This weekend marks the traditional beginning of summer. Never mind that the calendar says summer does not arrive until June 21, Memorial Day begins the summer vacation season for most of us. Swimming pools open, boats and jet skis start crowding the lake, and lines start lengthening at venues like Six Flags and Sea World. Selection of dates for overnight stays at campgrounds and resorts become a little more limited. Whether one plans an in-state vacation or a cross-country tour, beginning with this weekend reservations and advance planning are a good idea.
One dimension of the hospitality industry that has evolved significantly in recent years is the increase in the number and variety of pet-friendly lodging. It was not too long ago that an important part of the vacation plan included finding someone to care for the family pet. Today, an Internet search for “pet-friendly” lodging reveals a lengthy listing of hotels, motels and inns, cabins and resorts, and bed and breakfasts. Some locations specify dogs only; others do not make a distinction. Some assess an additional charge for the pet much as they do for additional persons in the room. However, there are many chains and independent locations that do not.
My wife and I had not had a dog in 20 years until our daughter gave me a gift certificate for an adoption from the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center three years ago. It took me 10 months to decide this was something that we wanted to do again, and Carol was still not convinced of it when Otto, a 2-year-old black lab, joined the family. Short trips had become fairly convenient with just cats in the household. Set out plenty of food, water and an additional litter box and they can take care of themselves for several days. A dog would be more restrictive.
The dog loved riding in the car from the first day, so we knew motion sickness was not going to be a reason to leave him at home. He graduated from obedience school, which really helped him to take direction and to refine his social behavior around other people. By nature he was friendly, but if he was going to be around guests he needed to learn the limits of canine friendliness. Generally, we use an excellent boarding facility that he loves to visit, Melinda’s Pet Services in Blanket, so leaving him is not a problem. But the natural extension of the direction we were heading with Otto was to take him on a short trip.
Our first venture was on a business trip to Dallas. I had a Monday morning meeting that was expected to last until around noon which meant we could be ready to check out of a room on time, provided we could find one. To our surprise we discovered we had a wide selection from which to choose.
We opted not to go the hotel route on the first time out and instead selected a motel with a first floor room where we could drive up to the door. We ordered carry-out for dinner and ate while we watched the Academy Awards show on television. Our outdoor dog behaved superbly and slept comfortably on a pallet beside the bed.
Birthday time rolled around again a couple of weeks ago, but this year it was my wife who was thinking about the dog. She found accommodations for the three of us at a country compound, Settlers Crossing. The bed and breakfast was composed of seven historic houses spread over 35 park-like acres just east of Fredericksburg. We stayed in the Indiana house, a log house that was originally built in the 1840s, but was dismantled log-by-log and moved from Indiana and restored on the grounds. It was a quiet and peaceful setting complete with four Russian sheep and a donkey that Otto found interesting. It was vastly different from the motel that was about 100 yards off of North Central Expressway in Dallas.
Emboldened by our first experience, Carol was going to be sure the dining experience would be different as well. She made reservations at a popular restaurant in Fredericksburg that has an outdoor dining venue. Otto was provided his own bowl of water and quietly laid beside the table while we enjoyed a birthday dinner. During our short stay in Fredericksburg we ate (outside) at two other restaurants. Both of them also served the dog complimentary water. Traveling with a pet has certainly changed.
Robert Brincefield is publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.