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Tomales Bay, CA dog-friendly hotel and restaurant: Nick’s Cove

I was contacted by the folks at Nick’s Cove, asking if Chloe and I would like to visit and let Dog Jaunt readers know what we thought of the experience. I instantly said yes, but I felt a bit of a fraud, since Nick’s Cove has long been on my list of places to check out. Then again, it might have taken me awhile to get there: We have generous friends who live nearby, and chances are we would have continued to borrow their house, rather than going to a hotel, however appealing. So take this review with a grain of salt (our dinner, hotel stay, and breakfast were paid for by Nick’s Cove) but make it a small grain, since all the friends who knew where I was heading assured me I’d love the place. I should add that Nick’s Cove did not request that I write a positive review — indeed, they left it entirely up to me to do what I would with my impressions.

A quick orientation: Nick’s Cove is a cluster of cottages with a restaurant — or a restaurant with a cluster of cottages, depending on your priorities — on the east coast of Tomales Bay, in Marin County (just north of San Francisco). Tomales Bay is a long finger of water reaching behind the Point Reyes peninsula, an extraordinarily beautiful place that, thank goodness, is largely parkland of various kinds. All this beauty is only about an hour’s drive from downtown San Francisco, traffic gods permitting, but it feels a world away.

Point Reyes has the waves and the surf; Tomales Bay, behind it, is a more tranquil body of water. Here's part of it on a really perfect summer day.

Point Reyes has the waves and the beaches and the dunes; Tomales Bay, behind it, is a more tranquil body of water. Here’s part of the bay on a practically perfect summer day.

The waterfront part of Nick's Cove, from across Highway 1. I'm standing in front of the other half of the property, looking at the restaurant — the waterfront cottages are to the left, and the boat shack is at the end of the pier on the right.

The waterfront part of Nick’s Cove, from across Highway 1. I’m standing in front of the other half of the property, looking at the restaurant — the waterfront cottages are to the left of the restaurant, and the boat shack is at the end of the pier on the right. Behind me are the “water view” cottages and the Croft (the garden).

Nick’s Cove has been around for a while — people have been eating and relaxing on the property since the 1930′s — and it has the feel of a beloved old favorite (albeit a beloved old favorite that got a nice bit of updating a few years ago, under famed local hotelier/restaurateur Pat Kuleto). The best way I can show that is with pictures of our cottage, one of five along the waterfront (there are seven more across Highway 1, four of which are dog-friendly). We stayed in Al’s, one of the four pet-friendly waterfront cottages (Bandit’s Bungalow is the one waterfront cottage that’s not pet-friendly):

The land side of Al's, with Ruthie's to the right. As you can see, we arrived after the evening fog had rolled in.

The land side of Al’s, with Ruthie’s to the right. As you can see, we arrived after the evening fog had rolled in.

A rose poking through the fence in front of Ruthie's cottage.

A rose poking through the fence in front of Ruthie’s cottage.

The living room of Al's, with a view of the boat shack past the porch. Please note the wood stove, ready for lighting — a source of much coziness later in the evening.

The living room of Al’s, with a view of the boat shack past the porch. Please note the wood stove, ready for lighting — a source of much coziness later in the evening.

The bedroom, also extremely cozy. That's a king-sized bed, and I appreciated the selection of blankets (light cotton as well as a cloud of down, with a back-up hypoallergenic option in the closet) — Marin is a land of many temperatures, and too many hotels would have provided the wrong, or insufficient, blankets.

The bedroom, also extremely cozy. That’s a king-sized bed, and I appreciated the selection of blankets (light cotton as well as a cloud of down, with a back-up hypoallergenic option in the closet). Marin is a land of many temperatures, and too many hotels would have provided the wrong, or insufficient, blankets.

Our bathroom, a nice blend of the updated (that floor may look old-fashioned but it's heated) and the utterly charming (please note the vintage toilet, sink, and bath — all of which worked with modern efficiency).

Our bathroom, a nice blend of the updated (that floor may look original but it’s marble, and heated) and the old-fashioned (the vintage toilet, sink, and bath all worked with modern efficiency).

Moments after we brought our suitcases in, and while I was still unfolding the sheet I pack to protect hotel beds from Chloe’s fur, we were delivered a plate of barbecued oysters. Everybody gets them, not just visiting travel bloggers, and they hit the spot.

The oysters that saved our marriage — so sensible to provide guests with protein, mid-afternoon, rather than something sweet. Here's one place where I got special treatment: Guests normally get a couple of oysters each, but innkeeper Alyssum sized up our need and kindly added two more.

The oysters that saved our marriage — so sensible to provide guests with protein, mid-afternoon, rather than something sweet. Here’s one place where I got special treatment: Guests are normally welcomed with a couple of oysters each, but innkeeper Alyssum sized up our need and kindly added two more.

Nick’s Cove is within easy reach of a variety of outstanding food resources, including some remarkable dairies and farms (as well as oyster beds). They’ve also started a garden of their own, already providing the restaurant with eggs and a certain quantity of vegetables, herbs, and honey, with more vegetables and an orchard to follow. More about the garden later (it’s one of the places where your pet can join you), but all of that means that the restaurant has good ingredients at its fingertips, and our meals, including the room-service breakfast, were excellent. Our dinner (an outrageously good chowder and steak for me, with a tomato salad and a vast pork chop for my husband) was minus Chloe, but she could easily have joined us, in two different ways. There are a handful of outdoor tables, and on a warmer evening (or if we were more warmly dressed), we could have been served at them. Alternatively, that boat shack I’ve mentioned a couple of times is pet-friendly, and you can order take-out, essentially, from it. We walked down the pier to it after dinner, and it’s charming — there are a few tables outside, and inside there are more, warmed by a wood stove and a working piano. Next time we’ll settle ourselves out there, pick up the phone, and order dinner (you choose from the normal dinner menu, and when your order’s ready, the restaurant calls the shack).

Actually, Chloe could have joined us in a third way, but it wasn’t operational during our visit, perhaps because the evening was too cool: Between the restaurant and the waterfront cottages is a small outdoor lounge area where they sometimes set up an oyster bar.

The lounge area: Clearly, I didn’t pay enough attention to the details, but oysters were involved, and your pet dog was welcome. The cottage just beyond the lounge is Ruthie’s, and Al’s is next to it.

The oyster bar lounge area is just beyond that bollard

Chloe, ornamenting a bollard, or maybe it’s a cleat

Other nice touches for travelers with dogs? You’re met with a couple of home-made dog treats and a note explaining the rules:

There is a $50 per pet/per stay fee, I should add.

There is a $50 per pet/per stay fee, I should add.

Our cottage had an enclosed porch and a fenced and gated front yard, which, taken together, meant Chloe could have the run of the place. We latched the front gate and opened both the front and back doors, and Chloe could safely wander at will. (Ruthie’s offers the same opportunity, since it too has an enclosed porch and gated front yard.)

Chloe enjoying the view from Al's little porch (that's the restaurant in the background)

Chloe enjoying the view from Al’s little porch (that’s the restaurant in the background)

The property was very pleasant to wander around, and as I mentioned, dogs may join you as you walk through the garden (in the fullness of time, they’ll be able to join you as you relax and eat up there, too — the hotel has big plans for the Croft).

Ross, the garden manager, surveying chard. Beyond him is a future guest lounge area and an orchard — the garden is just getting started, but it's a sun trap and will thrive.

Ross, the garden manager, surveying chard. Beyond him is a future guest lounge area and an orchard — the Croft is just getting started, but it’s a sun trap and will thrive.

The gardeners among you will understand how pleased Ross is by these early harvests.

The gardeners among you will understand how pleased Ross is by these early harvests.

En route to the chicken coop — all of this area can be explored by guests with pet dogs, but be sure not to let your dog heckle the hens (and of course, pick up your pup's poop).

En route to the chicken coop — all of this area can be explored by guests with pet dogs, but be sure not to let your dog heckle the hens (and of course, pick up your pup’s poop).

Nicolina, another dog-friendly waterfront cottage. Adorable, but tiny — perhaps not the choice for your Great Dane puppy.

Nicolina, another dog-friendly waterfront cottage. Adorable, but tiny — perhaps not the choice for your Great Dane puppy.

Chloe and the boat of nasturtiums

Chloe and the boat of nasturtiums, moored outside the Innkeeper’s cottage

Chloe was perfectly happy at Nick’s Cove, and we were too. If I had to find a nit to pick, it’d be that our cottage, at least, didn’t appear to have working windows, so our nighttime ventilation option was the back door. Leaving it open was safe enough, barring a really determined effort to do us evil, but we feared mosquitos (in fact, there were none, perhaps because of the breeze from the bay — I had an unfortunate encounter with a wasp, the next morning, but that was on the less breezy side of the property). The room music options were also limited (to Reggae Blend, Smooth Jazz, Coffee House, Traditional Country, Soft Hits, and New Age), so next time we’ll bring our wireless Bluetooth speaker with us. There’s no cellphone coverage, but the wifi was adequate to our needs.

My guess is that you, like us, will not miss being powerfully connected to the rest of the world. Nick’s Cove takes you back to a bygone era of vacationing, tempting you to do no-tech things like putting together puzzles, or playing music, or listening to the waves, or watching pelicans make their hunting passes up and down the bay. I appreciated the slightly battered, Adirondack camp feel of the place, and I appreciated, too, the touches of luxury — the vast bed, the heated bathroom floor, the Bulleit bourbon available for purchase in the room. A lot of thought went into providing the packet of lavender bath salts I found right when I was hoping for one; the containers of real cream to go with the (darned good) coffee we made in the room; the extra table, next to the vintage bathroom sink, big enough to hold bathroom gear; the pair of house-made chocolate cupcakes we were handed as we checked out. We liked it all, and we’ll return.

Nick’s Cove is pricey (I didn’t realize quite how pricey until I started writing this post), but if your budget allows, get one of the waterfront cottages. I visited Uncle Andy’s, one of the pet-friendly cottages on the other side of Highway 1, and while it was very attractive, it was a (small, rural) highway away from the water. Other fun things to do with your pup in the area? Check out the pet-friendly trails and beaches on Point Reyes (they’re limited in number and area, but still, good stuff); wander around the charming town of Point Reyes Station (we’ve visited the dog-friendly bookstore, and dashed in to Cowgirl Creamery to pick up a sandwich); or bring your pup with you to Hog Island Oyster Co. or The Marshall Store, both sources of superb oysters (Hog Island has a shuck-your-own option, but shucked oysters are readily available, never fear) and other good lunch/early dinner options. Hog Island is all outdoors; The Marshall Store welcomes pet dogs in its outdoor areas, but not in its building. Keep your pup on a leash in both places, and, of course, pick up after her.

Reader’s report: Air-side pet relief area at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

As you know from previous posts, the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) has multiple pet relief areas. I’ve visited one of the areas serving Terminal D, and reader Giuliana shared info and pictures from one of the areas serving Terminal C (there’s another outdoor pet relief area at the southern end of Terminal C, and there’s one serving Terminal A — if you visit them, please report!). In addition to its outdoor pet relief areas, DFW is also one of the rare U.S. airports with a pet relief area on the air side of security — meaning that you don’t have to exit the airport and return again through the security line to let your dog use the bathroom. Reader Laura visited it recently, and kindly sent a picture and a quick report.

Kathy's picture of the DFW pet relief area on the air side of the security line.

Laura’s picture of the DFW pet relief area on the air side of the security line

The pictures are a pleasant touch, and, also on the bright side, the room contains a sink and water bowls (as well as the litter box you can see in the upper left corner — hard to imagine any of my cats being relaxed enough to use it, and if your dog, like Chloe, has a disgusting weakness for cat “cookies,” keep her away from it). On the negative side, that’s a very small patch of fake grass, and it will likely become as unpleasant as the one in Seattle’s air-side pet relief area. I do wish more airports would take a leaf out of Washington/Dulles’s playbook, and invest in a room with a large, washable (or at least rinsable) surface.

However, it exists, and that’s cause for celebration. To find it, says Laura, make your way to Terminal D and look for Gate D-18: “It’s right next to gate D18; there are signs, then it’s down a hallway in an unmarked room, which was weird.” Basically, she says, it’s “an empty storage room.”

Thanks so much, Laura, for your generosity in collecting and sharing this info! It’s such a help to other travelers with dogs. I’ve added this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series of reviews of airport pet relief areas. To see others, visit Dog Jaunt’s handy guide to airport pet relief areas. Please note that the other U.S. airports I know about that currently have air-side pet relief areas are located in Detroit; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; Salt Lake City; San Diego; Seattle; and Washington D.C. (Dulles).

Reader’s report: Dog-friendly river cruises in Germany, Holland

The fact is, it’s hard to find dog-friendly sailing/cruising opportunities, unless you own your own boat or can talk your way onto a friend’s boat. They exist, don’t despair (never despair!), but they’re rare. I list several in Bone Voyage, my book about dog travel — and isn’t it time you bought yourself a copy? — but this week I learned from reader Jenna that the German company 1AVista Reisen offers four different river cruises focusing on travelers with pet dogs (though guests without dogs are also welcome — “Selbstverständlich sind auch Gäste ohne Hund herzlich willkommen”).

Jenna is eying the next available cruise, an 8-day trip on the Rhine and Moselle rivers that heads south from the cathedral city of Cologne (Köln) to Koblenz, then turns southwest to follow the Moselle River to Trier, the oldest city in Germany, and home to eight UNESCO world heritage sites. The ship (the 50-cabin MS Normandie) docks several times a day so guests can walk their pups on land (if your dog needs a break between shore visits, there’s a pet relief area set up on the “Sonnendeck”). On the return trip to Cologne, the ship stops in different locations along the rivers.

Other trip options include a 4-day Rhine River cruise that takes you past Koblenz (and I think past the Lorelei rock — oh, the romance!); a different 8-day Rhine/Moselle cruise; and an 8-day cruise northwards from Cologne to Utrecht and beyond, to Volendam and Enkhuisen on Holland’s coasts, before returning to Cologne on another branch of the Rhine (you can, if you like, tack on an additional short Rhine cruise that heads south from Cologne).

Bacharach is one of the stops on the 4-day Rhine cruise (photo by Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus)

Bacharach is one of the stops on the 4-day Rhine cruise (photo by Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus)

Reading the list of stops on the trip Jenna is considering brought back very happy memories of childhood trips to the Rhine and Moselle valleys — not to be missed by anyone with an interest in history and castles and mythology. And wine — this is prime wine country, after all, and the mountainside vineyards that add so much to the scenery produce some superb Riesling (and other wines too).

Your dog must be leashed, but she can be with you in all guest areas, including “im Salon, Restaurant, an der Rezeption oder an Deck.” You’re requested to bring your pet’s own food. There is a size restriction (your pet can be no more than 50 cm tall — just under 20″ — at the shoulder), and there are breed restrictions (“Gefährliche Hunderassen gemäß der Hundeverordnung des Landes NRW wie Pitbull, Bullterrier, Rottweiler, Bulldog etc. werden niche befördert”). There is a small fee for your pup: on the longer trips, it’s € 80 (€ 40 on the 4-day cruise).

Thanks so much for the lead, Jenna — Chloe and I will follow in your footsteps as soon as we can!

Reader’s report: Pet relief area at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) — Terminal C

Speaking of reader Giuliana (responsible for my last post about JetBlue’s recent pet policy change), it’s high time I passed on her report about the pet relief area at Dallas Fort Worth International’s (DFW) Terminal C. You may recall that I’ve located and written about two of the pet relief areas serving DFW’s Terminal D, but I didn’t have time to get to the other areas at Terminals A and C. I asked for reports from any of you passing through DFW, and Giuliana responded to the call.

Thank goodness she did, because DFW’s website is very thin on guidance: All it says is that “Designated grassy areas [are] located on the lower level outside security.” Terminal C apparently has two pet relief areas, one at either end; Giuliana visited the one at the northern end, near Gate 2 (there’s another one at the southern end, near Gate 39). According to Giuliana, “It was a little hard to find if you don’t know about of it ahead of time. If there were signs in the terminal, I didn’t see them. You walk down towards gate C1, but you have to exit at C4, go down the escalator and then continue walking outside in the direction of C1.”

Here’s Giuliana’s picture of the northern Terminal C pet relief area:

As you can see, it’s an unfenced bit of sloping lawn, provided with a pole bearing poop bags and a trash bin, but nothing else.

Thanks to Google Maps, I can give you this overview of where that pet relief area is:

Terminal C from above — the red arrow points to the pet relief area

Terminal C from above — the red arrow points to the pet relief area

And this street view:

The pet relief area from above — Terminal C parking to the right, Terminal C baggage claim behind and to the lower left

The pet relief area from the service road that runs down the backbone of the airport, looking east (pretty much where the arrow is in the previous photo) — Terminal C parking to the right, Terminal C baggage claim behind and to the lower left. You can just see the poop bag pole at the tip of the lawn closest to the terminal.

Giuliana was pleased to find that the security line nearest the pet relief area was easy to re-enter: “A bonus was the security area coming back in near the relief area was small (didn’t seem like they were set up for huge lines). There were only 2 people ahead of me, both crew members.”

She was also happy to report that Puddy, her Cairn Terrier (then weighing 11 lbs. and measuring 11″ at the shoulder and 15″ long), fit comfortably in a large Sherpa carrier, which in turn worked fine under her seats on a Boeing 737-800 and a 757 (both American Airlines): “I wasn’t able to get dimensions, but he fit under the seat both side/longwise (there was a bump under there to get the bag end under, but not awful). I chose to orient him sideways though so I could rub his side with my foot, which comforted him on takeoff/landing. A couple inches of the bag stuck out, so I just put my legs on either side.”

Thank you yet again, Giuliana, both for the info and for your extreme patience! I’ve added this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series of reviews of airport pet relief areas. To see others, visit Dog Jaunt’s handy guide to airport pet relief areas.

JetBlue now lets you reserve on-line an in-cabin spot for your pet dog

This is a two-part update, and I owe both parts to reader Giuliana, who wrote first to tell me that JetBlue now allows you to reserve an in-cabin spot for your pet online. As of at least June 16, the language on JetBlue’s JetPaws page stated that “Pets can be booked online or you can call 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583).”

That’s unusual — previously, of the major U.S. airlines, only Virgin America and United (carried over from Continental’s policy) let you make your pet’s reservation at the same time you make your own online reservation. I celebrated noisily on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page, because it’s a real convenience for travelers with pets — otherwise, you’re forced either to (1) make your own reservation online, then quickly call and add your pet to your ticket, hoping that there’s room in the cabin for her; or (2) make both of your reservations over the phone, incurring the fee for phone reservations.

Previously, JetBlue had sweetened the deal by waiving the phone reservation fee for calls made by travelers with pets, but those days are over. Now, they really want you to make all of your reservations on-line; as Giuliana discovered, they’re adding a big nudge in that direction by adding a $25 fee if you call to make your pet’s reservation. Tucked away in the FAQs — which you wouldn’t necessarily consult when planning your trip, because the FAQ link is located under the “At the airport” section of the JetPaws page — is a new note saying that “Pets may be booked on jetblue.com or by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) — a $25 booking fee will apply for reservations made over the phone” (emphasis in the original). That is, of course, in addition to the normal $100 (each way) pet fee that the airline charges.

So how does it work? I started making a fictional reservation for mid-July, and I learned that your pet gets added to your reservation at Step 4 (“Extras”) in the process, right after seat selection. Here’s a screen shot of what it looked like:

This is a little cramped, since I wanted to capture both the top of the page (showing where I was in the booking process) as well as the "Jet with your pet" entry

This is a little cramped, since I wanted to capture both the top of the page (showing where I was in the booking process) as well as the “Jet with your pet” entry

Put briefly, if you are planning to travel with your in-cabin pet on JetBlue, make reservations for both of you on-line to avoid significant processing fees. Hat tip to JetBlue for making on-line booking available (and thereby tacitly assuring you that your pet actually does have a reserved spot in-cabin — those spots are limited in number, and many airlines make them first-come-first-served), and for its continuing policy of awarding you frequent flyer points for your pet’s travel as well as yours. And another hat tip to Giuliana, for bringing both changes to my attention!

Backpack carrier for a larger small dog: PetEgo’s Pet At Work Travel System

I owe this post to reader Catie, who told me that PetEgo now offers its P@W backpack carrier in a large size — I’d admired it before, but the product back then (the current small size) was too small for Chloe. Long story short: The large Pet At Work carrier is a fine size for a larger small dog like Chloe, and with a couple of tweaks, it’s a wonderful addition to our carrier collection. Please note that I paid full price for our P@W Travel System. I will always let you know when I’m reviewing a product or a service that has been paid for (or provided at a discount by) someone else.

Chloe, ever patient, tries out the Pet At Work carrier

Chloe, ever patient, tries out the Pet At Work carrier

The concept behind the Pet At Work Travel System is appealing: You carry your pet to work (say, for example, on public transit) in the backpack part of the carrier, and when you arrive at your workplace you pull a large Pet Dome out of its slot in the carrier (which also has a padded sleeve for a small laptop) and let your pup recline in that. That scenario doesn’t happen in my life (I work at home, and my husband keeps a Pet Dome at his workplace), but I can imagine biking with Chloe on my back to a destination — a coffee shop, or a park — where it would be good to have a Pet Dome for her to lounge in. It’s more likely, however, that I would leave the Pet Dome at home and use its pocket to carry the gear I normally carry in my purse. It’s a rare pleasure to run into a pet carrier that includes space for human gear too:

I've pulled the Pet Dome out of its slot (you can see it resting against my foot) to show you the space it leaves available. That sleeve on the right will hold a 15" laptop, and the main part of the compartment would hold all of my gear (and I'm a gal who carriers a big purse). The tether actually belongs in the pet compartment to the left, but I've pulled it out of Chloe's way and flopped it in here instead. I wish PetEgo allowed you the option of detaching the tether.

I’ve pulled the Pet Dome out of its slot (you can see it resting against my right foot) to show you the space it leaves available. That sleeve on the right will hold a 15″ laptop, and the main part of the compartment would hold all of my gear (and I’m a gal who carries a big purse). The tether actually belongs in the pet compartment to the left, but I’ve pulled it out of Chloe’s way and flopped it in here instead. I wish PetEgo allowed you the option of detaching the tether.

The downside of doing that is that you lose structural support: The collapsed PetDome provides a lightweight but sturdy foundation that the rest of the backpack hangs from. Carrying a laptop helps, but even with just a heap of stuff from my purse (the last picture, below) in that pocket, Chloe didn’t list too much.

The P@W carrier with the Pet Dome in its slot. Plenty of room for Chloe, and her "floor" is pretty level.

The P@W carrier with the Pet Dome in its slot. Plenty of room for Chloe, and her “floor” is pretty level.

Pet Dome removed, and replaced with my small MacBook Air laptop. A bit more sag in Chloe's "floor."

Pet Dome removed, and replaced with my small MacBook Air laptop. A bit more sag in Chloe’s “floor.”

No Pet Dome or laptop, just random purse stuff. This is the worst-case scenario; while Chloe's "floor" is angled, she didn't seem unduly concerned about it.

No Pet Dome or laptop, just random purse stuff. This is the worst-case scenario, in terms of structural support; while Chloe’s “floor” is angled, she didn’t seem unduly concerned about it. If I thought I’d never carry a laptop or a Pet Dome, I might consider getting a piece of thick foam cut into the same shape as the collapsed Pet Dome, and slip that into the laptop sleeve.

As longtime Dog Jaunt readers already know, Chloe is a large small dog (she weighs about 13 lbs., stands about 12″ tall at her shoulder, and measures about 16″ from nape of neck to base of tail), and I have to shop carefully for carriers that fit her. Add the large Pet At Work backpack to the list — when all of its gussets are unzipped, it offers a space that is 16.5″ wide, 11.5″ deep, and about 16″ tall (the width and height have a fair amount of give, since the “walls” and “ceiling” of the space are nylon mesh). That’s plenty of room for her to sit up, shift around, and view the world. It’s also just enough room for her to lie down in a tight circle, but if I anticipated that she’d be doing a lot of resting, I’d pack the Pet Dome.

The following picture shows the pet compartment at its largest, with both of its gusset zippers unzipped. In this configuration (the only one that works for Chloe, or other dogs her size), the carrier has two entrances, one on top, and one on the back. As you can see, the back entrance’s “door” can be rolled up and secured (with Velcro); in that event, you’d likely want to use the provided tether to discourage your pup from leaping out.

Roomiest pet compartment option (both gussets unzipped)

Roomiest pet compartment option (both gussets unzipped). Two rods in nylon sleeves, sewn to the “ceiling” of the pet compartment, keep the top propped outwards: Swing them up and use the Velcro tabs on their ends to attach them to the upper corners of the compartment.

If you have a small pet, you might prefer this following configuration, with only one of the gusset zippers unzipped. The top entrance is no longer available, but the side and back panels still provide a lot of cross-ventilation.

It's worth nothing that with one fewer gusset unfurled, using the Pet Dome compartment as a purse won't make the pet compartment floor tilt as much

It’s worth noting that with one fewer gusset unfurled, using the Pet Dome compartment as a purse (that is, removing the Pet Dome) won’t make the pet compartment floor tilt as much.

These are the only two pet-carrying configurations available; once you close the second gusset zipper, you’re left with a compartment that could hold a sweater or, given that a couple of mesh panels are still exposed, gym clothing.

In both of the pet-carrying configurations, the “floor” panel (a piece of what feels like thick plastic, encased in nylon), can be pulled away from the Velcro tab securing it to the wall of the pet compartment and laid flat, where it’s held in place by gravity and friction. Softness is provided by a small pad, nylon on one side and fleece on the other, which you lay on top of the floorboard. It’s not secured to anything, and scoots around under your dog, especially while you’re hoisting the carrier onto your shoulders.

Chloe really dislikes that scooting, and I plan to fix it with more Velcro. The same “male” Velcro tab that holds the floor panel to the wall of the pet compartment will make itself useful again: I’ll sew a strip of “female” Velcro (the softer, loop side) to the pad, and that’ll provide one point of stability (since it’s the softer part of a Velcro pairing, and therefore won’t catch on your dog’s fur, you could sew strips to both the nylon and the fleece sides of the pad, if you care about reversing the pad in hot/cold weather). I’ll sew an additional female Velcro strip on each short end of the pad. There may not be enough slack in the nylon covering of the floorboard to allow the matching male strips to be sewn on; if not, I’ll use stick-on Velcro strips for the floorboard. The result will be three points of stability for the pad, which will greatly improve Chloe’s outlook on life.

Aside from her objections to the shiftiness of the provided floor pad, Chloe clearly approves of the carrier —  even after the jostling that occurs while I wriggle out of the straps and swing her down to a chair or the floor, she’s in no hurry to hop out.

Snoozing happily.

Snoozing happily.

I like it too — the thought that went into its features pleases me, and it’s well-made. The shoulder straps are comfortable, and I like how the same padding that protects your laptop also cushions your back. A simple strap at the top lets you pick the carrier up vertically (picking it up by the tops of the shoulder straps would tilt the bag, potentially disconcerting your pet). A long, low pocket just below the back “entrance” is big enough to hold small items like a roll of poop bags and treats.

One last thought: It occurred to me that the Pet At Work backpack might work as an in-cabin carrier. You’d have to take the Pet Dome out as you arrived at your seat, and gently rotate the carrier onto the strap side, so your dog ends up resting on the padding that usually protects your back. The two props that support the pet compartment will now be holding one end of your pet’s “roof” up. Deploy some more Velcro to secure the panel that’s normally the floorboard in place — you need it to support the other end of your pet’s roof, and it no longer has gravity on its side in this orientation. The overall height of the rotated carrier, minus the Pet Dome, is about 11″, with plenty of give (but be gentle with those two support rods), and the length and width are both about 16″. For a dog Chloe’s size, I’d do it only if I was traveling with someone else, and could poach some of their legroom for the Pet Dome — as soon as we leveled off, I’d unfold the Pet Dome and nudge her into it from the carrier (how convenient that the carrier’s usual top entrance acts as a side entrance when the carrier is under a plane seat!).

How does the Pet At Work carrier compare with the Canine Casual, another soft backpack carrier that works for larger small pets? As far as the space available for your pet goes, they’re close — as you can see in this picture, the pet compartments are about the same height and depth; however, what you can’t see from this angle is that the Pet At Work space is about 1-2″ wider than the Canine Casual space. The Pet At Work carrier is therefore a bit roomier than the Canine Casual.

Please note that the pet compartment for the Canine Casual (on the left) includes the area behind the powder-blue, grommeted panel; the pet compartment for the Pet At Work (on the right) ends just to the right of the

The pet compartment for the Canine Casual (on the left) includes the area behind the powder-blue, grommeted panel; the pet compartment for the Pet At Work (on the right) ends where the mesh ends (the solid area to the right is the Pet Dome compartment). It’s worth noting, though, that if the Pet Dome is removed, part of that space becomes available to your pet, since the inner wall of the Pet Dome compartment is thin nylon. In the picture of Chloe snoozing, her bottom was pressing into the empty Pet Dome compartment.

The Pet At Work carrier has more mesh ventilation panels, but I don’t mean to criticize the Canine Casual by saying that — I still think the Canine Casual carrier’s mesh panels and giant grommets provide good ventilation. Both are dark, which is fine for cool weather, but not ideal for warm weather (one Dog Jaunt reader reports that she found the large Pet At Work carrier in a tan color, so I’ll keep checking the PetEgo listing to see if it becomes available again).

The Pet At Work carrier minus the Pet Dome weighs about the same as the Canine Casual (2.96 lbs. versus the Canine Casual’s 2.86 lbs.), but with the Pet Dome on board, the Pet At Work System weighs nearly 6 lbs. The Pet At Work System is significantly more expensive ($150, on Amazon, versus about $80 for the Canine Casual).

The two carriers perceive the same need (a backpack carrier for a larger small dog, who may also want to spend time lying down) but address it in a different way: The Canine Casual carrier expands, with the help of a gusset, into a mesh tent, while the Pet At Work carrier stows a mesh tent (the Pet Dome) in a separate slot. Which one you choose will depend on how large your larger small dog is, and which price tag your budget can handle.

Amazon link: Pet at Work Travel System (large) from PetEgo

 

East Coast luxury: Four “mansion hotels” that allow pet dogs

Back in January, this article from CNN (“8 elegant U.S. mansion hotels“) caught my eye — or, more accurately, the combination of the headline and the photo of Newport’s gorgeous Chanler Hotel caught my eye. Surely some of those beauties must be pet-friendly, I thought, and this weekend I finally made the time to find out.

It turns out that five of the eight featured hotels do allow pet dogs to join their owners. The Chanler, alas, is not one of them. Don’t set your heart on Tarrytown’s Castle Hotel or San Jose’s Hayes Mansion either; per the front desk staff, both places only open their doors to service animals. And while the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Cavendish, VT does allow pet dogs, its only pet-friendly rooms are in the Pointe Hotel, which lacks the history and charm of the main building. (For those of you who remain undaunted, Castle Hill’s current pet policy is as follows: Standard rooms with 2 queen beds in the Pointe Hotel only; $40/night fee; multiple pets okay.)

Charleston's Wentworth Mansion hotel (the Garden Rooms are pet-friendly)

Charleston’s Wentworth Mansion hotel (the Garden Rooms are pet-friendly)

With that chaff out of the way, here’s the wheat, listed in order of their appeal for me (the CNN article provides links to the hotels’ websites, and I’ve provided links to pet policies where they exist — otherwise, I gathered the pet policy details via phone calls):

Wentworth Mansion (Charleston, South Carolina) — The Garden Rooms, located on the ground floor, are pet-friendly; $25/night.

Wilburton Inn (Manchester Village, Vermont) — Certain rooms are pet-friendly, for (essentially) $40/night.

Keswick Hall at Monticello (Keswick, Virginia) — Any of the rooms may be occupied by guests with pets; $75/per night per pet; 75 lb. limit; multiple pets allowed.

Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club (Lenox, Massachusetts) — Certain rooms are pet-friendly; one time fee of $50.

Dog jaunt: Stroll up Paris’s Île aux Cygnes

This was the last long walk we took before we left Paris last fall, and it was a perfect way to say good-bye to the city. The Île aux Cygnes (“Isle of the Swans” — nope, we didn’t see a single one) is a long, thin island in the Seine. Just southwest of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a little bit off the beaten path, but not so much so that it’s tough to get to. It was created in the early 19th c. as a breakwater, to protect what was then the port of Grenelle (now absorbed into Paris and part of the 15th arrondissement). Sixty-two years later, the American community in Paris commemorated the centennial of the French Revolution with a 1/4-size replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was installed on the southwest tip of the island (at 22 metres, or 72 feet, tall, it’s still pretty imposing).

Paris's biggest Statue of Liberty replica (there are two others in town, plus a full-size replica of the torch), from the Pont de Grenelle.

Paris’s biggest Statue of Liberty replica (there are two others in town, plus a full-size replica of the flame), from the Pont de Grenelle.

Between the Statuette of Liberty at one end, and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim at the other, there’s a single path, perfect for promenades, flanked with trees and benches.

I recommend starting on the Pont de Grenelle. If you, like us, take the #72 bus along the Right Bank to get there, listen carefully for the “Radio France-Pont de Grenelle” stop (confusingly, one stop west of the “Radio France” stop). You will find yourself standing where the Rue de Boulainvilliers meets the Avenue du Président Kennedy. Cross the street to the river and get yourself onto the left side of the bridge. Descend the ramp and walk under the bridge to reach Madame Liberté. Please note that she’s facing her American sister, 3,500 miles away — and savor the fact that you can get close enough to touch her pedestal (pet dogs, as you may already know, cannot visit Lady Liberty).

Turn back around and stroll northeast, the length of the island. The views are wonderful, as you can see, and the folks you meet are all in strolling mode — relaxed, prepared to admire your dog, and often accompanied by dogs themselves.

Chloe and me, just below the statue, looking southeast across the river

Chloe and me, just below the statue — beyond us is the Left Bank, and the waterfront part of the the quartier of Grenelle

We've crossed back under the Pont de Grenelle, and now we're walking north — the views of the Eiffel Tower just get better and better

We’ve crossed back under the Pont de Grenelle, and now we’re walking north — the views of the Eiffel Tower just get better and better

When you reach the north end of the island, you’ll find yourself facing a set of stairs — climb them, carefully cross the street (and bridge), and you’ll find yourself on the actual northern tip of the island, which has an unimpeded view of the Eiffel Tower. Claim yourself a bit of parapet, and enjoy the moment.

The stairs at the northeast end of the island, leading up to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

The stairs at the northeast end of the island, leading up to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

Pass under that arch, carefully crossing the bridge, and you'll find this little plaza before you (the statue is called "La France renaissante")

Pass under the arch in that last photo, carefully crossing the bridge, and you’ll find this little plaza before you (the statue is called “La France renaissante”)

I wish I could tell you that we'd planned to arrive at this point on our walk just as the tower lights went on, but it was purely a matter of luck. By the time we walked away, it was dusk, and the city lights were spangling the river.

I wish I could tell you that we’d timed our walk to see the tower at its best, but it was purely a matter of luck. We stayed at our bit of parapet until dusk turned into evening, and the city lights were spangling the river.

When you’re ready to leave, return to the right bank. Cross over to the center of the bridge as you get to its north end, and descend the staircase before you; you’ll find yourself right at the “Pont de Bir-Hakeim” stop for the #72 bus, now heading back to the Place de la Concorde (and beyond, to the Louvre and Châtelet).

You may remember the Pont de Bir-Hakeim from Inception, and before that from Last Tango in Paris

Heading north on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim. You may remember this gorgeous bridge from the movie “Inception,” and before that from “Last Tango in Paris.”

We walked down the middle of the bridge, on those two lanes you see in the middle of the picture, but it’s really for bicyclists. Thank goodness none came along while we were hogging their path — next time, we’ll know to walk alongside the bridge railings instead.

Reader’s report: Large SturdiBag on a Southwest 737-700 plane

Here’s another photo to share with you of a large SturdiBag in position under a plane seat, thanks to reader Kathy. She posted a message this week on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page, telling me that she’d taken Theodore, her 13 year-old Toy Poodle, on his first plane flight, and all went well — and she was extra-relieved, because Theodore is “a delicate little guy.”

They flew on a Southwest 737-700 series plane, in a middle seat, and Kathy bought the large SturdiBag. Here’s Theodore, en route:

Theodore, in a large SturdiBag, under the middle seat of a Southwest 737-700 series plane

Theodore, in a large SturdiBag, under the middle seat of a Southwest 737-700 series plane

Kathy reports that “the Sturdi Products large carrier you discussed on your website was a godsend. It fit easily under the Southwest 737/700 center seat and I was able to give him water and treats through the well made zippered top opening.”

I’ve written about the Southwest 737-700 under seat space in the past, and, while I was rummaging around for that link, discovered that I’d also posted a picture of my own of a large SturdiBag (and a medium Sherpa bag) on a 737-700, but I’m still grateful to Kathy for her picture and report. For one thing, she’s not me, and I think it helps other readers to hear from more than one person that a carrier works well in a particular situation. For another thing, Kathy had the presence of mind to take a second shot that included the seat card for her plane, proving that it was indeed a Southwest 737-700:

Those of you planning to travel with your pup on a similar plane, with a similar bag, might want to bookmark this post, so you can show a Southwest rep — in a pinch — that the bag will indeed fit under your seat.

It’s also nice that Kathy’s pictures are from May 2014 — it’s just that much more convincing to see a current photo.

Thank you again, Kathy, for taking the time to send info back to the Dog Jaunt community (and for your kind praise for the blog)! I’m tagging this post so that it joins Dog Jaunt’s growing collection of pictures of carriers in action on planes.

Guest post: Traveling with Holly the Cairn Terrier across Latin America

Normally, I don’t accept guest posts — partly because I don’t want to betray your trust (there’s too much advertising masquerading as content out there) and partly because I like to maintain a consistent “sound” for the blog — but when I heard from Tamara Murray, I knew it was time to make an exception.

Tamara writes a travel blog of her own, called Our Leap Year, about the year-long adventure she and her husband and Holly, their 15 year-old Cairn Terrier, embarked on in October 2013. “We’ve brought Holly to Mexico, Chile and Argentina so far,” Tamara told me, “and we have some lessons learned about doing so — especially since we’re traveling so long that our USDA health certificate has long since expired. We’ve had to navigate getting a government-certified health certificate in Mexico and even had a close call (‘Sorry, but we can’t let her through’) coming from Chile to Argentina.” Dog Jaunt helped Tamara and her husband Chris prepare for their travels, she said, and now she wanted to give back to the community. Was I interested in a guest post? I certainly was, and here it is — Tamara’s post about bringing Holly to and around Latin America:

When my husband Chris and I decided to take a career break and travel Latin America for a year, we were confronted with a big question: But, what about Holly?

Holly.jpg

Holly is our 15-year-old Cairn Terrier and best friend in the whole world. (I’m sure you can relate!) Ultimately, we decided not to put off our dreams and take Holly along for the ride.

We set out in October 2013 with her and two backpacks. So far, she’s traveled across Mexico, Chile, and Argentina with us, acting as a goodwill ambassador and bringing smiles to locals’ faces.

Holly Volcan Osorno 400.jpg

We get a nearly universal reaction when we tell people we’re traveling Latin America with our dog. First, total disbelief. Then, a hearty chuckle. And lastly, lots of questions!

We’ve compiled some common questions and our lessons learned so far to share with Dog Jaunt readers. We hope they will help if you’re thinking about taking your small dog to a Latin American country!

Getting There and Back

How did you prepare to bring your dog to Mexico?

One of the first things we learned is everyone will tell you something different. That’s why we’ve learned not to rely on vets or consulates, except to help point us in the right direction. The ultimate keeper of regulations for bringing a dog to Mexico is SENASICA, a division of the government department SAGARPA, which is Mexico’s USDA-equivalent. Trust SENASICA’s guidelines and the USDA’s guidelines. Here’s exactly what we did:

45 days before leaving

  • Got Holly up to date on her rabies, bordedella, leptospirosis, distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and canine hepatitis vaccinations (Note: only a rabies vaccination is required for entrance into Mexico based on SENASICA’s guidelines)
  • Took care of additional things for our year-long trip:
    • Had her tested for internal parasites
    • Got a one-year supply of flea and worm preventative
    • Got one dose of deworming pills to bring with us, just in case

5 days before leaving

  • Took Holly for a health exam at a local USDA-certified vet, who filled out the official health certificate (Form 7001)
  • Brought the certificate and vaccine documentation to the USDA’s local office where an official veterinarian signed and sealed it
  • Made print and electronic copies of everything

What was the process like going through customs?

Once we arrived at the airport in Mexico (we flew into Los Cabos, Baja California), we proceeded through immigration and picked up our bags normally. When we arrived at the customs area, we declared her to the customs officer who directed us to a desk off to the side with a SENASICA official. He reviewed her health certificate, didn’t look at the dog, and kept the official copy. Then, off we went!

[I'm interrupting Tamara's post, briefly, to add some info about their flight to Mexico: They flew on Alaska Airlines from California to Baja California.]

Does your U.S. health certificate work for your whole, one-year trip?

No. Form 7001 is only valid for 30 days, and most countries (and airlines) require an official health certificate from your country of origin within 7-10 days of travel. However, keeping the copy of our U.S. health certificate was helpful for vets and other officials to review when completing documents.

Since we were going from Mexico to Chile next after three months in Mexico, we had to get an official health certificate from SENASICA before departing for Chile. Every time you cross an international border, you need an official health certificate from your country of origin.

What’s the process like for other Latin American countries?

We can only speak to Chile and Argentina so far. Chile is notoriously strict when it comes to bringing in animals and food products, so we took extra care to follow every procedure. I even had an email exchange with someone from SAG, their USDA-equivalent, to confirm we were following SAG’s guidelines and had the appropriate paperwork. When we arrived in Chile, we had a similar experience as in Mexico, although we had to sign a document saying we would do our best to keep Holly away from other animals for 10 days.

When going from Chile to Argentina, we broke our own rule and listened to a vet’s advice. The vet in Chile said our vaccination records coupled with a health certificate on his letterhead would be sufficient for meeting SENASA’s guidelines in Argentina. When we got to the border, the customs agent told us he couldn’t let Holly through because we didn’t have an official, government-issued health certificate. We stayed calm, put on a smile, and walked him through the documentation we had. Because she had the appropriate vaccinations and was deemed healthy, he took pity on us and let us through. However, it was important that we were conversational in Spanish. I’m not sure what the outcome would have been if we tried to convince him in English.

Does your dog have her own passport?

Nope. We keep all of Holly’s original vaccination documentation and health certificates in a manila envelope, as well as copies in a separate envelope in case we lose one of our bags.

One thing I wish we’d done was get the equivalent of a “yellow card” for her. (If you don’t know what a yellow card is, it’s a small yellow document that lists all of a person’s immunizations in one place.) Holly’s documentation is in the form of print-outs from the vet that look more like invoices, so they’re difficult for non-English-speaking officials to review for pertinent details. In Mexico, they provide pets something called a carnet de salud, which is like a yellow card. Ask your vet if they can provide everything to you in a single (signed!) document or booklet if you can.

On the Road

How do you travel with your dog within the country?

While within Mexico, we flew from Baja California to Mexico City, but we only needed a basic health certificate (on the vet’s letterhead) to satisfy the airline’s regulations. She traveled in-cabin on that trip, as well as the flight from Mexico City to Santiago.

[One last interruption from me, to add flight info: Tamara and Chris and Holly flew from Baja California to Mexico City on Volaris ("you can book your space for your pet right on the website! no need to call"), and from Mexico City to Santiago on Copa Airlines ("note, they only allow pets to fly Monday-Thursday"). They will soon be on another Copa flight, from Buenos Aires to San Jose, Costa Rica.]

Traveling within Chile and Argentina has been interesting, since long-distance buses are the norm and small dogs are sometimes a gray area. We keep Holly in her soft crate on the floor by our feet and try to keep her incognito. So far, no one has stopped us to ask if we’re carrying a pet….

Are these countries dog-friendly? What about street dogs?

In the countries we’ve been to, attitudes towards dogs are different. I equate it to how people on farms in rural areas sometimes see dogs: as friendly creatures, but also as animals who live outside.

That said, Mexico City and Buenos Aires have off-leash dog parks and you see people walking dogs at all times of day. It was no problem to have Holly on leash while eating at a cafe outside in Chile. Just use common sense.

If you can believe it, the street dogs in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have all been super friendly and docile. They either keep their distance or come up to Holly for a quick and friendly sniff. It’s other people’s pets that tend to be more aggressively playful, or will bark excessively.

Is it easy to find dog-friendly accommodations?

In Mexico, small hotels/bed and breakfasts had no problem with us bringing Holly because she was small and quiet. In big cities, U.S.-based hotel chains such as Holiday Inn are sometimes pet-friendly. We’ve had the most luck using Airbnb: even if places say pets aren’t allowed, they are sometimes willing to make exceptions if you contact them ahead of time. Also, since we have positive reviews from other hosts about Holly, that helps us a lot.

Many smaller hotel chains, especially in Chile, explicitly said that pets are not allowed without exceptions. Like in the U.S., make sure to plan ahead when looking for dog-friendly accommodations.

How does it work to go to the vet or groomer?

So far, vets are plentiful and their rates are inexpensive. We paid US$20 for a basic vet exam in Mexico City. Some allow you to just drop in, while others might ask you to come back a certain day or time. Pet stores, vets and groomers are often combined into one location. Grooming is also inexpensive; it cost just US$15 for a corte-baño (cut and bath, including nail trimming) in Mexico and Argentina. If you’re picky about hairstyles, bring a photo or learn to live with it. Some breeds are less common in Latin America, so Holly usually ends up with a Schnauzer cut.

What did you bring with you? Did you have to bring all her food?

Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have a lot of the same pet products available: major food brands, basic toys and treats, brand-name flea treatments. We brought the following items, and have just purchased things along the way to maintain the supply.

  • 1 soft-sided travel carrier, 1 spare carrier-bedding liner
  • 1 ID tag, 1 collar, 1 harness, 1 leash
  • 1-week supply of dry dog food, 1 pack of treats, 1 collapsible food/water bowl
  • 2 toys, 2 rolls of waste pick-up bags, 1 portable hair trimmer, 1 mini bottle of shampoo
  • 12 months supply of flea and heart worm prevention pills, 1 dose of deworming pills

I find this post so inspiring, and so reassuring — I love how thorough Tamara is, and how she’s thought of all the questions someone just starting their planning process is likely to have. Thank you so much, Tamara, and please write to me/us again! I have no doubt that you’ll cover a lot of ground before your year is up, and it would be tremendously helpful to hear about the additional places you go and what you learn along the way.