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Reader’s report: Oscar the Dachshund in a large SturdiBag (on an Air Canada 777-200 LR)

For years, I’ve been sending Dachshund owners to the Sleepypod Air, an unusually long and low carrier with Sleepypod’s usual great design and quality. And that’s what I did with reader Jenny, who dutifully bought one for Oscar, her Dachshund (followers of Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page will remember that Jenny and Oscar are the co-founders of Cheeky Dog Bakery, based in Dublin, Ireland). Jenny liked the Air, up to a point, but felt that it didn’t give Oscar enough room to turn around — so her next purchase was the large SturdiBag I recommend so often. She wrote to me to enthuse about how it had worked for her and Oscar, and to provide pictures of it in action under an Economy seat in an Air Canada 777-200 LR plane.

Here’s what she said: “Hey! I would absolutely recommend the large SturdiBag for doxies! Oscar had so much room he even had his stuffed dog in with him and could curl up in a ball to sleep. When we were walking or in the airport he could pop his head out the top and I could feed him treats at take off and landing to adjust his ears.”

We’ll start with Jenny’s picture of the carrier in place under her seat. Here’s a link to SeatGuru’s diagram of an Air Canada 777-200LR — as you can see, there are only First Class and Economy seats. Jenny and Oscar were in an Economy seat on the left side of the plane, on the aisle:

Large SturdiBag, containing Oscar the Dachshund, under an Air Canada 777-200LR Economy class seat

Large SturdiBag, containing Oscar the Dachshund, under an Air Canada 777-200LR Economy class seat

And here are Jenny’s pictures of Oscar inside his SturdiBag, and cruising around the airport:

A picture through the top hatch of the SturdiBag, to Oscar curled up inside. Dachshunds! They'll KILL you with those mournful-looking eyebrows!

A picture through the top hatch of the SturdiBag, of Oscar curled up inside. Dachshunds! They’ll KILL you with those mournful-looking eyebrows!

Peeping out the top hatch to view the baggage claim area.

Peeping out the top hatch to view the baggage claim area.

"He fit perfect in the top of the luggage cart too ha ha"

“He fit perfect in the top of the luggage cart too ha ha”

Thanks so much to Jenny for making it easier for other folks with Dachshunds to choose a good carrier for them, and for the picture of the large SturdiBag in actual use on a plane/airline combination I’m not likely to fly on myself. I’m tagging this post so that it appears in Dog Jaunt’s growing collection of pictures of carriers on planes, so other travelers can refer to it. For more great pictures of Oscar, check out Jenny’s blog on the Cheeky Dog Bakery site!

Amazon link: Studibag Large Pet Carrier

Large, but still workable, in-cabin pet carrier: Teafco Argo Petagon

Those of you who follow Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page will know that I first saw this carrier in a celebrity shot in the Daily Mail: Julianne Hough was carrying it through an airport, and my eyes lit up because in it was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel just like Chloe.

Photo from the Daily Mail

Photo from the Daily Mail

Workable in-cabin carriers for larger small dogs are rare. I figured out the bag’s brand and model, bought one, and took it on a flight — and then my life got very complicated indeed, and I forgot everything I’d learned about the Teafco Argo Petagon. I have these pictures to show you, to prove that it fit acceptably on our Virgin America A-319 plane, but all my thoughts about it just melted away:

The large Teafco Argo Petagon, with Chloe, under a Virgin America A-319 seat

The large Teafco Argo Petagon, with Chloe, under a Virgin America A-319 seat

And a close-up of it, showing that it ended right where the seat support ended.

And a close-up of it, showing that it ended just about where the seat support ended.

But there’s always the next trip, and my forgetfulness just means that now I can report on the Petagon’s performance on two different airlines. Here it is in the window seat of a Southwest 737-700 plane (the emergency card has two options, but I happened to notice that it was in fact a -700 series plane):

My seat mates hadn't yet arrived, so I could get this shot showing how the end of the carrier is just parallel with the seat support.

The large Petagon under a window seat on a Southwest 737-700 series plane. My seat mates hadn’t yet arrived, so I could get this shot showing how the end of the carrier is just parallel with the seat support.

I call that a darned good fit for a pet carrier (better, in fact, than its fit on the Virgin America flights we first used it on), so I was surprised when a Southwest flight attendant questioned its length. This fit would normally go unremarked, and I say that after years of flying with various bags, and seeing readers’ pictures of their carriers in action. I believe that it was just a quirk of this particular flight attendant (every now and then I’m reminded forcibly that airlines are a collection of individuals). He backed off, in any event, and no other flight attendant on the following three Southwest flights I took looked twice at it. I wouldn’t anticipate that it’d normally raise serious objections.

The large Petagon (with Chloe inside but, dangit, invisible) under a window seat on a Southwest 737-800 series plane. No problem at all with the carrier on this flight or the two preceding ones.

The large Petagon (with Chloe inside but, dangit, invisible) under a window seat on a Southwest 737-800 series plane. No problem at all with the carrier on this flight or the two preceding ones.

It’s worth taking that bit of risk with the bag, because it’s large enough to accommodate a pet larger than Chloe, and that’s rare in an in-cabin carrier. The manufacturer states that the large Petagon (please note that it also comes in a medium size)  measures 21″ L x 12″ W x 13″ H; measuring tape in hand, the bag I have clocks in at 21″ L x 12″ W x 12″ H. With regard to its width, please note that its long sides slope inwards, so the bag is 12″ wide at the bottom, and 9″ wide at the top. In practice, under an airplane seat, the top of the bag squashes down a bit, and the sides bell out, providing more actual width than the 12″ bottom width suggests.

The first picture in this post, of Julianne Hough carrying the bag, makes the Petagon look enormous, but recall that she’s not much over five feet tall. I’m just shy of six feet tall, and here’s how it looks over my shoulder:

That's not an unreasonable-looking bag.

That’s not an unreasonable-looking bag.

My recent trip with the Petagon refreshed my memory about its pros and cons. Here’s what I liked: The bag has plenty of mesh panels (including one across its top); they’re double-thickness, and the inside mesh layer is woven finely enough that I believe it would resist even a cat’s claws; there are two very substantial side pockets, and a useful end pocket; a zipped hatch opening at the other end provides easy patting and treat dispensing access even when the bag is stowed under a plane seat; and there is a strap along the non-pocketed long side through which a suitcase handle (or a car’s seat belt) can pass. There is an internal tether, which is, generally speaking, a plus; I just wish that this one weren’t sewn in, and could be detached or tucked away. There is a padded bottom tray that can easily be removed and cleaned. Its surface is slick and shiny; I recommend that you add a soft pad of your own to it.

All that said, I won’t be swapping my large SturdiBag for the Petagon. I worry that the double-thickness mesh panels don’t let as much air through to Chloe as the coarser-grained SturdiProducts mesh, and I disliked how the Petagon panels caught and reflected light back at me, preventing me from seeing through them. Chloe was essentially invisible to me throughout our trips, except when I zipped open the end hatch to pat her or give her treats or ice cubes.

The two handles were long enough that they pretty much stayed on my shoulder — but the outer handle of any two-handled shoulder bag is always going to be a bit slippy, and the Petagon is no exception. I prefer a bag that also has a long strap that can be adjusted to go over a shoulder or across your torso. Unfortunately, there is no way to add your own shoulder strap to the Petagon, if you had an extra one lying around — there are no loops on the bag to clip it to.

My main objection to the Petagon is the silvery sheen of its mesh panels, but right behind it is the construction of its top. On the bright side, it has three different fastenings, making it unlikely that your pet can pull a Houdini escape on you. Zippers along each of the long sides are tugged closed with a joined handle; there’s a line of Velcro on the short end of the top flap; and a substantial plastic clip can be snapped closed, to give the Velcro solid reinforcement.

The top of the Petagon — I'm holding the red joined zipper handle, and turning back with my thumb the top flap to show you the zippers' path, the Velcro strip on the short end, and the plastic clip.

The top of the Petagon — I’m holding the red joined zipper handle with my ring finger, and turning back with my thumb the bag’s top flap to show you one of the zippers’ paths, the Velcro strip on the short end, and the plastic clip.

That’s good thinking, but the parallel zippers made me crazy. Chloe has long hair, and there is no mechanism (e.g., a shielding layer of fabric) to keep it from getting caught up in the zippers. That meant that I had to slowly zip each side closed with one hand, sliding my other hand under the bag’s top between the zipper and Chloe’s fur. Because the zippers are joined with a pull handle, you can’t close one at a time, but rather have to switch back and forth between them. That was annoying and slow. It wasn’t a disaster, because Chloe’s not an escape artist, but I can imagine it being a problem with an agitated dog, or a cat.

Please note that the only way to load a pet into the Petagon is through the big top opening. For some of you, that’ll be a plus (I sometimes hear from readers who don’t like the SturdiBag’s side “door”).

Despite those drawbacks, I will be recommending that folks with larger small dogs consider the large Teafco Argo Petagon. Overall, it’s a well-made bag, and offers useful additional length while still fitting plausibly under an airplane seat. Please note that the large Petagon is currently out of stock, both on Teafco’s site and on Amazon. I spoke with a Teafco customer service rep who told me that they expect the bag to be back in stock at the end of June or the beginning of July 2015. It is by no means discontinued; he described it as “one of our favorite carriers.”

Amazon link: Teafco Argo Petagon, Large, Black

Chloe and the world’s largest chili pepper (with bonus Las Cruces, NM hotel)

We haven’t done Photo Friday in a while, and what better way to get back in gear than a picture of Chloe with the world’s largest chili pepper?

The chili pepper is in a fenced enclosure, complicating Chandler's efforts to get the whole vegetable in the frame

The pepper is in a walled enclosure, complicating Chandler’s efforts to get the whole vegetable in the frame

It’s a vast concrete sculpture in the parking lot of the America’s Best Value Inn in Las Cruces, NM, designed, as Roadside America puts it, “to entice travelers to notice this hotel rather than the ones lacking giant chili peppers.”

It’s a hoot in itself, but the bonus is that the hotel it ornaments gets some darned good reviews on TripAdvisor, is extremely affordable, and welcomes pet dogs. Given those reviews, the pleasantness of our reception (despite being obvious lookie-loos), and the appealing goofiness of the lobby and the internal courtyard, I’d certainly stay at The Big Chili Inn the next time we drive on Interstate 10 or Interstate 25.

New favorite traveling pet water bowl: Cycle Dog’s Trail Buddy Bowl

I keep a collapsible water bowl in my purse, and in our cars, and for years my choice was Canine Hardware’s Hydro Bowl — as I said back in 2009, “it’s small enough to fit in my purse or a pocket. Unfolded, it’s sturdy enough to stay reliably upright, it’s shallow, and its opening is wide and holds its shape pretty well. (Chloe gets spooked when her bowls close their jaws shut on her muzzle.) It’s also definitely waterproof.” After years of use, the Hydro Bowl finally wore out along its fold lines, and started leaking. That’s not a complaint — five years is a darned good run for any pet product — but the need for a replacement prompted me to take a new look at the collapsible pet bowl scene.

The problem is that a lot of collapsible pet bowls are really big, and Chloe’s a small dog, who only needs a few ounces of water or food at a time. She also, as I mentioned above, really doesn’t like it when a bowl acts like it might close back up on her while she’s drinking from it. And finally, after learning the hard way that all of our cats are allergic to plastic, I have no interest in finding out that Chloe is too. We avoid plastic pet products.

That’s a lot of requirements for a collapsible bowl, but Cycle Dog’s Trail Buddy Bowl meets them all. Here’s a picture of it in my hand, so you can get an idea of its size when it’s folded up:

The bowl's exterior is made of recycled bicycle inner tubes, and a bit of inner tube is sewn into a handle that also secures the bowl when it's folded closed.

The bowl’s exterior is made of recycled bicycle inner tubes, and a bit of inner tube is sewn into a handle that also secures the bowl when it’s folded closed.

And here’s a picture of it unfolded, next to Chloe:

The interior of the bowl is a BPA-free silicone, with enough "body" that it pushes the bowl open as soon as it's unfolded

The bowl itself is a BPA-free silicone, with enough “body” that it pushes outwards as soon as it’s unfolded — no fear of it gradually closing back up around Chloe’s snout.

It dries out very rapidly — typically, when Chloe’s finished drinking, I pour out the leftover water and then whack the bowl against my leg a few times to get rid of droplets. That leaves, at most, a thin film of water, which I either wipe off or let evaporate. A hard-working product made in the U.S. from recycled materials — what’s not to love?

As you can see, I bought the bowl in the Red Tri-Style pattern, which is what my local pet store was carrying. Now that I’ve seen the other options, I’ll be ordering the even cuter Brown pattern and Apple Green Retro Flowers pattern for our car kit’s water bowls. (The other options include a variety of solid colors, as well as a couple more patterns.)

Amazon link: Cycle Dog Trail Buddy Collapsible Dog Travel Bowl

Form of health certificate for pet dogs traveling to E.U. has changed

Reader Gail, getting ready for her next trip to Italy with Puccini, her Cavalier, learned in February  that the form of health certificate for pets traveling to an E.U. country has changed, as of December 29, 2014. She let me know promptly, and I’ve been trying to get my act together to write a post about it ever since.

Here’s a link to the new form [PDF], and here’s a link to an annotated, explanatory version of it [PDF]. For comparison’s sake, here’s my post with pictures of the old form, completed and endorsed by the USDA (from Chloe’s last trip to France and the U.K.). Gail, who’s just finished filling out the new form — and got it USDA-endorsed, so she’s done it correctly — reports that “As far as I can tell, the major differences in the new form are that there are lots of places to line out and initial. Plus, there’s a section to be completed by the official at the point of entry. That suggests that one should pass through some sort of control with one’s dog at the airport. Hmmm, I sure have never done that previously and certainly won’t be searching for a place to do so now.”

To save you from having to root back through old posts, here’s how you find the current import form for the country you plan to visit. Start with this main page from the USDA’s site, about animal and animal product exportation (recall that the USDA governs animal exports from the U.S., while the CDC governs animal imports to the U.S.). Click on “IRegs for Animal Exports,” and on the resulting page scroll to the bottom and select the country you plan to visit.

If you choose “France,” you’ll scroll down to the section on “Pets” on the resulting page and follow the directions. Please note that if you choose the “United Kingdom” instead, for example, you’ll end up with the same basic import form (since both France and the U.K. are E.U. member countries), but you’ll also be given a link to additional, U.K.-specific information (particularly including their rule about tapeworm treatment). Be sure to look at the information provided for each country you plan to visit, even if you plan to stay within the European Union.

Thank you, Gail, for the heads-up! Please let us know if someone at your destination airport shows an interest in seeing Puccini’s new form — and have a great time together in Italy!

Reader’s report: Custom Celltei carrier for Franny the Corgi

I have mentioned Celltei’s custom carriers in the past (they made a gigantic combination wheeled/backpack carrier for a 50 lb. dog, for travel on NYC’s subway system), but I have yet to check them out for myself. I was grateful, therefore, to hear from reader Courtney about the custom carrier she ordered from Celltei for Franny, her 19 lb. Cardigan Welsh Corgi — especially because I’ve just learned that the expandable carrier I typically recommend to folks with really large small dogs (the large Kobi carrier) has been discontinued.

Be aware up front that these carriers are pricey. However, they’re very well made, and as you’ll see, they are tailored to your pet and your needs. Here’s the carrier that Courtney and Celltei designed for Franny (who weighed a bit more when it was requested). It’s a modified version of their Backpack-o-Pet product: At 19″ L x 12″ W x 11″ H, it’s an inch shorter than the off-the-shelf model (which is good, because a 20″ long carrier starts being worrisome), but it has a built-in gusset that, unzipped, adds six inches to the carrier’s length. That’s three inches more than the now-unavailable large Kobi carrier offered (and the Kobi carriers only have a shoulder strap; they do not offer a backpack option).

Franny's custom carrier from Celltei (gusset zipped closed)

Franny’s custom carrier from Celltei (gusset zipped closed)

The extra six inches can only be deployed when the carrier is resting on something, since that extra length is unsupported — you would board the plane, stow your pet, and take off with the gusset zipped, and then unzip it and release the extension once the plane levels off. It gives Franny room to recline at the airport too: “I use [the 6″ expansion] at the gate and she looks very comfortable.”

Courtney reports that she and Franny travel comfortably with the bag on Southwest: “I have fit it under the middle and aisle seats with no problem, though I’ve found it slides in much easier if there’s not already someone in the seat in front of me!”

Franny's custom Celltei on a Southwest 300/500 series plane. At the lower left of the picture you can see the seat support, for reference.

Franny’s custom Celltei on a Southwest 737-300/500 series plane. At the lower left of the picture you can see the seat support, for reference.

A pic of Franny, peeping out.

A pic of Franny, peeping out.

Emboldened by success, Courtney is taking Franny to Italy, and she reports “Celltei bag no problem in the window seat in economy comfort on a Delta 737!” From the second, long-haul leg on a Delta A-330, the report was nearly as good: “My bag doesn’t fit next to her like on the 737s but [her carrier] does go all the way under” (I wrote back and told her that my own bag hardly ever fits next to Chloe, so I call that a win). Here are her pictures:

Franny's custom Celltei carrier in the Economy Plus class window seat space on a Delta 737.

Franny’s custom Celltei carrier in the “Delta Comfort+” class window seat space on a Delta 737.

And under an Economy seat on a Delta A-330 plane.

And under an Economy seat on a Delta A-330 plane.

Thanks so much, Courtney, for raising my awareness of the custom Celltei option to envy levels! I am tagging this post so it appears in Dog Jaunt’s growing list of pictures of carriers actually being used in plane cabins — and I am making myself an all-caps note to contact Celltei and design a carrier for Chloe.

Palm Springs’ Ace Hotel: Dog-friendly and fun

One of the places we could not find a La Quinta hotel on our recent cross-country trip was Palm Springs, CA (do not be misled by references to Palm Springs’ La Quinta Resort — it’s unrelated to the national chain, and inhabits an entirely different price realm; if your budget allows, though, it is pet-friendly). We kicked up our heels, therefore, and decided to stay at the Ace Hotel, one of a tiny chain of hip, urban hotels (the others are in Seattle, Portland, New York, Los Angeles, Panama, and London). Please note that I paid my own way at the Ace Palm Springs — I will always let you know when someone else has paid for all or any part of a product or an experience I’m reviewing.

The Palm Springs property charmed the pants off me. Those of you who find hipsters vexing will be, well, vexed, but I enjoyed finding a turntable and record albums in my room; seeing a rack of vintage bikes waiting (in vain) for me to tool around on them; and being offered French press coffee with my (delicious) breakfast. The property used to be a motel of the Howard Johnson ilk (that wasn’t its brand, but it gives you an idea of what the buildings look like). The rooms have been made over on a budget but with excellent style, and the outdoor spaces are very appealing.

The parking lot behind the porte cochère — chosen to go first because of the big ACE letters, and because we arrived after dark, and those mountains surprised me the next morning

I was trying to get the big ACE letters and the mountains at the same time, and the result is…a lot of parking lot — but heck, you’re not following this blog for the photography. The pool area is through the walkway on the left.

Chloe, starting to wonder whether her leash/harness combo is sufficiently stylish

Chloe, starting to wonder whether her leash/harness combo is sufficiently stylish.

This is what it looks like from the street, as you come in the driveway — a little TOO much like an old HoJo's, at first glance, but note the Extreme Macramé in the lobby window. Almost immediately, things start being fun.

This is what it looks like from the street, as you come in the driveway — a little TOO much like an old HoJo’s, at first glance, but note the extreme macramé in the lobby window. King’s Highway, the restaurant, is past the lobby on the left.

The lobby macramé — enchanting, and I'm a woman who lived through and loathed the original macramé phenomenon.

The lobby macramé — enchanting, and I’m a woman who lived through and loathed the 1970s macramé phenomenon.

Which is not to say that there isn't some really regrettable macramé in the place. This is on one wall of the restaurant, and I'm just so grateful I didn't notice it until we were finished.

Which is not to say that there isn’t some really heinous macramé in the place. This is on one wall of the restaurant, and I’m just so grateful I didn’t notice it until we were finished eating.

The interior of my room. I never saw Chandler's room, but she said it was similarly decorated.

The interior of my room. I never saw Chandler’s room, but she said it was similarly decorated — a lot of clever work with canvas and slatted panelling.

The turntable in the corner, with a selection of albums. Hanging over it, just out of picture, a couple of guest djellabas — a nicely-unisex alternative to bathrobes.

The turntable in the corner, with a selection of albums. Hanging over it, just out of picture, a couple of guest djellabas — a nicely-unisex alternative to bathrobes.

My little courtyard, early the next morning, with the sun on the mountains.

My little courtyard, early the next morning, with the sun on the mountains.

One of the many delightful outdoor gathering spots — I wish I'd taken an evening picture of it, with the fire lit. This'd be a great place to go with a group of friends.

One of the many delightful outdoor gathering spots — I wish I’d taken an evening picture of it, with the fire lit. The Ace would be a great place to go with a group of friends.

It's a surprisingly big hotel, or at least it seemed so — there were a lot of views like this on the way to breakfast.

It’s a surprisingly big hotel, or at least it seemed so — only two floors, but it sprawls.

Long walks bordered with combed sand...

Long walks bordered with raked sand…

…and ornamented with graffiti.

…and ornamented with graffiti.

Everything Will Be OK — except that the dog park, referenced in that sign to the left...

Everything Will Be OK — except that the dog park, referenced in that sign to the left…

…was a disappointment. But it's totally skippable — at most, you might need to collect some poop bags from it, if you've run out of your own.

…was a disappointment. But it’s totally skippable — at most, you might need to collect some poop bags from it, if you’ve run out of your own.

Still early in the morning (the pool crew still has caution cones up), but clear hints of the gorgeous pool day to come. Pets not allowed in the pool area, but take your pup for a long walk and let her snooze it off while you bask...

Early in the morning (the cleaning crew still has caution cones up), but clear hints of the gorgeous pool day to come. Pets not allowed in the pool area, but take your pup for a long walk and let her snooze it off while you bask.

Last shot is of the pool's Towel Truck.

Last shot is of the pool area’s adorable Towel Truck.

You get the idea: Goofy, fun, well-designed. From the on-line comments, it sounds like it’s so convivial on the weekends that folks wanting a good night’s sleep should look elsewhere for lodging. We were there on a weekday, and even so, there was a very cheerful crowd enjoying each other’s company until very late indeed. That said, when I finally wanted to turn in, I called the front desk for help with the noise, and they responded instantly. No complaints there — my only complaint was with the intake process, which involved reviewing and signing a whole sheaf of forms (and only one of them was a pet policy form). For some reason, it threw me off my stride — but keep in mind that I’d just finished a long day of driving and was probably in a weakened state. When you arrive, gaze at the macramé, think about the pool and about breakfast (which I’ve already mentioned, but it deserves repeated praise), and keep signing your name.

The “patio rooms” are dog-friendly — click on the “Rooms” icon and look for “Patio with garden” and “Patio with fireplace.” There is a $25 per night pet fee.

Across the U.S., staying in pet-friendly La Quinta and Drury hotels

Chloe and I had some experience with La Quinta and Drury hotels when we began our cross-country road trip (here’s my post about the La Quinta near O’Hare, and here’s one about the Drury Hotel near the Nashville airport), but we had a lot more when we ended, and it was all good.

The big road trip of February/March 2015

The big road trip of February/March 2015, in pink Post-It notes

As you know from previous posts, we recently drove from Tampa to Seattle along the southern and western edges of the United States. We sought out La Quinta and Drury hotels, and stayed elsewhere when we had to. The Drury chain is fancier than La Quinta, but still affordable. Its properties are, loosely speaking, in the Southeast, the Midwest and Upper Midwest, Texas, and a chunk of the Southwest. La Quinta hotels are very affordable, but every one I’ve been to has been clean and pleasant. La Quinta’s hotel network stretches across the country, but falters a bit along Highway 10 between San Antonio and Tucson (there are properties, but they weren’t located where we wanted to end our days — happily, we found a couple of great alternatives in Marfa and Van Horn, Texas). For much of our trip, the La Quinta hotels were twinned with Cracker Barrel restaurants, which make me happy.

Both chains are dog-friendly (as always, be sure to let the reservation agent know that you’ll be arriving with your pet). Drury hotels charge a $10 per night fee (here’s a link where you can find the full Drury pet policy); La Quinta does not have a pet fee (here’s its full pet policy).

We stayed in Drury hotels in New Orleans and San Antonio. To keep costs down, Chloe and I shared a room with the friend we were traveling with, and in both cities the cost of a Double Queen was well under $150 (your mileage may vary — prices change, and we were traveling at a quiet time of year). The New Orleans hotel was only a short walk from the French Quarter, and the room was downright plush. The San Antonio hotel was right on the Riverwalk, only a couple of blocks from the Alamo, and it too was attractive (in a slightly sterner, more businesslike way).

Chloe milling around in front of Big Red, her suitcase, at the entrance to our Drury hotel room in New Orleans

Chloe milling around in front of Big Red, her suitcase, at the entrance to our Drury hotel room in New Orleans

A better view of our New Orleans room

A better view of our New Orleans room

I failed to take a picture of our Drury hotel room in San Antonio, but you can walk directly out of it onto the beautiful Riverwalk, shown here in one of my beloved panoramas — pets welcome to amble alongside you, and Chloe had a blast

I failed to take a picture of our Drury hotel room in San Antonio, but you can walk directly out of it onto the beautiful Riverwalk, shown here in one of my beloved panoramas — pets welcome to amble alongside you, and Chloe had a blast

We stayed in La Quinta hotels in Tallahassee, FL; in Galveston, TX (Seawall West); and in Tucson, AZ (Reid Park). All I can remember about the Tallahassee property is being profoundly grateful we made it there just before a torrential downfall (and that it was just across the street from a Cracker Barrel), but the Galveston property earned itself a photograph.

Another moody day, another crazy panorama shot — but the point is that there is a whole lot of gorgeous, peaceful Gulf of Mexico action RIGHT OUT THE FRONT DOOR of the Galveston (Seawall West) La Quinta.

Another moody day, another crazy panorama shot — but the point is that there is a whole lot of gorgeous Gulf of Mexico action RIGHT OUT THE FRONT DOORS of both of the Galveston seawall La Quinta hotels (this one was Seawall West).

Be very careful crossing Seawall Boulevard, a highway in all but name that runs in front of the hotel — but it’s worth doing, because there’s a long promenade along the seawall on the other side, and Chloe gamboled in the gusty sea breezes. On the far right of the picture you can see a structure heading out into the water; we had a fine dinner there, at Jimmy’s on the Pier (not pet-friendly, though pets can walk with you on the pier itself).

I’ve also forgotten the details about the Tucson La Quinta, aside from the fact that we chose the Reid Park property — but that’s not surprising. La Quinta hotels are a basic, clean, affordable home base from which you do other things, not destinations in themselves. None of the staff turned cartwheels over Chloe, but there are times when a matter-of-fact attitude is just as welcome as enthusiasm — and when it comes to pet fees, you can’t beat free.

Arizona’s Saguaro National Park with a dog: Workable and gorgeous

Left to my own devices, I would have skipped Tucson’s Saguaro National Park. “Saguaros,” I would have said to myself, “I’ve seen ’em” — and I have, on the drive from Phoenix to Sedona, and lovely they are. Also, I would have added, with Chloe along a national park will be largely off limits. How wrong I would have been! And how lucky I am, in so many ways, that illustrator Chandler O’Leary was guiding the Good Ship Dodge-Chrysler Minivan across the country, and that she is a devoted fan of national parks.

The fact is, there is plenty for a dog of any size to do at the Saguaro National Park, despite the park service’s restrictions, and the place (well, two places, since it’s divided into two districts flanking Tucson) is unbelievably gorgeous. Sure, I’d seen saguaros. I just hadn’t seen as many, nor had I seen them in a terrain that highlights their beauty to advantage — and whizzing by a landscape at highway speeds is a whole different experience than ambling past and through a saguaro forest. I’m a girl who really prefers an urban getaway, and I was dumbfounded.

This is the view from the visitor's center for the western district. I mean…the park hasn't even really STARTED yet, at this point, and it's already just…wow.

This is the view from the visitor’s center for the western district. I mean…the park hasn’t even really STARTED yet, at this point, and it’s already just…wow.

We started with the eastern Rincon Mountain District, since we arrived in Tucson from the east. The entrance fee (and it covered the other district, too) was $10, since we had the car (and you’d want one — it’s a big place and even the nearest picnic area is over a mile from the main parking lot). We were advised by the park rangers (who greeted Chloe with joy and treats) that Chloe could walk on the pavement, at the picnic areas, in the pull-outs along the road, and along the Desert Ecology Trail (a paved, relatively short loop of a trail).

That might sound, at first glance, like limited access, but it’s really all an average visitor like me needs, with or without a dog. The Ecology Trail sends you in among the saguaros, but you can also choose, as we did, to drive very slowly around the one-way circuit, pulling over from time to time to let faster sightseers go by. There are enough pull-outs that you can easily stop to take pictures, and take your dog for a walk down the road and back before continuing.  The park’s website makes even that easier, suggesting, for example: “On the paved scenic road, try the stretch from North Cactus Forest trailhead to Loma Verde trailhead. This route is less strenuous and has good sight distances for the safety of you and cyclist / motorists.”

The entrance to the eastern district of the park on a moody (okay, rainy) March day

The entrance to the eastern district of the park on a moody March day (we visited the eastern district on moody Day 1, and the western district on sunny Day 2, just to give you complete coverage)

But gorgeous nevertheless, right? And this was a photo taken on my phone, from the driver's seat. Chandler was creating ART from her seat, with her camera.

But gorgeous nevertheless, right? And this was a photo taken on my phone, from the driver’s seat. Chandler was creating ART from her seat, with her camera.

The site has similar suggestions for the western Tucson Mountain District, which also has a small dog-friendly trail taking you in among the saguaros (this one is called the Desert Discovery Trail). There too, dogs are allowed on the pavement, in three of the four picnic areas, and in the pull-outs. Both districts are well worth visiting, and the drive between the two along Speedway (which turns into Gates Pass Road) is very beautiful.

Some important considerations: Bring water bottles, wear sunscreen, and consider a Chilly Buddy jacket for your dog. On a sunny day in early March I found myself attempting to tuck my entire body under my wide-brimmed hat, and it will only get hotter as the year progresses. Also consider booties for your dog: Even on the paved surfaces Chloe was restricted to, she picked up and suffered from various burrs/prickles. Which leads me directly to one of the park’s rules: Dogs are to be leashed, and on short (no more than 6′) leads. That may sound unsporting, but you’ll soon agree it’s a good idea. The local wildlife includes rattlesnakes, scorpions, and, I kid you not, Gila monsters, and off the paved paths, the burrs/prickles proliferate. In fact, one of the rangers demonstrated that some of the flora is actively dangerous to dogs — in this picture, she’s showing how segments of some of the cholla plants (in this case, Jumping Cholla or Chainfruit Cholla) break off when you brush against them and embed themselves in your leather boot, or your dog:

I cannot emphasize enough that that's a solid leather boot she's wearing, and she really had to scrape to get that churro segment off of it (she didn't happen to have a comb in her pocket).

Please note that she is wearing a really serious pair of leather boots, and yet the cholla thorns dug deep — she had to scrape hard on the sidewalk to get the cholla segment off (she didn’t happen to have a comb in her pocket).

The solution, she told me, is not to grab the segment with your hand but rather to comb it off your dog with a regular hair comb. So pack a comb, and keep your pup on a short leash. That cholla is everywhere. And, of course, bag your dog’s poop and pack it out of the park. There are trash cans in the picnic areas and the main parking lot.

Chloe, looking noble at the western district visitor's center

Chloe, looking noble at the western district visitor’s center

And looking for squirrels (or, heck, scorpions) at the Signal Hill picnic area

And looking for squirrels at the Signal Hill picnic area

In total, we spent about four hours at the park, and could easily have stayed longer (we should, for example, have brought in lunch). Chloe was interested in and enthused with what she saw, and then ready to snooze through the rest.

Reader’s report: Dog-friendly cruise on the Rhine and Mosel Rivers

Last July, I wrote a post about a company offering dog-friendly river cruises in Europe. Reader Jenna had brought the cruises to my attention, and last fall she and Tara, her French Bulldog, went on one. I met Jenna and Tara in person in October 2013, when they hosted me and Chloe for breakfast in Paris — which was just as elegant as it sounds. Jenna writes a wonderful Facebook page about their travels, and kindly agreed to contribute this post to Dog Jaunt.

I love this collage Jenna posted on Tour de Tara

I love this collage Jenna posted on Tour de Tara

Four Paws on Deck: Dog-Friendly European River Cruises

“I’ve just returned from an amazing trip around Europe with my 14 year-old French Bulldog, Tara. The first stop on our 6-week ‘Grand Tour’ was Cologne, Germany. This city serves as the base of operations for 1AVista Reisen, a unique company that offers several river cruises for dogs and their people.

Tara and I were booked on their 8-day journey down the Rhine and Mosel. I didn’t actually care where we were going. I was just excited that Tara and I would be able to experience it together. Dogs are allowed in the cabins and all public areas of the ship.

The MV Normandie, leaving Cologne

The MV Normandie, leaving Cologne (Jenna’s picture, as are all of the pictures in this post)

Our home for the week was the MS Normandie, a 100-passenger vessel registered in the Netherlands. All of the cabins contain twin beds and a private bathroom. I selected one on the upper deck because it had larger, operational windows.

The cabin had a small TV and telephone but there is no Internet access onboard. Regardless of which deck you stay on, entering the dining room requires you to go down a steep flight of stairs. If you have a dog with mobility issues you may need to carry them.

An additional flight of stairs will take you up to the Sundeck. I came to think of this as the ‘poop deck’ because there was an area covered with sod where the dogs could relieve themselves. It was rarely necessary for Tara to use these facilities as the itinerary was designed to allow frequent stops along the riverbank.

The "poop deck"

The Normandie’s “poop deck”

The main destinations on this journey were Koblenz, Cochem, Bernkastel, Alken & Rudesheim. It was never very far from the dock to the center of town, making organized tours unnecessary. Some information on the ports was provided in German but the cruise director was also available to answer questions in English.

Cochem, one of the cruise's stops, from the river

Cochem, one of the cruise’s stops, from the river…

And from land….

…and from land. A tiny, ancient town on the Mosel River, Cochem is just ridiculously charming. [Dog Jaunt editorial]

I was the only non-German speaking passenger on this cruise. All of the announcements, activities and booking materials are presented in German. I never found this to be a problem as most of the crew and passengers spoke some English. They even printed special dinner menus for me in English.

Speaking of menus, I found the food on the MS Normandie to be fantastic. Breakfast is a hearty hot and cold buffet. You generally have a choice between 2 salads, soups, main courses and deserts at lunch and dinner. The ‘all inclusive’ price also included house wines, beer and soft drinks.

I think that no matter where you are from or what language you speak, dog lovers share a special bond. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the passengers on our river cruise. Tara also seemed to relish the extra belly rubs and treats.

I had hoped to take Tara back to Cologne next year for 1A Vista’s Netherlands dog cruise. Unfortunately, several weeks after we returned home she was diagnosed with cancer. I’m afraid her jet setting days are over but I’m so grateful that we were able to have this amazing experience together!

For more information on 1AVista’s cruises please visit www.1avista.de. Photos and stories from Tara’s travels can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/TourdeTara/

I am happy to report that Tara remains symptom-free as of today (nearly 3 months after Jenna sent this guest post to me). She is a dignified dog, and I’m grateful that loving, careful Jenna is her person. I’m also grateful that Jenna took the time to share this adventure with Dog Jaunt, and I, for one, am ready right now to cruise Germany and Holland’s rivers with Chloe.