then you’ve already read about this bag. I got one in August just in time for a weekend test drive and I’ve used it ever since. Part purse, part doggie diaper bag, the HomeAway Travel Organizer Kit holds all my daily essentials with plenty of room for Henri’s things when he’ll be joining me. Whether day tripping or heading off for a week-long adventure, this bag is the perfect accessory for any pet parent on the go!

Molly Mutt Car Seat Covers & Beds

The first product I ever remember seeing from Molly Mutt was their stuff sack and duvet cover. The dog trainer in me thought this was genius since leaving an anxious pooch with something that smells like his people- towels, old clothes, sheets- can often alleviate stress and help with separation anxiety. With Molly Mutt, you can make your smelly human things into a fashionable bed for your favorite pooch, and now they’ve added car seat and cargo covers to the line of products you can get in fun fabrics. You can even add a monogram!

Car Safety Harness

The best gift you can give your dog this holiday season is safety on the road! That’s why we like the Deluxe Car Safety Harness, again, from Solvit. No they don’t pay us, but their slogan is “No pet left behind,” so we like that. We tried out their harness in October of 2015 and we’re still using it.

Kiehl’s Spray-N-Play Cleansing Spritz

From the makers of human skin care products comes one of my all-time favorite pet products. Kiehl’s Spray-n-Play Cleansing Spritz is great for dogs with no time for a bath and perfect when your pooch has had a little too much fun. Just spray, massage, then dry. No rinsing required and it smells fantastic! The $13 price tag makes it a bargin so you can afford to buy some for all your dog friends.

GoPro Fetch Dog Harness

This is one we don’t have, but we think it’s really, really cool! The GoPro Fetch Dog Harness is compatible with any GoPro camera for a dog’s eye view of the world. If you already have a GoPro and a dog then this harness will only set you back about forty bucks. Need the GoPro too? So do we! Those start at $150. Put it on the list. I’m sure we’ve all been nice.

Like our ideas? Then SHARE this list with Santa.

 

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Traveling With A Raw Fed Dog

Healthy food

Good food for a good dog!

My raw diet journey began sometime in the mid 90’s. I had a St. Bernard that was a few year’s old and suffering from chronic ear infections and regular bouts of vomiting foamy yellow grossness. Back then, in the stone age of dog food, there were only a few ‘premium’ brands and I’d tried them ALL. I can’t tell you who or what turned me on to raw, but it made a whole lot of sense to me. It also solved my dog’s health problems, including his bad breath and gas. Mac died in 2003 just one month shy of his tenth birthday, but the Great Diet Experiment left me a believer.

Fast forward to July 2006. That’s when I adopted Henri. We didn’t make the switch to raw immediately, but it wasn’t long before I decided that Henri would need to live forever, or at least as long as I could manage to keep him healthy, and the best way to do that was to make sure what went into his body was real food. A few portion adjustments- I didn’t have to buy meat in bulk from the butcher- and accomodations for Henri’s palate- he loves greens but hates fruit- and I was back in the groove.

Since I hadn’t killed my first dog, I had a lot more confidence with Henri! No more weighing and measuring, no strict adherance to the schedule, and rules? What rules?!

It wasn’t until we started traveling a lot that managing his diet got a little tricky. It was one thing to visit my Mom and Dad and commander a fridge drawer for Henri’s chicken wings, but it was quite another to be booking hotel stays. Fortunately, the homemade diet lends itself to flexibility and Henri had developed a stomach of steel.

You Need 3 Things

  • Cooler
  • Refrigerator
  • Grocery Store

Our friends at Igloo gave us a Sportsman cooler, most hotel rooms have a fridge, and since Henri eats real food, I can dart into any grocery store, which all towns have. Regardless of where we are, I never have to worry about finding his brand of kibble. We’ve ordered fruit and yogurt off hotel breakfast menus, plain chicken breast and/or a burger patty with a side of veggies from restaurant menus, and once I even ordered and shared a Surf & Turf. I took the surf; Henri got the turf.

The best news in all of this, at least for Henri, is the number of restaurants that now offer canine platters or specialty menus. In 2015, I highlighted 6 of those places, as it was somewhat of a novelty. Now, it’s practically a trend! Of course, a lot of folks wouldn’t dream of letting their dog eat human food, especially not when traveling, but for Henri it’s normal. It doesn’t upset his stomach and it gives us a great opportunity to highlight some truly dog-friendly places.

What Henri Eats

Home-cooked dog food

Henri Hash: Pork, kale, sweet potato, apple, grains, ACV, turmeric

The short answer is ‘everything.’

Henri gets fed twice a day and half of those meals are what those of us in the raw world call raw meaty bones (RMBs). For Henri, that consists of chicken wings and turkey necks. Yes, raw. Yes, bone and all. But we aren’t strictly raw, and because Henri is so skinny, I do feed him grains. So in addition to his bones, he gets canned salmon, lean red meat– usually raw unless we’re splitting a steak; then it’s medium rare. He gets veggies with both of those meals. Those are steamed and seasonal if I have time, canned if we’re on the road or I’m feeling lazy. Several times a week he gets what we call ‘Henri Hash.’ This is a big ol’ pot of stew that I make using cooked ground lamb, buffalo, deer, whatever, plus seasonal veggies, and grains. Throw in some yogurt, cottage cheese, and raw eggs several times a week and you have a nutritionally balanced diet.

*A note to other raw feeders: Please do not message me because there is no liver in his diet. I know he’s supposed to have it but it’s slimy and smelly and the thought of eating something that filters toxins from another organism’s body is just gross. I buy freeze-dried liver treats and that’s as good as it’s gonna get!

How To Pack a Kitchen

The short answer is ‘NOT everything.’

The easiest stuff to pack is Henri Hash and RMBs. The hash is stored in portion-sized containers and the RMBs go into Ziplocks. If you freeze the RMBs, they work like icepacks and save room in your cooler. IF I take his regular food, that’s usually all I pack. I can order yogurt, fruit/veggies, poached eggs and most anything else from hotel menus.

The truth is…if it’s only a few days, I just don’t sweat it. My dog is healthy, and sometimes I let him eat regular ol’ dog food.

Ok. It’s a premium brand. And grain free. And usually some variety of duck because that’s not a protein he gets regularly. And I wet it. And add stuff. And we get right back on track as soon as we get home. Everybody gets to slack on their diet while on vacation, right?!

Feeding raw may sound crazy to some (most), but it isn’t rocket science. It isn’t even all that time consuming once you get the hang of it, and frankly, I think it makes traveling a lot easier. “Here, Henri. Eat this!” Would I do it if I had a husband and three kids? Maybe not. There are a lot of commercial raw diets out there that didn’t exist in the 90s and some of them are really good. They’re also really expensive, and by expensive, I mean more than the $100/wk I average now- for BOTH of us.

Am I advocating switching to raw? No. It isn’t for everybody. In fact, it’s likely not for most. However, if traveling or boarding or worry about someone else feeding your dog this complicated mess and screwing it up is what’s stopping you, don’t let it. Adjustments are easy, even if you have to go back to kibble on occasion. Besides, Henri thinks kibble is the canine equivilent of cake!

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Endurance. Tolerance. Recovery. 3 Important Things to Consider When Traveling with a Senior Dog

Senior aged Sheltie, Terrier, Daschund and Boston Terrier

Showing their age L to R: Charlie, 12; Henri, 11; Dirk, 6; Sophie, 6

If Henri were a person, he’d have qualified for AARP a few years ago. In fact, he’s now approximately the same age as my Dad. With rapid aging comes rapid change, and though Henri has the blood work of a healthy, younger dog, the white on his face tells a different story. So, too, do his actions and reactions and the biggest changes are in his endurance, tolerance, and recovery.

Endurance

Endurance is probably the thing we, as humans, are most aware of in our aging dogs. A pooch who used to fetch for hours is content with a few throws; the lab who could swim all day is tired after 20 minutes; and the dog who used to be your morning running buddy would settle for a nice evening stroll.

This means planning adventure and travel days with downtime.

After an activity, downtime used to be lounging on a shaded patio with a cool bowl of water while listening to music or chatting with strangers. These days, it’s going back to our room for an afternoon nap. It seems to me that Henri appreciates the quiet and he’ll often bolt into our room and run straight to his bed. Sometimes I take a nap too but, if I can leave him unattended in the room, it’s a great time to check out things that aren’t necessarily dog-friendly.

Tolerance

If your pup is as mellow as Henri, you may not think of tolerance as a factor because most things just don’t seem to bother him. However, the more I ask Henri to tolerate- noise, city traffic, people, interactions– the less amount of time I can expect him to do it. In addition, if something goes wrong, he doesn’t get over it as quickly or easily as he did when he was younger. It might require that we remove ourselves from the situation or hurry up with that downtime.

Tolerance and endurance are indirectly proportional.

An unfortunate example of this occurred during our trip to Port Aransas while attending a turtle release. In all the excitement, a little girl startled Henri by dropping her plastic sand shovel on him. Then I left him with my buddy, who Henri has known since the day I got him, and waded into the ocean to snap pictures. I really thought he’d be ok for a few minutes but when I returned, he was trembling.

Henri was done. He wanted off that beach and away from the crowd. We retreated to the car and I gave him some Rescue Remedy. Old dogs want their Mamas, familiar surroundings, and a low level of BS.

Recovery

Using the same example from above, it took Henri at least ten minutes hiding in the floorboard of the car and us getting off the beach before he began to relax again. A short walk elsewhere and some chill time in a quiet spot helped, but it doesn’t always.

Henri can’t just ‘get over it’ like he did when he was younger.

Henri also requires a lot more physical rest after our adventures. If we spend all day on the water, he will sleep on/off most of the next day and may not even pester me for a walk. When we return home from a road trip, it might be two days before he’s fully back to normal.

Changes and Choices

There are things you can do to increase endurance and tolerance, and speed up recovery. Here are my personal tips for making your senior dog comfy on the road:

  • Take your dog’s stuff. Things that smell like home can help your dog relax in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Limit car time and make periodic stops. Seniors may get stiff and need a stretch.
  • Older dogs are more sensitive to heat (and cold). Make sure rear air vents are on in the car and/or invest in window shades. Gel cooling mats for outdoor lounging, and cooling bandanas, whether for hiking or city walking, are invaluable.
  • Carry your own bowl and offer water frequently to prevent dehydration.
  • Schedule breaks from stimulation/activity.
  • For dogs with hearing loss, take the time to teach a few hand signals, and for those with vision loss, try an LED collar* when the sun starts to set.
  • Book hotels that allow your pet to be left alone in the room, have elevators instead of stairs, and/or first floor accommodations.

*A note about the LED collar

I bought the collar last year for a camping/floating trip because I thought it might come in handy at night. I’ve used it everywhere from the river to the beach, and it’s great for keeping tabs on your dog in the dark. However, it also directly benefits Henri.

Soon after purchase, I began using the collar on our evening walks so any neighborhood traffic would see Henri. This summer I noticed he seemed to walk and move with more confidence when he was wearing it vs. when he wasn’t. His eyes are just beginning to show the cloudiness of age and I am of the opinion that the collar casts enough light on the ground in front of him to counter that.

Do you have tips and tricks for living and traveling with a senior dog?

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