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Tag: activities

Privileged Pooch: Going pupscale in SoCal

After perusing “The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet in Southern California,” I’ve decided if Ace and I ever run into author Maggie Espinosa and her dog, Marcel, on the road … they’re buying.

Unlike my Travels with Ace project, “The Privileged Pooch” – not to be confused with the fine pet boutique in Baltimore of the same name – is a guidebook that focuses on high end luxury travel with your pet.

“Now you can share Southern California’s celebrity lifestyle with your furry friend,” reads the summary on the back of the book. “The days of staying at substandard hotels and dining at drive-thru’s when traveling with the family pet are over.”

Not for me, they ain’t. But that’s not the point.

Espinosa’s point is that bringing a dog along on your trip no longer automatically relegates you to economy-level accommodations. And her book, provides plenty of examples, in highly readable form, of where you can stay, play and eat with your pet — in Palm Springs, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara and greater Los Angeles.

High-end establishments are starting to wise up to the fact that about 10 million pets each year vacation with their owners — and that many of those owners are from the demographic at which tourism-related businesses commonly take aim.

“The Privileged Pooch” lists 69 hotels (not a Motel 6 among them),  55 restaurants, 56 dog-friendly activities and 38 “trendy shops” where you and your dog are welcome.

Espinosa has done some culling, weeding out those establishments that have too many restrictions or silly and unrealistic weight limits. (For the dogs, I mean. Southern California doesn’t have weight limits for people. Yet.)

She uses a rating system of one wag to four wags for pet friendliness — one being “pooches permitted,” four being “pooches paradise.”

Maggie and Marcel

At the latter, you might find such features as special puppy menus, a “togetherness massage” for you and your dog (at Casa Laguna Inn & Spa) or “blueberry and plum pet facials” at a dog-friendly spa called The Healthy Spot.

Espinosa and her bichon frise, Marcel, tested all 69 hotels, and each section of the book, region by region, includes recommendations for everything from dog-friendly beaches to emergency veterinary care.

Our favorite example was the Doggie Bus in Tustin, which totes dogs and their humans to the beach at no charge. An Orange County man started providing the service not to get rich, but simply because he enjoyed doing it.

Now that’s dog-friendly.

Ace, astoundingly, aces agility

There’s not much cooler than finding out your dog has a hidden talent.

Ace — despite his many talents, people skills near the top — has never been much at catching Frisbees. He’s never been the speediest beast at the dog park. Fetch has never held his interest. And he doesn’t swim, preferring slow wading in gentle waters.

So when we showed up bright and early for agility class at Four Paws Kingdom, the dog-dedicated campground in North Carolina where Ace, my son and I spent last weekend, I had low expectations. Ace is graceful, maybe, but, given his size, about 130 pounds, I never considered him agile.

Once I turned over the treats and Ace to my son Joe, who we’d designated official handler for the day’s activities, Ace — under the tutelage of dog trainer and campground owner Birgit Bartoschek — amazed me to no end.

His name now stands for: Agility Canine Extraordinaire.

Granted, he started off slow — rather than jumping over a series of three six-inch high hurdles, he found he could just as easily walk through them, knocking the rail down on each one he went through. On the third try though, and after the rails were raised higher, he began leaping, clearing most of them until, on his final try, he went back to just knocking them down.

Next on the course was a tunnel. I didn’t expect him to do any more than stick his head in, but with some encouragement, and a treat waiting at the other end, he rumbled right through it.

Moving on to an A-frame, about five feet high, Ace, after watching a Chihuahua named Freckles climb up and scamper down, followed suit — also to my surprise.

Then came a narrow elevated beam, only about 10 inches wide, and about four feet above the ground. No way, I thought to myself, or maybe out loud, is he ever going to get up on that.

But, in pursuit of the treat dangling from my son’s hand he did, not even watching where his paws were going, his eyes on the prize the whole time as he walked — quite gracefully — from one end to the other.

The only obstacle he didn’t master was the curved tunnel. Without seeing the light at the end — or the treat at the end — he refused to go in. (And I don’t blame him a bit. Possibly, being from Baltimore, he feared he’d have to pay a toll once he got through.)

Birgit didn’t think he should attempt the see-saw during his introduction to agility, as that’s usually for more advanced dogs. The weave — where dogs slalom through the poles — was too advanced as well, she said.

Later on though, at the Agility Fun Park that Four Paws has in addition to its regular agility course, Ace, with my soon to be college student son Joe manning the leash, was able to succeed at beginner versions of both.

And I felt bad for ever doubting him — Ace, I mean.

It’s not good to have too-low expectations for our dogs; even worse probably to have too-high expectations.

Where’s the line between them? Beats me. But one thing’s for sure, you never know how you, your dog, or your kid is going to handle something new — until you try, or watch, with crossed fingers, as they do.

National Dog Show this weekend

ohurleyThousands of dogs will take to the show rings this weekend in two all-breed, benched dog shows as the the Kennel Club of Philadelphia hosts the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, to be broadcast Thanksgiving on NBC.

John O’Hurley, of “Family Feud,” “Seinfeld” and “Dancing with the Stars” fame, hosts the Saturday show, which will be televised at noon on Thanksgiving.

A second show will be held Sunday, with more than 150 breeds competing for Best in Show, vendors, demonstrations and more.

Tickets for the show — held at the The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center,  just north of Valley Forge — are $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12, and are available at the door or online.

On both days, show visitors can watch more than 150  breeds compete in 11 show rings, view demonstrations and visit the dogs and owners backstage.

Unbenched, all-breed shows precede the Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Shows at the same site on Thursday and Friday.  Admission to those shows is $5 each.

You can learn more about the event on its website.

Dog pumpkins: How Martha Stewarty is this?

pumpkindogIt’s as easy as buying a pumpkin, going on line, downloading a stencil of your dog’s breed, transferring the stencil onto the pumpkin, hollowing out the pumpkin, and then spending an hour or so, I’d guess, delicately carving out your dog’s likeness.

It looks like something that crafty Martha Stewart would come up with and, for all I know, maybe she has. But the stencil used to carve this dog came from Good Housekeeping, which offers about a dozen breed stencils for free downloading

You can also vote for your favorite one, or learn how to create your own stencil.

Happy carving!

A good weekend to be a dog in Baltimore


There’s no reason — this weekend of all weekends — for you and the dog to sit around and complain there’s nothing to do.

For starters, there’s tonight’s (5 to 8 p.m.) Paws Fido Fashion Show, the last in a summer long series of themed, dog-friendly cocktail parties at Loews Annapolis Hotel.

Tomorrow at noon, there’s the official grand opening of the Locust Point Dog Park, held in conjunction with the day-long Star Spangled Festival.

On Sunday, just up the road from there, Merritt Athletic Club, 921 E. Fort Ave., will hold its Annual Doggie Swim at 3 p.m. Admission is $5 per dog, and all proceeds go to the Maryland SPCA on Falls Road. Door prizes and vendors will be on hand to make this a fun event for the entire family.

Also Sunday (noon to 4 p.m.)  is the Beagle Bash, sponsored by Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland and held at Countryside Kennels in Owings. Admission is free and you don’t have to be a beagle to attend.

Meanwhile, in Cockeysville, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Pets on Wheels will be holding its annual Dog-a-Thon, which includes a walk, demonstrations, contests, food and entertainment. The event, at Oregon Ridge State Park, raises funds for the non-profit volunteer organization, which provides friendly visits from volunteers and their pets to people living in institutional settings.

For more information on these and other events, visit our Doggie Doings page.