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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Unethical or Responsible Pet Care?
Playing service dog to travel first class.

The legitimacy and training of service dogs has come up a lot recently, and many of the cases do not have clear solutions. But what about when someone is consciously taking advantage of the privileges granted to service dogs?

With the USDAA Cynosport World Games coming up in Scottsdale, Ariz., I’ve been talking to many of the local competitors about how they’re traveling with their dogs. Some are caravanning in their RVs and others are reluctantly putting their pups in cargo. 

One of the more seasoned competitors mentioned that while she dutifully puts her dogs in cargo, she always sees fellow competitors passing their pups off as service dogs on the plane.

I understand the appeal of having your dog fly with you, safe and sound. It’s certainly a tempting option, and probably in your pet's best interest, but it seems to me like an abuse of the system.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with service dogs, which the federal government defines as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They don’t need to be licensed or certified by the government, nor are they required to show any identification to prove a medical condition or the dog’s capabilities (although many companies sell authentic looking certificates for a hefty fee).

The flexibility designed to help the disabled also allows the law to be easily abused. These well-meaning people have their pup's best interest in mind, but are also unknowingly undermining legitimate service dogs.

What’s your take?  Is playing service dog unethical or responsible pet care?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Is It Okay To Drink And Bark?
Many wineries welcome dogs

Hotels have become more dog friendly, and so have many businesses. Years ago it was rare to walk into a store to be greeted by a dog, but now it’s unremarkable. More and more people are bringing their dogs to work, and they are more common visitors at hospitals, schools, and rehab centers.

Still, it represents a big advance that so many wineries have resident dogs or welcome visitors with their own dogs in tow. In the October 2009 issue of Diablo Magazine, wineries in Northern California that welcome dogs are highlighted. How much nicer is it to take your dog with you for a relaxing weekend in the wine country than to go alone. When you can bring your dog and drink wine, you have found a place where life is good!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dining with the Whole Family
Searching for dog friendly restaurants is becoming easier for pet lovers.

I’ve always envied Parisian restaurants where you can dine with your furry companions, a practice banned stateside by our health codes. Eating with my pups is one of my favorite warm weather activities, although I’ve braved the cold many times to enjoy a meal with the whole family!

I’m always on the lookout for good restaurants with decks or sidewalk spaces, although not even all places with outdoor seating allow pets. Once I was even asked to tie my pups to a tree across the sidewalk. Needless to say, I didn’t eat there!

Online reservation website, Open Table, recently published a list of the best pet-friendly restaurants, compiled from user reviews. They included several in New York City, but left out two of my favorites -- Fred’s, named after a Labrador and whose customers’ dog photos adorn every free space on the walls, and Fetch, host of weekend adoption events and whose walls feature homeless canines.

I’ve also been able to find restaurants by searching “pet friendly” on Yelp’s message boards and by looking through Citysearch’s reviews. DogFriendly.com and PetFriendlyTravel.com also maintain databases of eateries that welcome pups.

Do you have favorite restaurants that welcome your four legged crew?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Seaside Fun and Foliage
Labor Day ushers in dog friendly beaches across the Northeast.

I spent last weekend vacationing in the seaside communities of Southern Maine. While the towns I visited were dog friendly, the beaches were not. As I was walking around, I noticed that many of Maine’s sandy shores welcome canines after Labor Day--just days after my trip. 

This trend can be seen down the Northeast coast from Cape Cod to the Jersey Shore. September can still be quite warm, and the passing of Labor Day brings cheaper hotel rates and thinning crowds. What’s better than an affordable vacation with the pups by your side?

Once October comes, even more beaches welcome dogs. The cooler weather adds New England’s changing foliage to the already beautiful seascape. The first of the month opens up the shores of Delaware’s Bethany Beach, Maryland’s Ocean City, Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard, and New Jersey’s Cape May, just to name a few.

The Northeast isn’t the only place where restrictions ease after the summer rush. Even San Diego’s Del Mar North “Dog Beach” expands after Labor Day, allowing pups access to the Main Beach in addition to other year round areas.

Come next summer, I might just plan my vacation for the cooler months.

For a comprehensive list of dog friendly beaches, visit PetFriendlyTravel.com’s web page.

Be sure to check out DogFriendly.com’s beach etiquette page before your trip to ensure we continue to have beaches to take our furry friends.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Top Cities for Dogs
MSNBC publishes their list of pet-friendly destinations.

I’m always on the hunt for dog-friendly destinations. This week MSNBC published their Top 10 Pet Friendly Cities of 2009, giving me many new trip ideas. I was excited to see that my own hometown of New York made the list, mandating a staycation perhaps! New York was joined by San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, Alexandria, Portland, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and Boston.

These cities were picked based on the variety of pet-friendly lodging, restaurants, tourist amenities and pet events. MSNBC’s list represents a variety of canine friendly activities, from San Diego’s three off-leash beaches to Alexandria’s Yappy Hours at Hotel Monaco.

I’m already scheming to take trips to kayak with my dogs in San Diego, enjoy the beachside view of the Golden Gate Bridge together in San Francisco, party with my pooches at SkyBark in Los Angeles and take the pet friendly ferry ride from Boston to Cape Cod.  

The author, Sandy Robins, is dead on when describing New York and our surprising number of dog parks among the sea of skyscrapers and high rise apartments. The Shake Shack stand she mentions is indeed delicious and the menu even features the Pooch-Ini, a doggie custard sundae. Madison Square Park is also the location of past American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Owners Day events.

What are your favorite pet friendly cities?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Airways Takes Flight
The pet-only airline began service this week.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my pet travel frustrations along with anticipation over the launch of Pet Airways, a canine and feline exclusive airline. This week, their first flight took off from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y. The company has certainly struck a chord with pet lovers as their flights are already booked for the next two months.

Pet Airways, however, doesn’t come without its limitations. I’ve found that in order to use the airline, your timeline needs to be flexible. The company will operate out of regional airports near the five launch cities, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles.

This means an extra trip to drop off and pick up pets. In addition, you may arrive at your destination well before your dog or cat. Cross-country trips take about 24 hours, which includes an overnight stop in Chicago for bathroom breaks, dinners, and playtime. And, for now, flights leave on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

One-way fees range from $149 to $399. The lower end is comparable to airline cargo fees which go up to $250 each way. The service, however, is unparalleled. Dogs and cats will fly in the main cabin refitted with about 50 crates. Pets will be escorted to the plane by attendants that will check on the animals every 15 minutes in flight. The pets are also given pre-boarding walks and bathroom breaks.

The limited flight schedule and out-of-the-way airports have made it difficult for me to take advantage of the airline so far. And I’m not crazy about having to take separate flights. Sending my dog on a 24-hour trip without me seems stressful (for me and the pup!), even if there will be pet loving attendants. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the alternative to cargo and I’m hoping that the demand for Pet Airways will encourage other airlines to expand their pet offerings. 

News: Guest Posts
Stephen King, Most Famous Victim
Horror stories come true when people don’t secure dogs in cars.

Last week in Verona, Wis., a Boy Scout troop leader and one young Scout were killed when a motorhome crossed the median and hit their SUV. The 62-year-old motorhome driver was distracted when his dog jumped into his lap.

Ten years ago, Stephen King was hit and severely injured by a minivan because driver Bryan E. Smith was distracted by his loose Rottweiler. Smith was charged with aggravated assault and driving to endanger. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was only sentenced to six months probation.

If these two scary incidents don’t inspire you to buckle up your pup, what about your dog’s safety? I belong to several dog-related and agility email lists and every year, there are horrific stories about people getting into accidents either on their way to or from a show or other dog activity. If the dogs are not secured, they are thrown out of the vehicle. If they survive the impact, they are traumatized and very difficult to catch. In some cases, the dog guards his owner, impeding help from passersby, police and medical personnel.

My minivan is outfitted with two large wire crates permanently placed in the back and a bench seat where I can harness my other dogs to seat belts. Do you secure your dog in your car? If yes, how? If not, why not?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Putting Unused Airline Miles to Good Use
Donate frequent flyer miles to Guide Dogs of America.

I’m by no means a frequent flyer. As I mentioned previously, in a post about Pet Airways, I avoid traveling by plane since my dog would have to fly in cargo. Needless to say, I never rack up enough miles to qualify for a free flight.

Rather than let my miles expire, I recently discovered a way to put these points to good use. Northwest and United Airlines let you donate unused miles to the Guide Dogs of America. The contributions are used to transport dogs, trainers, and recipients to GDA’s training headquarters in Sylmar, Calif. Other airlines have programs that allow you to donate miles to charity, but Northwest and United Airlines are the only two I've found that benefit a dog-related organization. 

In a time when non-profit groups are facing decreased donations, this is a great way to help out a worthy cause without dipping into your bank account.  Visit the Guide Dogs of America web site for more information on how to donate your miles.

News: Guest Posts
Wanted: Tips on Local Fun

UPDATE, 7/01: Our July/August issue is now on the newsstands, but there's plenty of summer left and we're still interested in hearing from you about your fave places for dog-friendly fun. Please add yours here. For those who so kindly sent in their tips in May, our most sincere thanks—alas, space was so tight that we weren't able to include them after all. But never fear: With this post, they're available to Barkers everywhere!

 

Summer’s on its way, and so is our summer travel feature. We’d like your help tracking down places around the country that offer big fun for dogs and their people, places you’d suggest to visiting friends and their dogs for a day trip, or perhaps a weekend outing. From a terrific dog park that’s especially welcoming to visitors or a local dog-friendly celebration to a mountain retreat and anything in between—if you and your dog think it’s a good place to have fun or just get away from it all, we want to hear about it.

 

What are you waiting for? Hit “Post a comment” and share your insider information!

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog-friendly Hotels?
Double-check the fine pawprint.

As the owner of two 60-pound-plus pups, I am all too familiar with the bait-and-switch described in yesterday’s New York Times: Hotels draw in dual-species families with “dog-friendly” policies and then turn away canines weighing more than a big bag of kibble. Cutoffs start as low as 15 pounds.

I really don’t understand why a hotel would exclude large dogs. The author of AAA’s Traveling With Your Pet told The Times reporter that weight limits are sometimes driven by concerns over cleaning up more fur. What about large dogs, such as big, shaggy Bouviers des Flandres and Komondors, who shed very little? The other concern appears to be big dogs having bigger accidents. Of course, most dogs won't have accidents at all. I don't think weight-limits make sense but they are probably here to stay for some unenlightened properties. That means, travel planners out there shouldn't just rely on the Internet to make reservations; follow up by phone to ask about weight limits. And don't give up hope, if you've got a largish co-pilot sometimes you can negotiate size-exceptions with a smart, dog-loving manager.

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