Roll through Florida’s northwest panhandle and you’ll find yourself in a world presumed long-lost. On one side, the Gulf of Mexico shimmers like molten silver beyond stretches of wetland prairie; on the other, slash pines stand in perfect formation. Clouds billow above white sand beaches, where long walks and calm, clean water refresh both human and canine spirits. This piece of Old Florida is often bypassed by travelers seeking big-name beaches, but the locals love to share lore and haunts, and are always ready to bond over dogs.
Downtown Apalachicola. This quaint-meets-quirky coastal town is a place where people savor each sunrise and sunset and live life slow enough to keep streets traffic-light free. There’s the Gibson Inn, a historic Victorian dating to 1907, which welcomes furry boarders in guestrooms and on its wraparound porch. Share a budget gourmet al fresco meal with your furry companion at Magnolia Grill, where Chef Eddie wows diners of various species (including pups on special diets). Blue, a funky home decor store, showcases wonderfully witty canine sculptures in clay by Leslie Wallace, and at Petunia Boutique, you’ll find pet goodies whimsical and practical. Seasonal events include animal-centric fun; in August, don’t miss the Dixie Theatre’s “Dog Days of Summer,” a doggie talent and fashion show.
Island Hop. There are plenty of dog-friendly trails and public beaches around St. George Island, Carrabelle—an old-fashioned little beach town with flip-flop-based dress codes—and secluded Dog Island. Regional wallet-friendly, pet-friendly camping choices include St. George Island State Park, which offers 60 full-feature campsites in a breathtaking setting. Many Forgotten Coast beach houses welcome canines, too, and are far more affordable than rentals in higher-profile vacation spots. Explore the islands in a kayak or on a boat tour offered by Journeys of St. George Island, which welcomes dogs.
Take a Hike. More than 87 percent of Franklin County is government-protected land, Within 202,000-acre Tate’s Hell State Forest, dazzling birds refuel up amid 150-year-old dwarf cypress trees, lily pads, scrub mint and carnivorous pitcher plants. Hike with your leashed buddy in the forest’s High Bluff Coastal Trail off US 98. Nature Note: The Apalachicola River/Bay basin, designated as one of America’s top six biodiversity hotspots, supports more than 1,300 plant species and 50 mammal species, and is among the world’s top bird habitats.
For your dog’s security—and your peace of mind—you need a fence that’s tall enough and tough enough to do the job for which it’s intended. Here are tips for fences with staying power.
1. Block the view: Does Daisy thrill to the sight of passing people or animals? Might impetuous neighbors stick hands through gaps for a pat? Two words: privacy fence! Is your current fence made from chain link? Block sightlines by weaving plastic or fabric strips through the holes.
2. Thwart diggers: Sink bricks, pavers or large stones along the fence line; fill a several-inch-deep trench with concrete; or stake chicken wire along the bottom, rolling sharp edges away from the yard. Repel fence-side loiterers by laying chain link on the ground and anchoring it to the fence bottom.
3. Make sure it’s climb-proof: Secure welded wire or heavy fabric “leaners” angled sharply inward. Get fence-height extension kits. Apply plastic lining to keep high-jumpers from getting a foothold. Wrap slippery plastic piping or tubes cut lengthwise along the top edge. Plant shrubs or bamboo inside the perimeter to deter escape artists.
4. Material concerns: Wood offers easy installation and a sight barrier; erect fence sections with the “inside” facing outward to thwart canine breakouts. Check pickets regularly, as they can work loose. Cedar costs more than conventional stockade but is usually more attractive and durable. Vinyl’s higher up-front cost is offset by greater durability and low maintenance. Or consider polypropylene, sometimes called deer fencing; made from a high-strength, UV-light-resistant plastic, it can be secured to posts or trees using super-durable ties, then staked at the bottom to the ground. The black material, which comes on rolls, blends pleasingly into the environment. Chew guards can also be attached to the bottom.
5. On a budget? Instead of skimping on materials, fence an area 10 feet wide and long enough for room to exercise adjacent to an exterior door.
6. Latch watch: Make sure gates are secure. And be warned: Some dogs learn to open latches.
7. Block those passes: A determined canine can squeeze through seemingly impossible openings, so patch all gaps, vertical and horizontal.
8. Good fences do not make good dog-sitters. To avoid nuisance barking, taunts and worse, don’t leave your dogs alone in the yard for extended periods of time.
And finally, here’s the word on electric fences: Avoid them. Among the many reasons to do so: Dogs will cross them if the temptation is great enough, but will not risk a shock to come back in. When the power fails, so does the fence. And unwanted visitors can enter your yard undeterred.