Dog's Life: Travel
Visiting the world’s oldest dog cemetery
The French do cemeteries like no other nation. A tourist’s must-see list may include any number of Parisian cemeteries, with the most popular being the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, where sightseers pay homage to the likes of Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, and the Cimetière du Montparnasse, home to many Left Bank personalities such as Charles Baudelaire, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, among others. But off the beaten track is another gem, a burial ground that pays tribute to equally well-known stars such as Rin Tin Tin and Barry, the life-saving Saint Bernard.
The Cimetière des Chiens, established in 1899, is the oldest pet cemetery in the world and has an incredible history. Yet it is rarely visited these days. Set on the banks of the Seine, in the northwest Parisian suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine, the cemetery is slightly off the usual tourist route, but it’s well worth the short métro trip and brief walk to get there.
I was the only visitor on my morning trip there in February, and my experience was something I’ll not forget. It was very moving—simultaneously depressing and uplifting—to see how the pets were loved and missed, sometimes even decades after their deaths. The stories behind each epitaph could fill a book. Some have long been celebrated; for example, Barry the Saint Bernard has a large monument at the cemetery entrance. Barry belonged to the monks of the Alpine Hospice of the Great Saint Bernard, on the Swiss / Italian border, and, the monument says, after having saved the lives of 40 people, he was killed by the 41st.
Rin Tin Tin is another famous name. The German Shepherd television hero made 26 pictures for Warner Brothers before his death in 1932. A five-day-old Rin Tin Tin, his mother and some littermates had been rescued from a bombed kennel housing war dogs in France. Taken to America by Corporal Lee Duncan and other members of his battalion after World War I, the dog quickly found fame, and is said to have received 10,000 fan letters a week. After his death, Duncan arranged for Rin Tin Tin to be returned to the country of his birth. Even today, flowers and other gifts are left on his simple tombstone.
The composer of Carnival of the Animals, Camille Saint-Saëns, chose to lay his pets to rest here, as did novelist and dramatist Georges Courteline; actor, director and writer Sacha Guitry; and numerous princes and dukes. But for me, the real attraction of the cemetery is its celebration of ordinary pets—those upon whom the spotlight never shone, who never rubbed shins with famous people but who meant the world to their families. Dogs like Emma, “the Faithful companion and only friend in my life,” or Loulou, who, in 1895 at the age of only nine months, saved the family’s child from drowning, injuring herself in the process.
Other tearjerkers include Mémère, born in 1914, who was the mascot of the infantry for 15 years during World War I. The sculpture that adorns his grave poignantly stretches out a paw to a helmeted soldier. Or Frou Frou, who died of a broken heart after the death of her mistress in 1908.
Some sites are marked with a simple plaque and name, others with a photo, and many with incredibly decorative tombs and tributes. Besides flowers, I saw bowls of tennis balls, squeaky bones, leashes, soft toys—each one special to the dog lying beneath.
Strays are also interred here. In fact, there’s a monument to the 40,000th animal buried within the graveyard’s walls: a stray dog run over by a car near the cemetery gates in 1958. Many living strays can be seen hunting around the tombs and then resting on them, sunbathing or grooming.
Dogs are not the only pets commemorated at the cemetery; cats are also buried here. The graves of horses, pet rabbits, a monkey—whose tribute reads “Sleep, my dearest. You were the joy of my life”—not to mention birds, hamsters and even fish can be found as well.
The history of the cemetery is as interesting as the stories of the pets it contains. Before it came into existence, dead animals were usually thrown into the Seine, dumped around the city or discarded with rubbish. The health implications for a crowded city were immense, and a law came into force in 1891 requiring that corpses of domestic animals be interred at least 100 meters (328 feet) from habitation and that they be covered with soil at least one meter (3.28 feet) deep. And so the Anonymous French Society of the Cemetery for Dogs and Other Domestic Animals was founded on May 2, 1899, by attorney Georges Harmois and journalist and feminist Marguerite Durand. The cemetery, the first of its kind in the world, was officially opened that summer.
Marguerite Durand was an incredible character, an actress and rebel with multiple causes. She played many roles at the Comédie-Française, and then turned to journalism—a career move that was to change her life. After being sent by Le Figaro on an undercover assignment at an international feminist conference, she became a staunch advocate of women’s rights, publishing a daily feminist newspaper, La Fronde, in 1897. A leading suffragette, she organized several trade unions for female workers, lobbied for women to be involved in law and politics, and dedicated her life to promoting women’s rights. Her other passion was animals, and she was often seen strolling around Paris parks with her pet lion, Tigre, whom she had raised as a cub in her garden. (Tigre is also buried at the cemetery that Durand was responsible for creating, but, try as I might, I couldn’t find her. It’s a good excuse for another visit next time I’m in Paris!)
The grand entrance to the cemetery, designed by renowned Parisian architect Eugène Petit, features a portal in Art Nouveau style, flanked by two entrances for pedestrians. After its creation, the cemetery became increasingly successful, but later developed chronic difficulties. It closed briefly in 1987 and endured various changes of ownership and rescue plans; since 1997, it has been managed by the Asnières town council, and its future seems secure.
In a country renowned for its adoration of le chien, it’s not surprising that people have created such a picturesque place in which to celebrate their dogs’ lives. As one inscription notes, “Lover of the sea, may the Seine cradle your final repose.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Safety first in the great outdoors.
Camping and hiking with your dog are two of life’s great pleasures, provided your pooch is well suited to the particular excursion and you’ve sufficiently prepared for the trip. The most important factor to consider is whether you truly believe your dog will enjoy herself. Is she well socialized and confident in new situations? Is she controllable around other people and pets? Does she bark at or chase birds, squirrels or other wild animals? Will the weather be too hot or too cold to ensure her comfort and safety? Naturally, you can’t predict the exact conditions of your adventure, but considering such matters might lead you to rethink or adjust your plans so everyone has a good time. Once you’ve decided it’s a go, here are some before-, duringand after-trip tips to make the experience more enjoyable.
Check the dog policies at the campground and/or hiking trails you plan on using to determine whether there are any rules you’re unwilling or unable to comply with. Learn about area hazards such as poisonous snakes, porcupines, disease-carrying ticks or waterborne parasites like giardia (the local ranger station is usually a good resource). Prepare in advance for potential mishaps by taking needle-nose pliers to remove porcupine quills, antihistamine for insect stings, or a sheet or nylon poncho to use as a two-person stretcher to carry an injured dog, and pack them in your dog’s first aid kit. Locate the nearest animal hospital at your destination in case of emergency.
Confirm that your dog is current on her rabies vaccine. If she’s due for other booster shots, consider having a titer done first to see if they’re really necessary. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on flea, tick and heartworm prevention if needed, and that her ID tags and microchip information are current as well.
Trim your dog’s nails to prevent them from tearing on rugged trails. Depending on the climate, you may want to bring along other outdoor dog gear, such as a jacket for cold weather or a cooling vest for hot weather. If you have a light- or pink-skinned dog, pet-safe sunscreen is also a wise purchase.
Take water from home or have bottled water on hand. Do not let your dog drink from streams or lakes, which can cause intestinal upset and the potential for ingesting bacteria or parasites like giardia. Other items to take include food and treats, toys, a collapsible dish, waste bags, a towel, any medications, a brush, first-aid kit, and an extra-long leash in case you need to tether her at your campsite. Decide where your dog will be sleeping and pack accordingly— a bed, soft crate, blankets or the like.
If you’re staying in a rented cabin, look around for rodent bait and traps, a common discovery in vacation rentals that sit unused much of the year. Check the closets, kitchen and hidden corners and remove anything that can harm your dog. If you’re camping in the great outdoors, make sure there’s adequate shade and shelter at your site.
On the trail, beware of heatstroke if it’s warm and humid. Provide frequent opportunities for her to drink water and rest, especially if she seems tired. Some dogs, in their desire to please, will overexert themselves to keep up with you, so it’s up to you to make sure she’s not overdoing it.
After your excursion, give your pooch a once-over, checking her ears, face, body and feet for any foxtails, burrs or ticks she may have picked up along the way. Check her paw pads for cuts, burns or stickers. Give her a quick brushing to remove the day’s dust and pollen. Then give her a well-deserved dinner, a belly rub and a good night’s rest. A bedtime story is optional!
Adapted from The Safe Dog Handbook, © 2009 by Melanie Monteiro; published by Quarry Books.Used with permission.
Dog's Life: Travel
Antlers, Vail, Colo. Known for its stunning scenery and miles of dog-friendly trails, the Rocky Mountains around Vail, Colo., come alive in fall with glorious views of golden aspen trees. Book a stay at the Antlers at Vail hotel, a dogwelcoming and noted “Green Business,” which is offering reduced-rate stays in condominium suites complete with kitchens, fireplaces and spacious amenities.
Recommended dog treks include ones to Wheeler and Pitkins Lakes. Area festivals include an Oktoberfest and Vail’s Restaurant Month (Sept. 20 – Oct. 17).
The Inn at Restful Paws, Sturbridge, Mass. This charming, doginviting inn, only 60 miles away from Boston, is situated on over 31 acres with amenities that include groomed walking trails and dog play areas located throughout the property. Dog guests might also enjoy doing laps at Rosie B’s bone-shaped indoor swimming spa.
Recommended treks include nearby Brimfield State Forest and Wells State Park for hiking and woodland adventures. Festivals include a Harvest Festival at Charlton Orchards Farm & Winery, founded in 1733.
Dog's Life: Travel
Hounds in the high country
“I didn’t know dogs were allowed on this trail,” the woman said, watching as my two dogs leaped from the car. I had just pulled into the parking area at Whitney Portal, 13 miles west of Lone Pine, Calif., and we were getting ready to hike the Mt. Whitney Trail. Known to the Owens Valley Paiute as Too-man-go-yah, or “very old man,” Mt. Whitney—at 14,496 feet, the highest peak in the contiguous United States—is one of the most frequently climbed in the Sierra Nevada.
“Yes, dogs are allowed all the way to Trail Crest,” I replied. It’s true that dogs are not allowed on Mt. Whitney Summit or on the final 2.8 miles of trail. However, this leaves 8.2 miles of trail, three pristine alpine lakes, two trailhead campgrounds, and endless views of craggy Mt. Whitney and its surrounding peaks for you and your dogs to enjoy.
Begin your adventure at the wooden Mt. Whitney trail sign, located a short distance from the parking area. The trail, which is mostly dry gravel and rock surfaced, with several easy stream crossings, is well-graded and maintained. It rises up in long, gentle switchbacks before reaching Lone Pine Lake, 2.5 miles up the trail.
Beware of elevation gains, as the trail starts at 8,360 feet and reaches 13,600 feet at Trail Crest (the end of the line for dogs). When my dogs and I reached Lone Pine Lake, we had climbed over 1,500 feet, and I was already panting. However, watching them swim in the ice-blue water refreshed me, and with a bit of encouragement from them, we pressed on.
From Lone Pine Lake, the trail continues in a series of switchbacks over a small saddle, and then drops down into Outpost Camp, where there is a large meadow and several streams. To the south, a small waterfall cascades down a sheer granite wall. Straight ahead are stunning Whitney views.
From Outpost Camp, it is a 0.3-mile climb up short, steep switchbacks to Mirror Lake. We rested here and ate our lunch. The dogs enjoyed an extended swim, and my younger dog made an effort at trout fishing, snapping at the water as the minnows swirled around her feet.
The trail continues 4.2 more miles to Trail Crest, but we were satisfied with what would be our 8-mile round-trip trek to Mirror Lake, and headed back down-slope. We arrived at our car dog-tired, but replete.
Dog's Life: Travel
In Illinois & Indiana
Midwestern folks are often friendly (even in the big cities!) and love to talk about dogs. Don’t hesitate to ask people where they like to take their pups. With their help, you’ll discover new places to visit and make new friends on the way.
In Chicago. Start your day with a walk through Grant Park, located downtown and nicknamed Chicago’s “Front Lawn” for its lovely lakeside view. If it’s hot and humid, circle around famous Buckingham Fountain and enjoy its cool, refreshing mist.
For off-leash fun, head to Grant Park’s Bark Park. The 18,000-square-foot area is fully fenced and runs alongside Lake Michigan for more fantastic views; you must purchase a $5 permit and show proof of vaccinations in order to use this public dog park.
After all that running around, you’ll both want to cool off. Follow the Lakefront Trail, which offers 18 miles of paved pathways along the lake, to the Montrose Harbor Dog Beach. There your dog can frolic on the sand or splash in the fresh water off leash while you dip your feet. (This area also requires a $5 permit and proof of vaccinations in advance.)
Next up, take your dog through the Riverwalk Gateway, a walking history museum and public art gallery. A lighted tunnel features narration on Chicago’s history and scenic panels of the city and Chicago River. If you need a snack, grab a seat at nearby Crane’s, a French bistro where dogs may sit at outdoor tables and have a much-need drink of water.
Want to explore the city even farther, but too tired to walk? Both Antique Coach & Carriage Company and Step in Time Carriages offer a variety of dog-friendly tours, including Lincoln Park, the Loop and the “Miracle Mile.”
If you’re visiting on a rainy day, take your pup to Chicago’s Of Mutts and Men, an indoor, off-leash dog park that boasts room to run and socialize, plus pool tables, chess boards, TV and free coffee for the people. Day pass is $3/dog.
In Batavia, Ill. Prefer some room to roam? Head to the 6,800-acre campus of particle physics laboratory FermiLab, located 45 miles from Chicago in the western suburb of Batavia, Ill. Your dog can romp across 35 unfenced acres of restored prairie, then cool off in the ponds. Shade trees and restrooms are available if you plan to stay awhile.
In Porter, Ind. For the pup who loves car rides, take a short day trip around the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Leashed dogs are welcome to explore the sandy dunes and nature center and hike the trails. The campground even offers a special dog-walk area.
Dog's Life: Travel
Florida’s hidden gem
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.
Dog's Life: Travel
Washington & Oregon adventures
Every dog has his day, and in the Pacific Northwest, he also has nights and weekends. For endless and economical summer (and all season) fun, here are four favorites.
Beach-Town Fun. Manzanita (northern Oregon coast)—all beach resort and no pretense, this seaside escape is so dog-friendly we call it “Muttzanita.” Dig for treasure on a seven-mile strip of windy sand, hike Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain and stop in for treats at Four Paws on the Beach boutique. Hang out at a half-dozen outdoor eateries for chowder, pizza, Southwest-Mex and coffee. Another not-to-be-missed beach town—Bandon-by-the-Sea in southern Oregon, on Oregon’s sunny “Gold Coast.”
An Island Getaway. Orcas Island (San Juans, Wash.)—the hilliest of the San Juans, Orcas offers unsurpassed mountain action. You can get happily lost for days in 5,000-acre Moran State Park, climbing to the 2,049-foot peak of Mount Constitution for some of the state’s best views. Stunning Turtleback Mountain Preserve has the newest trails, dedicated in July 2007. There’s an off-leash park in the village of Eastsound, also the best place to grab outdoor eats. Camp at Moran to keep it cheap, or splurge and stay at Pebble Cove Farm or Blue Heron B&B.
For a Warm Welcome. Old Fairhaven (Bellingham, Wash.)—the four square blocks of the Fairhaven Historic District take the cake (or the dog biscuit) for their welcoming ways. Go from Village Books through Paper Dreams to clothing boutiques LuLu2 and Four Starrs, and on to Pacific Chef, all with dog in tow. The boardwalk at Taylor Avenue and 10th takes in the scenic stroll along Bellingham Bay. From the custom doggie water fountain in the Village Green, you can access 80-plus miles of hiking in the Chuckanut Mountains nearby. Exercise is free, and leash-free, at Lake Padden Dog Park and Post Point Lagoon. Port Townsend (Olympic Peninsula, Wash.), a Victorian seaport town, also fills this bill.
Vintage Pleasures. Canine and Wine (Lake Chelan, Wash.)—there are no less than seven pet-friendly wineries dotting the hillsides of this summer playground. The patios at Balsamroot, Lake Chelan Winery, Tildio and Tunnel Hill welcome dogs. Tasting fees are minimal, and many have picnic food. The lawn at Vin du Lac and the tasting room at Nefarious Cellars are “must-sit” spots.” For a stroll, take to the Riverwalk, a one-mile path along the Chelan River through sleepy downtown. For serious miles, stay at Uncle Tim’s Cabins and walk out your door onto the 30-mile Echo Ridge Trail System.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Powder, hard pack, drift, blizzard—whatever you call it, snow’s a fact of winter life in many parts of the country. It covers our favorite paths and can turn casual outings into endurance sports. What’s a pup and her person to do when it’s colder than a three-dog night?
Well, as it turns out, plenty. If you can walk, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski, and if you’re even moderately skilled on those skis, you can skijor, too. The best part is, your dog can join you, and she doesn’t have to be a Husky to enjoy the experience. Aerobic, calorie-burning and low-impact, all three activities are pretty simple to learn. Except for skijoring—canine-assisted cross-country skiing—the pace is slow, and dogs are often happy to let you break a trail for them, especially if the snow is fresh and deep.
If you’re just starting, rental equipment is the way to go. That allows you to try a variety of brands and types to find out what suits you best before investing in your own. Your dog’s needs are even simpler: unless she’s a Malamute or another double-coated breed, she’ll need a jacket to keep her warm, and something to protect her feet—booties or a paw wax made for dogs—is a good idea. Skijoring requires a padded belt for you, an x-back harness for the pup and a towline to connect the two of you.
So, how much fun can you have with your dog in the snow? Enough to warm you both up nicely. Watch these action videos for some cool fun.
Dog's Life: Travel
Massachusetts & Connecticut
Dog lovers and their canine companions hit the mother lode in New England, where there’s something for everyone: exhilarating hikes for outdoor adventurers, bistros and boutique hotels for urban sophisticates, and a breathtaking seacoast for those who just want to stroll on a quiet beach with their four-legged friends.
For the Urban Dog. In Boston, cosmopolitan dog lovers don’t have to leave their co-pilots at home. In the city’s gentrified South End, check out the dog run in Peters Park, or head downtown to stroll along the Charles River or explore the über touristy Faneuil Hall Marketplace (leashed dogs are allowed on Boston’s transit system, a.k.a. the T, during off-peak hours). Bunk for the night at Nine Zero Hotel, where canine guests get their own beds, bowls and treats (think chicken-broth lollipops). Across the street is the historic Boston Common, one of New England’s crown jewels and the country’s oldest public park. Head to the designated area near Charles Street, where urban hounds can romp off-leash in the early morning and evening.
For the Seafaring Dog. The happy pooches riding the ferries steaming out to Martha’s Vineyard are the first clue that this island off Cape Cod, Mass., loves canine visitors. There’s the dog-friendly farmers’ market in the rural up-island village of West Tisbury. Then there’s Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, whose spectacular barrier beach is open to dogs after sunbathers head home. And the ultimate insider spot: Trade Wind Fields Preserve in Oak Bluffs, where dogs have the run of woods and meadows circling a grass-strip airfield. Join the morning regulars who arrive around 7:30, when local canines cavort and play with their owners in tow.
For the Sophisticated Hiker. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail winds through New England on its 2,175-mile route from Georgia to Maine, and daytripping hikers love Connecticut’s 52-mile section of the famous footpath, from the windswept peak of Bear Mountain to the lovely Housatonic River. Well-mannered dogs may even spend the night in one of the trail’s lean-to shelters. Just steps away from the “AT” is the cultured enclave of Kent; snag an outdoor café table on Main Street and watch the parade of prep school parents, Manhattan weekenders and those arriving for one of the town’s many cultural events. In keeping with the artsy vibe, there’s even a gallery where pooches are welcome. Sculpturedale is an outdoor installation of life-sized steel-and-bronze giraffes, elephants, hippos and the like.
Dog's Life: Travel
A Philly legend with a national reputation
Twenty-five years ago, Judy Wicks opened the White Dog Café on the first floor of her Philadelphia brownstone, selling muffins and coffee to go. Today, the restaurant—which now takes up the entire residence, plus two adjacent houses—has a national reputation for both its award-winning cuisine and its owner’s social activism.
The restaurant’s name honors former resident Helena P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society (which emphasized altruism, unity and compassion in everyday life), who occupied the brownstone in 1875. The dog entered the story when Madame Blavatsky was laid low with a serious infection of the leg. Refusing to allow doctors to amputate, she addressed the problem by having a white dog lie across her leg at night, “curing all in no time.”
The café and its associated nonprofit, White Dog Community Enterprises (WDCE), have established a tradition of community-building with their support of global fair trade, environmental sustainability, socially responsible business, and peace and nonviolence. Wicks is widely recognized for her work in the local, living economies movement and has a plethora of accolades to her credit, including the distinguished James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award.
The White Dog Café celebrates its 25th anniversary on September 12 with a “Dance of the Ripe Tomatoes” block party. You can pay $45 for the event (profits are earmarked for the Philadelphia Fair Food Project, one of WDCE’s signature causes), or just show up and dance with your dog for free. If you miss the anniversary party, all is not lost; you and your well-behaved pup are always welcome at the café’s outdoor tables.
White Dog Café
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