Culture: Stories & Lit
Standing up for a dog in Haiti
It was a strange place to cry, but I had no other place to go. In Haiti, a 10-by-12-foot classroom in a small schoolhouse served as a makeshift hotel for the evening. I sat down on the end of the bed—a green army cot beside a laminated poster of the human eyeball—and sobbed. My tears lacked the grace of my 35 years; childlike, inconsolable, they were tears of shame. I felt that I’d done something wrong.
I also sensed I was not alone. Chest heaving, nose running, I turned and checked the skeleton on the wall behind me. It stared back with empty eyes, its jaw unhinged in a perpetual state of laughter, or maybe horror.
Then I saw them, or rather, the tops of their heads. All three of my host family’s children were on tippy-toes outside the window, a square hole in the cinder block wall, listening. Their presence made me want to cry even harder, but instead, I forced myself to stop. They’d already seen and heard enough of my Ugly American behavior for one afternoon. I pulled a book out of my backpack and pretended to read.
The incident began with a dog. Or maybe it started with my decision to backpack across the Central Plateau of Haiti. An adventure-travel journalist, I was on assignment to cover the inaugural trek of Expedition Ayiti, a new adventure tourism company. Instead of camping, our small group of Americans and Haitians stayed in rural settlements along the remote route, paying local families for a meal and a place to sleep. The idea was to provide a source of income for some of Haiti’s poorest communities and to foster cultural understanding—or in my case, cultural misunderstanding.
We’d arrived earlier that afternoon in the tiny village of Lamarre after a seven mile hike. I was dozing in the schoolroomturned- hotel when a dog disturbed me. The rest of the group had gone to check out a church built by American missionaries. Feeling sluggish in the 100- degree heat, I stayed behind. I’d been napping for only a few minutes when the dog began to bark. I shifted in the cot so my back was to the window, yanking a pillow over my head. It didn’t help. I heard scuffling in the dirt beneath the window, a boy’s voice, a dog’s yips, more barking and then a dog’s cries. I winced. It was clear my nap was over.
Pushing open the wooden door, I stepped outside into the humid heat. Instantly, a layer of sweat formed on my brow. Around the corner beneath the window, a boy of about seven, my host family’s son, struggled with a skinny orange dog. It was a horrid game of tugof- war. The boy yanked a rough piece of twine he’d knotted around the dog’s hind foot. The dog alternated between trying to pull his leg back and letting himself be dragged, crying and whimpering all the while.
I yelled “Hey!” or something to that effect. Startled, the boy dropped the string and looked up. The dog limped away. The boy moved to chase him. I stepped between the two. “Stop it. Can’t you see you’re hurting him?” I said.
The boy didn’t understand. In rural villages, children speak only Haitian Creole, not French, and certainly not English. He lunged for the dog. I backed off. The dog scampered around the back yard, licking at the twine tied around his foot, which the tug-of-war had cinched down painfully.
My work wasn’t done. I needed to get the twine off the dog. But every time I moved toward him, he scurried nervously away. The boy watched, having found an even better source of entertainment than bothering the dog. I caught the dog once, but when I touched his back foot, he nipped at me. I cursed out loud. The boy giggled. By now, his mother and two sisters had come out of the house to watch the action.
The dog and I went round and round the back yard, each time garnering more laughter. The few scrawny chickens scattered. The goat tied to a tree bleated in alarm. Frustrated, I stood and faced my human audience, wiping the sweat and grime from my forehead. I knew they wouldn’t understand, but that didn’t stop me. “It’s not funny,” I said. “This dog is hurt.” More laughter. I searched each face for a sign of compassion. Their eyes were empty.
Finally, I caught the dog by the scruff of his neck, and he nipped at me again. I began to shout at my host family. I don’t remember exactly what, but it was aggressive and accusatory and, due to the language barrier, irrelevant. The dog was the only one who seemed upset. I let go of him and burst into tears.
The mother ducked back inside her concrete home and emerged with a leg bone—part of the soup we’d later be served for dinner. She lured the dog easily, and I realized that he belonged to the family. She untied the twine and shooed him away. I waited for her to look at me, for a moment of understanding to pass between us. But she didn’t. It didn’t.
I retreated to the schoolroom to finish crying. My clothes, soaked in the pungent sweat of adrenaline, stuck to my skin. I was disgusted with my host family, but more so with myself for losing it over a dog. What’s worse, a bored sevenyear- old abusing his dog or an Ugly American throwing a fit because of it?
A week later, I returned home to Boulder, Colo. During my time in Haiti, I’d lost 10 pounds and found an intestinal parasite and a heat rash. It was a challenging trip, on many levels. After a few days, the weight came back and my digestive system recovered. The rash, along with the nightmares of impoverished people in a ravaged landscape, faded. But the incident with the dog stayed fresh.
I thought a lot about suffering, specifically the relative amounts felt by animals versus people. The Haiti dog was suffering, and I’d wanted to alleviate that. But could I really blame my host family for their indifference? They had been dealt more than their fair share of suffering—scarce food, rudimentary shelter, parasites, cholera, devastating natural disasters. My concern with animal pain was a luxury their culture couldn’t afford. Who cares about a dog when you can only feed your family two meager meals per day?
I was ashamed of my behavior, my cultural insensitivity. And even a bit guilty about my privileged perch at the pinnacle of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” My basic needs are so well satisfied that I have nothing better to worry about than lofty concepts like self-actualization and animal suffering.
Surely I wasn’t the first person to lament such things. During a restless night in Boulder, I turned to the soothing search engine of Google. I typed “animal ethicist” and found Dr. Bernard Rollin. It turns out that one of the world’s experts on the ethical treatment of animals teaches at Colorado State University, an hour away in Fort Collins. Desperate for closure on my experience in Haiti, I sent him a long, late-night email.
Dr. Rollin called me the next day, which surprised me. His response surprised me even more. He told me that abuse of animals is a hallmark of an abused culture … But that doesn’t make it right. “What you did was absolutely the right thing to do,” he said. “Not only as a 21st-century American, as a human being. Why should an animal be allowed to suffer to gratify the whim of some child who hasn’t been taught any better?”
His forceful words that morning served as a literal wake-up call. I realized what was really keeping me up at night: I was trying to justify my host family’s behavior, telling myself that it was somehow acceptable, and that I was the one who was out of line. Dr. Rollin turned me around. Animal suffering shouldn’t be tolerated just because the person abusing the animal has also suffered. Nor should my privileged position in the world be reason to feel guilty about passing judgment on those in a less fortunate culture, or acting on my own ethical responses.
Dr. Rollin told me that Americans are so afraid of being labeled culturally insensitive that they become overly tolerant. “Even if an entire culture condones an unethical behavior, you should try to educate individuals out of it,” Dr. Rollin said.
I couldn’t take back my outburst in Haiti, but maybe that was okay. Maybe it was appropriate to show my host family how upset another human being was over animal suffering. Dr. Rollin perhaps put it best: “The last thing I’m worried about is offending people. We’re not here to be loved. We’re here to leave a better world than we found.”
Maybe that family is still talking about the crazy American woman who tried to help the dog. Maybe those three kids will hesitate before abusing their dog again. And maybe, just maybe, one of those kids will step in someday, the way the crazy lady did.
Dog's Life: Humane
Transformed by volunteering, Nora Livingstone helps others do the same
Four months after hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, college student Nora Livingstone decided to drive from her home in Toronto to New Orleans to assist at an animal shelter during winter break. Livingstone, a double major in environmental studies and anthropology, thought she’d be walking and grooming dogs who had been separated from their owners during the flood, in an otherwise comfortable setting. The experience wasn’t what she expected. “Up in Canada, we had no idea how bad things had gotten in New Orleans,” Livingstone, now 29, says.
Her first clue to the chaos came when she entered the city. Beside the road, a dead horse hung from a tree. “Everyone was too busy helping themselves and their families to deal with the horse,” says Livingstone. “It sort of set the precedent for the rest of the week.”
The section of the city where Livingstone had signed up to volunteer didn’t even have full power. She spent her Christmas vacation working up to 20-hour days at a makeshift animal shelter at Celebration Station, a former fun park. She slept on a cot alongside other volunteers in a second-floor loft overlooking hundreds of displaced cats caged on the floor below. Outside, chain-link fences separated the runs that housed about a hundred homeless dogs. “At that time, there were still houses on top of houses,” Livingstone says. “There was tons of debris. There was no food. There were stray dogs everywhere.”
Livingstone’s volunteer work in New Orleans was difficult, both physically and emotionally. Each morning, she fed hundreds of dogs and cats, and cleaned just as many bowls and litter boxes. She picked up countless piles of dog poo. By the time she had completed the breakfast routine, it was time to feed the animals dinner, and the whole process started all over again. The sheer number of dogs meant that she could only spend a couple of minutes with each. “I cried every day,” Livingstone says. “There were some dogs who were just so bewildered and scared. The hard part about working with animals is that you can’t rationalize with them. You can’t explain what happened, and that things are going to be okay. All you can do is lie down beside them and pet them.”
Despite the challenges, Livingstone considers her time volunteering in New Orleans as some of the most rewarding in her life. The sadness she felt was tempered by the joy of witnessing daily reunions with families who had come to claim their lost pets. She learned that in many cases, people had had their pets taken from them by authorities who prohibited them at human shelters, or were forced to leave their animals behind at gunpoint by the National Guard during evacuation. “I realized that the work I was doing was helping not only animals, but also people struggling to make their families whole again after a really awful situation,” Livingstone says.
While she didn’t know it at the time, her experience planted the seed for what would become her life’s work. Six years later, Livingstone co-founded Animal Experience International (AEI), a travel company dedicated to providing animal volunteer opportunities around the globe.
But before the idea for AEI could materialize, Livingstone would return home to Canada and finish university and a post-graduate program in Outdoor Adventure Leadership, which involved activities like canoeing and kayaking. Unsure how to combine her education, her outdoors experience and her love of animals into a career, she headed to Nepal in 2007 for another round of volunteer work. She hoped to find some direction, or at least the same satisfaction she had discovered in New Orleans.
While in Nepal, Livingstone volunteered at a medical clinic and as an English teacher. She noticed that dogs were not treated the same as they were in the west. Dogs in Nepal guard homes and gardens, and are not typically considered pets. Most Nepalese believe dogs are the reincarnations of bad prophets —humans fated to live as dogs as punishment for past misdeeds.
One day at a bakery in Kathmandu, Livingstone discussed her observations with a British woman she’d just met. The woman had been living in Nepal for more than 30 years and told Livingstone about a groundbreaking dog clinic, the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Center (KAT). Shortly after, Livingstone showed up at KAT’s door and offered to volunteer. She wound up spending several weeks at the center, which aims to improve the lives of street dogs through vaccination, injury rehabilitation and spaying/neutering. After dogs are treated, experts at KAT evaluate them for pet potential, and keep those with promise at the shelter for adoption instead of returning them to the streets. “I loved being there,” Livingstone says. “A place like KAT is so rare in Nepal. I wanted to find a way to get more people involved, to let more people know about it.”
An idea formed once Livingstone returned to Canada. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a company that connected standout animal sanctuaries, shelters and conservation programs around the world with interested travelers like her? The vision stayed in the back of her mind even as she took a job as volunteer coordinator at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. It was there that Livingstone met veterinarian Heather Reid, who helped bring her idea to fruition. Reid shared Livingstone’s passion for travel and her interest in volunteer work with animals. One step ahead of Livingstone, Reid had been considering what it would take to create international animal-based volunteer experiences for other veterinarians. “My brain practically exploded after talking to Dr. Heather because it was just so obvious,” says Livingstone. “I’m passionate about volunteering and encouraging others to volunteer and travel and stir up their lives, so why not get paid to live my dream while helping other people live theirs?”
In 2011, the two women founded AEI, launching it in March with five trips, including one to KAT, the dog clinic where Livingstone had volunteered in Nepal. Within a couple of months, they had 20 travelers signed up. In June, a volunteer tourism portal, GoVolunteering.com, picked up some of their trips and blasted them out to more than 13,000 subscribers. A few months later, AEI’s client list doubled. “We knew there was a market for this,” Livingstone says, “We were just surprised at how quickly it took off.”
Animal-based organizations from all over the world started contacting AEI to create volunteer travel programs at their locations. But Livingstone has been careful to add trips slowly. One of AEI’s core values is to partner with only the best and most effective organizations; Livingstone or Reid visits each before adding it to the lineup. After one year of operation, AEI offers 26 trips to locations ranging from Canada to Thailand and Australia. Travelers can choose to volunteer with dogs, cats, bats, turtles, monkeys, elephants, parrots, bears, leopards, tigers, crocodiles and kangaroos, among others. “People have been knocking down our door, which is both inspiring and a little overwhelming,” says Livingstone.
AEI travelers can also customize the length of their trip, from two weeks to two months, with longer options available. One client signed up for a full year working with orangutans in Sumatra. Her cost of $4,390 includes accommodations, meals, transportation, travelers’ insurance—everything except airfare. While $4,390 seems like a bargain for a full year abroad, Livingstone recognizes that money is the biggest inhibitor to international travel. She and Reid have devised aggressive fundraising techniques for clients, as well as a scholarship program. “If someone is inspired enough to go on one of our trips, we’re going to do everything in our power to get them there,” says Livingstone.
Trips also include cultural experiences and sightseeing excursions. Both Livingstone and Reid want AEI travelers to experience the natural and manmade wonders that draw tourists to the destinations where they are volunteering. But they are also clear that AEI trips are not typical getaways. “We’re not offering a vacation,” Livingstone says. “This is not going to a resort, this is work. But it’s work that’s transformational— through the animals you work with, through the family you homestay with, and through the community you live in.”
Dog's Life: Travel
The March and April ’tween season is upon us, and it’s one of our favorite times to take to the mountains: the slopes are a little quieter, trails are less busy and prices are frequently more enticing. Winter storms are often followed by early signs of spring, which means that we (and our co-pilots) have plenty of activities to choose among. Stacking the deck even higher, here are three destinations where the indoor amenities rival the amazing outdoor attractions.
YOSEMITE, CALIFORNIA Tenaya Lodge is nestled high in the Sierra National Forest on a 35-acre reserve, just two miles from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. In addition to easy access to the park, inspiring views and a host of amenities, the lodge offers “Fido-Friendly” packages that include dog bed, water bowl and gourmet treats, plus pet-sitting and dog walking, which will free you up for some pampering time of your own. (Package rate includes fee for two dogs.)
ASPEN, COLORADO Living large in the Rockies. Tucked into the center of downtown Aspen—aka a pet-friendly paradise—the Limelight Hotel provides a comfortable respite from the rugged outdoors. Aspen’s original dog-friendly hotel welcomes your canine companions with in-room bowls and proximity to Wagner Park, a large municipal green space right across from the hotel. Beginning in mid-April, the rates fall to half the peak season prices. (Pet fee applies.)
NORTHERN VERMONT The Phineas Swann B&B is in the heart of Vermont’s Jay Peak region, a place so rich in natural offerings that it’s been designated a geotourism area. It’s also close to the Canadian border, which can mean fresh snow well into spring. The inn, a renovated farmhouse and carriage house, provides packages catering to dogaccompanied guests; the “Spa and Ski” combo tops the list. Best of all, your pooch can sleep guilt-free on the bed. (No pet fee.)
Dog's Life: Travel
Pack up and head for a Winter Escape
Asheville, North Carolina
When it’s time to settle down for the night, there’s a raft of options, starting with Barkwells’ fabulous cabins, acres of fenced meadows and dog-loving amenities. For a historical venue, check out Applewood Manor Inn B&B, the Reynolds Mansion or the Biltmore Village Inn, which is closest to the Biltmore Estate. There, don’t miss Cedric’s Tavern (named after one of George Vanderbilt’s beloved dogs), or the Creamery, both of which have outdoor seating your dog can share with you.
Marfa may be small, but it has a dog-friendly eatery. Squeeze, across from the Presidio County Courthouse, serves up a mean breakfast and lunch as well as an astounding list of healthy drinks and smoothies; enjoy them on the patio with your pal. The Thunderbird, a retro 1950s, locally run hotel, offers a pool and unpretentious, dog-friendly hospitality. However, the go-to spot for intrepid travelers and their dogs has to be El Cosmico, 18 acres of funky coolness dotted with refurbished vintage trailers, modern yurts, safari tents and teepees. Liz Lambert, who opened El Cosmico in 2009, calls it “part … campground, part creative lab.” An open-air bathhouse and cooking area are among its charms. (Not quite so charming are the goatheads, spiny seeds that can play rough with dogs’ paws; if your dogs will wear them, bring booties.)
Dog's Life: Travel
Unleashing our inner farm dog.
Tap into rural pleasures (just-picked pears, clucking chickens, muddy boots) during a pet-friendly farm stay. Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the aptly named Dog Mountain Farm in Carnation, Wash., where organic orchards, vineyards and gardens supply scrumptious scenery and farm dinners. And in the East Coast, there’s the 200-acre Champlain Valley Alpacas farm in bucolic Bridport, Vt. — milk goats, learn to spin — good dogs and horses too are welcomed.
Dog's Life: Travel
Have Dog, Will Travel
If dog heaven were a place on earth, it would look a lot like the Oregon coast. All 363 miles of beach are publicly accessible and only a few are closed to dogs. Endless trails through lush forests offer a respite from the wind and salty sea. Hotels vie for the privilege of pampering you and your dog with complimentary chew toys, cozy beds and fireplaces.
Best Dog Beaches
Surfsand Resort, the Ocean Lodge and the Inn at Cannon Beach are noteworthy family-friendly places in Cannon Beach that celebrate your pet’s arrival with a welcome basket. Warm pet washes with towels are available throughout the properties for sandy dogs. Jacuzzis and fireplaces are provided for humans.
Great news for glampers: 15 yurts and four cabins in 13 Oregon State Park campgrounds along the coast opened up to pets in 2012. Visit Oregon Parks and Recreation Department online for a list of pet-friendly yurts and cabins and to make reservations.
Dog Events Worth a Trip
Travel Kit for a Smooth Visit
Dog's Life: Travel
Dog days at Canada’s Flying U
Meadow made a beeline for the bed; the cabin was cool and dark, and she was ready for a nap. This was our third day of exploring trails at the Flying U Ranch, Canada’s oldest guest ranch, and Meadow and Maia, my two- and four-year-old Malamutes, were both happily tired after trotting alongside me and Louis, my trusty steed. In the space of three days, we had covered about 50 miles.
The Flying U is my favorite place on the planet. A dog lover who hates the thought of vacationing without my girls, I was ecstatic to learn about a dude ranch that not only lets you ride unguided on its 43,000 acres, but welcomes dogs as well.
The ranch is located in the Cariboo area of British Columbia, a drive of six hours from Seattle or five hours from Vancouver. Guests and their dogs stay in rustic cabins with comfy hand-hewn log beds, wood-burning stoves and electricity. Everyone shares a central shower/toilet house and sauna. The ranch includes a general store, saloon, a small movie theater and Saturday-night dances to live music. Guests are assigned horses suited to their riding ability for the duration of their stay, and may ride on their own or with other guests daily between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Meals are included, served at 8 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. in the common dining hall, and guests may request a sack lunch to maximize their time on the trail.
For dog lovers, a special attraction is the ability to vacation with their dogs in a part of British Columbia known for its extraordinary beauty. The Flying U sits at 3,500' elevation, and is covered in aspen and pine trees, with several large, open meadows and small lakes. You can ride winding trails through the woods, or gallop through the fields. Part of the charm is exploring, wondering if you’re lost, and then realizing that if you just give your horse his head, you’ll be back at the ranch by the 4 o’clock curfew. The horses, accustomed to having dogs around, are incredibly gentle. When Meadow stopped in the middle of the trail, Louis gently nudged her butt with his nose, and Maia and Louis frequently touched noses to get better acquainted. Meadow and Maia learned to move to the side of the trail when the horses started trotting or galloping, and delighted in running alongside. And yes, like most dogs, they consider horse dung a special amenity.
To date, I’ve been to the ranch six times, and have always met wonderful people there. This year I visited both in April and in late September, when the aspen were changing color. In September I rode with a group that included two dogs— Lula Belle, a Poodle, and Tillie, a mini Aussie. Lula Belle’s human, Lisa Garbrick, said she’s been bringing Lula to the ranch for five years. Lula enjoys rolling in the equine and bovine by-products, and Lisa lets her have her fun. When Lula’s done, Lisa simply throws her in nearby Green Lake to wash her off. Lisa mentioned that, to avoid exposing Lula to snickers from the ranch hands, she doesn’t give Lula a typical Poodle cut before coming to the ranch. Lula gains their respect, however, by running alongside the horses all day, day after day, and still having the energy to swim and play in the evenings. (Dogs that aren’t in such good shape are welcome to stay in their cabin while their human is out riding.)
The Fremlins have always welcomed dogs to the ranch. In fact, their philosophy is, “if the dog can vouch for you, you can stay.” The only—very mild—complaint I’ve ever heard voiced was about dogs on the beds; in the interest of good manners, guests should provide a cover if their dogs are so inclined (as mine are . . . eventually). The first night, my girls sleep outside, listening to the coyotes howling and keeping a keen eye on the nearby horses. By the second night, they ask to come in around midnight to sleep on the bed—they’ve put in a few miles by this point, and a soft sleeping area feels good. By the third and fourth nights, there’s virtually no room for me in the bed from the time it gets dark! We all sleep soundly at the ranch, lulled by the sounds of the wilderness. And did I mention how beautiful the night sky is in that big, open country?
Dog's Life: Travel
In North Augusta, S.C., there is a beautiful trail system called the Greeneway. Most of the trail is shaded, and the entire trail is paved. A large part of it goes along the Savannah River. It’s just beautiful and peaceful there.
It’s anything but a secret here in Northern California, but Carmel-by-the-Sea is probably the most dogfriendly spot you can find. The beach is available for off-leash dogs, and all sizes and shapes, mutts and purebreds, romp in the surf and chase balls. Afterwards, on a walk into town, you’ll find many places that welcome dogs, including quite a few outdoor restaurants. Of course, everyone is very conscientious about poop pickup, which helps keep it a great experience.
Zephyr Cove beach at Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side, has a dog-friendly portion on the far end. A wonderful place to take dogs. My two learned how to swim there just last summer.
Do the dew! Dewey Beach, Del., that is. Dewey Beach is a dog-friendly town. The beach is available for dog play before 9:30 in the morning and after 5:30 in the evening. Every entrance to the beach and most street corners have free doggie bags and trash cans. It truly is better when you don’t have to leave your best friends behind.
Fourpeaks Adirondack Backcountry Camps in Jay, N.Y.: 700 acres of breathtaking beauty. You cannot count the stars. No leashes. I have never met a crabby person there and most people bring friendly dogs. It is heaven.
Burlington, Vt: Swimming in the lake, three off-leash dog parks, outdoor dining on Church Street, walking the 13-mile bike path next to the lake, exploring trails in the Burlington Intervale and Ethan Allen Homestead. Best of all, dogs can attend the annual Vermont Brewers Festival on the waterfront in late July.
The beautiful beach at Cape San Blas, Fla., is petfriendly 24/7— the best we have visited. Lady can’t wait to go back this year. She has yet to capture a sand crab, but that is not for any lack of diligence.
We love to hang out at the leash-free Canine Country, near St. Louis, Mo., on lazy summer days. My three dogs and I take beautiful hikes and swims on 223 acres of farmland. My dogs don’t herd sheep, but there are some available to smell, along with some chickens. We even got into a tussle with a skunk. It’s truly an adventure!
Buy name/ID tags that have a slip of paper in them that can be removed; add the important contact info for where you are staying. We have a separate ID tag for our trips to my mother’s house, since that is a destination we visit repeatedly.
Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis. Why? The Monon Trail is great for dog walking and Three Dog Bakery for starters. Best of all, numerous dog-friendly restaurants including Petite Chou, which serves frosty paws all summer; the Monon Food Company,with a large dog-friendly deck; Plump’s Last Shot, and the most popular local dog hangout, Flatwater. At The Monkey’s Tale/Jazz Cooker, you can listen to live music on the patio with your dog, provided that he or she doesn’t decide to join the band with a good howl.
Nothing better for a family/ dog vacation: Provincetown, Mass., at the easternmost tip of Cape Cod. It’s easy to find a motel or inn that takes dogs, and when you walk down Commercial Street, merchants have bowls of water out for thirsty canines, and many stores and outdoor restaurants let you bring your dog in. There are beautiful (and free) beaches where you can take your dog on off-peak hours; a great dog park, Pilgrim Bark Park; and nearly everywhere you walk offers scenic views of the Atlantic.
Lake Superior Hiking Trail from Duluth, Minn., to the Canadian border. Tip: Leash up your dogs at trailheads, but if they’re friendly with people and other dogs, let them run free once you’re a quarter-mile out. I rarely run into more than a few people in 10 miles.
Check out Chicago area neighborhood festivals, many of which are dogfriendly (not all, so be sure to check). One of my personal favorites is Custer’s Last Stand on Custer Ave. in Evanston in June. Besides dogs, I’ve also seen people there with parrots on their shoulders and carrying a pouch of ferrets.
Spend the weekend in Redmond, Wash.: The outstanding 40-acre, off-leash dog park at Marymoor Park is doggie heaven. Dogs are welcome at the Redmond Saturday Market (open from May to October), outdoor movies, restaurant patios, many stores and miles of trails.
We live in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and we have an endless amount of trails and parks to bring our doggies to. Whether we trek loops on the Appalachian Trail, visit the Shenandoah River or just traverse our backyard, we are blessed by location!
Going on the sandbars on the Wisconsin River: boat for miles ’til you find a secluded sandbar for your group — dogs included — grill, swim, throw the Frisbee. Everyone has fun and stays cool.
We live in beautiful North Idaho, where we are surrounded by pristine lakes, including Lake Pend Oreille, Lake Coeur d’Alene, Spirit Lake, Hayden Lake, Priest Lake and more. We love to go kayaking, as does our two-year-old yellow Lab, Jake, who wears his own dog life vest.
I grew up around Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine. There are tons of dog-friendly B&Bs, restaurants and businesses (everyone has a dog water dish outside of their store). And, there are amazing trails for every ability. It’s a mustgo every summer for us.
Pup-friendly hiking and cabins at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma’s San Bois Mountains.
We recently took a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota — the one million-acre area lies within the boundaries of the four-million-acre Superior National Forest. This is the largest designated wilderness in the eastern U.S. with 2,000 campsites, over 1,000 lakes — heaven for wilderness trekkers, paddlers and pooches.
If you are traveling near Portland, Ore., try Sandy Delta Park; most of it is off-leash. Lots of trails and access to the Sandy River, which is great for wading and playing in, and easy on bare feet and paws.
National parks do not allow dogs, but they are allowed in most national forest areas. This leaves you with endless possibilities for fun with your dog. My dogs are at their happiest when we take them hiking. They tromp through water, run with each other and wrestle, get dirty, just be dogs.
Dog's Life: Travel
Dog-friendly beaches and heavenly hikes.
Few places rival the Presidio for its breathtaking hiking atmosphere —the spicy fragrances of eucalyptus and pine, dense drifts of fog, Andy Goldsworthy’s celebrated environmental art — and the sheer beauty of its vistas, from the sweep of the Pacific Ocean to the City skyline. Situated on 1,491 acres of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, the Presidio was previously a military post — first under Spanish rule, then Mexican, then American — for more than two centuries before it was folded into the National Park Service in the early 1990s. It also happens to be a favorite among West Coast dog people.
The Inn at the Presidio
Want to get up and go? Just step outside the hotel doors onto the (onleash) Ecology Trail and follow it through the Presidio’s largest watershed, Tennessee Hollow, then — if you’re feeling adventurous — on to Inspiration Point. The inn has a twodog maximum per reservation, but no size limit per pet. They charge a onetime cleaning fee of $40 when you visit with your dog(s).
Presidio Area Walks
Crissy Field + Pet Cemetery
Marina Green + Fort Mason
Sutro Baths + Lands End Trail
For more about the Presidio of San Francisco and its attractions, visit the Presidio Trust at presidio.gov, or the National Park Service at nps.gov/prsf. To download a map of Presidio hiking trails, go to presidio.gov.
News: Guest Posts
Whenever you mix dogs, people and the freedom to play in nature, you get something special.
In 2002 I created Maian Meadows Dog Camp in Washington State, an environment for safe, off-leash play for dogs and people who rarely get to experience it. I feel like an alchemist, stirring just the right ingredients to create a weekend full of fresh air, forest and lake, dog-centered activities, comfort food and—most importantly—the shared unconditional love of several happy dogs all together in one place. The end product is often magical.
Over the years, I’ve befriended lots of wonderful people and dogs. All have back stories, some quite extraordinary.
Two years ago, a mother and her early-twenties daughter attended. Observing them, I realized the daughter had some cognitive challenges. I couldn’t put my finger of just what sort. She was bubbly and outgoing, but her social skills were a tad off. She mixed well with the other campers and her little Chihuahua was delightful.
Saturday evening, the mother took me aside. “I don’t know if you noticed, but my daughter has Aspergers,” she said. “This is the first activity we’ve found that has kept her interested and engaged for an entire weekend. Thank you.”
While I get many heartfelt thanks for hosting camp, that one remains the most special.
The magic happened again at last weekend’s session of dog camp.
Anita arrives with her dog Toby, a certified therapy dog. His skills came in handy. After attending camp in 2010, Anita had to skip June 2011 because she was undergoing chemo for cancer. In September 2011 she and Toby spent a few hours in camp, Anita bald and beautiful, but clearly exhausted. Toby stayed close by. This year, Anita—sporting new hair—and Toby spent the entire weekend in camp, hiking both mornings and participating in all the activities. Anita’s cancer is in remission, and at 66, she’s going strong. So is Toby, by her side.
New campers Adrian and Hana bring their two year old Golden Retriever Jasper. Adrian, an Irishman and statistician of about 50, has spent his entire life afraid of dogs. With Hana’s encouragement, they add Jasper to their family. Adrian no longer fears any dogs, and delights in being around all the dogs at camp.
Dogs heal all sorts of hurts
Stick with me for one more back story. It’s a good one.
Two weeks before camp, I receive an email asking if there is still space for one person and one dog. It’s signed “Tracie and Daisy.” I reply that there is. The registration form arrives, with a very unusual first name; Tracie is a nickname. I worry that my assumption that this camper is female—and can share a cabin with another female—is wrong. I Google the full name. All hits refer to the Dean’s List at a nearby college. Intriguing, but I still don’t know if the camper is male or female, or how old. I decide to proceed as if she is female. If a male shows up, well, there is an extra cabin.
Friday afternoon I welcome campers and their dogs as they trickle in from all over—Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and even Alberta. Just before dinner, a camper arrives with a dog meeting Daisy’s description: black lab/hound mix. Daisy bounds from the car and gleefully romps with the other dogs. Tracie gets out and introduces herself. She is a very petite young woman of twenty. She has chin length brown hair, wire-rim glasses and a huge welcoming smile showing charmingly crooked teeth. She’s wearing a daisy print blouse. Daisy’s collar has daisies on it. Already I like Tracie. She’s going to fit right in at dog camp.
And she does. I’ve never seen someone so young possess such confidence and outgoing friendliness among so many strangers, most of whom are much older. Daisy is just like Tracie, young (two years old), full of energy and enthusiasm. Throughout the weekend, Tracie frequently has to coax Daisy out of the lake. Daisy loves to swim. And Tracie loves Daisy. Their bond is strong and touching to observe. I determine to learn Tracie’s back story.
Later, during a meal, I overhear tidbits as Tracie shares her story with other campers at her table. I hear words familiar to me in my work as an attorney advocating children’s best interests in the legal system: foster care; Child Protective Services; aging out of the system. The next day, as Tracie throws the ball into the lake for Daisy to retrieve, I ask her to share her story with me. She does, without any sense of embarrassment or shame—another sign of her amazing maturity.
Tracie’s birth mother has mental health issues. She often chose, and married, violent men. Tracie suffered abuse at the hands of one step-father who broke her shoulder. Her mother kicked him out (because CPS required it), but Tracie discovered that the next man her mother brought home was a registered sex offender. Tracie, only 13, took action, standing up for herself and her younger siblings by telling a counselor. This time her mother chose the sex offender. Tracie was removed from the home and placed into foster care. This separated her from her siblings, whom she’d raised; they were placed elsewhere. Over the next several years, Tracie bounced from foster care to her mother’s and back to foster care, a sad and all too common experience for older kids in the system.
As Tracie neared age 18, the foster family she was with had a pregnant black lab. Pup number four (of fourteen!) had a big head and became stuck; Tracie helped bring that pup into the world. The foster family gave Tracie the puppy to commemorate becoming an adult—aging out of the system—and starting a new life. Tracie finally had a family of her own: Daisy.
Tracie chose the name Daisy because the symbolism associated with the flower is purity, innocence, loyal love, beauty, patience and simplicity.
While still in high school, Tracie accumulated two years of college credit. The week before dog camp, at age 20, she graduated with a four year college degree. She’s now enrolled in graduate school. She wants to become a social worker. She wants to help kids in the foster care system. She wants to get Daisy certified as a therapy dog so that they can work with kids as a team. And as soon as she’s 21, Tracie wants to become a foster parent herself. If she does, then she and Daisy will help heal children scarred by a system that often doesn’t care very much about them. I’m confident that Tracie, with Daisy by her side, will accomplish all her goals.
I had no idea, over a decade ago, that creating and directing a dog camp would provide a space for people to heal what hurts them, or gather strength to meet their next challenge. But I should have. Anything involving playful, free-roaming dogs just has to promote joy and healing.
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