Vermont’s only 5-Star resort — at least in the view of Forbes — has gone dog-friendly.
Three of the 20 units at Twin Farms, most of which are freestanding cottages, will now permit dogs, at least those under 100 pounds.
Located 10 miles outside of Woodstock on the 300-acre former estate of author Sinclair Lewis, the luxury resort has long been praised by Forbes magazine, and others, including the Zagat Survey, which deemed it the nation’s best small hotel, with the best service and the best rooms.
But up until now, dogs have never been allowed.
Forbes contributor Larry Olmsted, amid much gushing about the resort’s amenities, writes that three cottages have been proclaimed dog-friendly (Woods, Meadows and Log Cabin), and that the resort now has a house dog — “Maggie, a golden retriever who as Canine Guest Service Manager will gladly lead her fellow four legged guests for a swim in the pond.”
Twin Farms offers canoeing, kayaking, fly fishing, extensive hiking trails, a fleet of bicycles, ski areas and spa treatments, a pub and Japanese bath house and, Olmsted notes, fine dining.
“… Each guest is sent a lengthy questionnaire before arriving and every meal is a work of art crafted specially for that day with carefully paired wines. All the meals wine and top shelf liquor are part of the nightly rate, even if you want bubbly and chocolate chip cookies delivered to your room at midnight. Want to go for a hike and have someone meet you on a remote hilltop with a lavish gourmet picnic hamper and wine? Done. Want to ride a bike mostly downhill ten miles to the charming town of Woodstock and then get picked up? Done. Ski lessons? Done.”
The resort touts itself as “a sanctuary of unsurpassed luxury and quiet ease” and calls itself “all inclusive” — but that’s in reference to its amenties, not its dog philosophy. Dogs who weigh 130 pounds, like my Ace, probably wouldn’t use that term.
So we won’t be giving you a first-hand report on Twin Farms — at least not until its policies change, my bank account grows, or Ace loses a bunch of weight.
Last weekend, I went out to take some photos of golfers and ended up with mostly photos of a dog.
His name is Rufus, and he’s a very well-behaved six-year-old boxer.
A tournament at the golf course where I’ve started working, part-time, as a bartender seemed a good opportunity to test my new camera and try to take some photos of people (instead of dogs) for a change.
Then Rufus caught my eye, and wouldn’t let go. He was riding along patiently in the golf cart with his owner, staying there on command, and galloping along on the fairways when his owner gave him permission.
It made me wonder why there aren’t more dogs on golf courses. They would seem — were country clubs not such stuffy places — to go together nicely.
My bartending job is at Long Creek Golf Club — a not at all stuffy place. It’s a public course just down the road from my house in Bethania.
Last Saturday a charity tournament was being held there to raise funds for Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, in memory of parishioners Neena Mabe and Justin Mabe.
I proclaimed myself official photographer for the event, commandeered a cart and started taking photos of golfers — at least until I saw Rufus.
By morning’s end, I had about 150 photos of golfers, and about 50 of Rufus. I couldn’t help myself. Boxers, it seems to me, have among the most expressive of all dog faces — including that one that seems to say, “What, you’re not going to take me along?”
That may or may not be why the owner of Rufus, who was competing in the tournament, brought him along. Rufus had perfect manners, didn’t bark once and seemed to totally enjoy the outing. As far as I could see, he bothered nobody, and charmed dozens.
I’m sure those who take golf ultra-seriously would probably be averse to dogs on the course. Dogs could be distracting, or slow down play. But with one as well-behaved as Rufus — or, generally speaking, Ace — I see no problem with them tagging along with their owner, on a slow day, assuming their owner is cleaning up after them.
Given golfers have to bend over at least 36 times anyway — between teeing up and getting their ball out of the cup — what’s one or two more squats to pick up a little doggie waste?
Having a dog along could even be helpful — at least for me. I generally need a search party to find where my ball landed. (Usually it can be found in the ruff.) Plus, I could blame all my bad shots on him.
I don’t play golf much because it can lead to me getting very frustrated. With a dog along, that might be less likely to happen, given dogs tend to both help us keep things in perspective and soothe us when we get ourselves frazzled.
I’m not sure Ace would be as good as Rufus is at riding in the cart — or whether the two of us can even fit in one — but I’m determined to give it a try. (Yes, we could walk, but to me driving the golf cart is far more fun than the actual game.)
Sometime in the next month or two, on an afternoon I’m not behind the bar, we’ll put a few bottles of water in a cooler, and perhaps a beer or two, pack up a bowl and some poop bags and hit the links. Rest assured, we’ll give you a full report.
And we’ll prove, maybe — or maybe not — that dogs and golf are made for each other, assuming the dogs can learn a few simple rules:
— Don’t pick up the golf ball, unless you’re improving my lie, or moving it closer to the pin.
— Be quiet, and courteous to other golfers.
— Stay with your group and, at least until they’ve hit the ball, behind them.
— Don’t pee or poop on the greens.
— And, of course, always tip the bartender.
(Do you golf with your dog? Know any dog-friendly golf courses? If so, please feel free to share your tips and experiences — good, bad and ugly — via a comment.)
It exists, after all, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where five years ago two dog lovers got together and opened a bar that takes “dog-friendly” to new and unfettered bounds.
This is not a bar you have to sneak your dog into, not a bar where you and your dog must sit prim and proper-like outside, not a bar where your dog must remain on his or her leash.
At The Dog Bar in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see a dog behind the bar, a dog on top of the bar, a dog on top of a dog on top of the bar. Here dogs can be dogs. They can romp, run, drool and even — as Ace and that German shepherd appear to be doing in the slideshow above — flirt a little bit.
This, for dogs, and for me and my continuing quest for true dog-friendliness, was the promised land — a place so joyous, so non-uptight, so calmly chaotic that I could only sit back and take it all in for a bit before getting to my questions.
And my biggest question — being from Baltimore, where the health department considers ice “food,” and as a result bans dogs from the inside of bars — was how the heck did they get away with it?
Actually, it was pretty simple. The two women who opened The Dog Bar, J.P. Brewer and Audra Hartness, say they faced no insurmountable hassles when they made plans to hang up their bone-shaped shingle and open for business
“The city kind of scratched its head, like, ‘OK, I guess.” said Hartness, who was tending bar when we dropped in this week.
Initially, the health department’s only concerns — since the bar doesn’t serve food — were the bar’s glassware and the temperature of the water used to wash it. When, about a month after opening, the bar did away with glassware entirely — opting for plastic cups and beer served only in aluminum cans — those concerns went out the window.
Though the bar doesn’t serve food, you can still eat there. There’s a plethora of interesting restaurants right there in the neighborhood, most of which offer takeout and/or delivery.
The operators say they’ve heard of only one or two bars in the country that allow dogs such access.
The bar was Brewer’s idea, and, as you might guess, it started with a dog.
Brewer adopted Foster, a Weimaraner, after his owner passed away from cancer. When she decided the doggie day care she dropped him off at was not providing a loving enough environment, she started one of her own — Club K-9, also located in NoDa.
There, the visiting dogs had a good time. The dog owners would show up, socialize, then head home with their pooches. Brewer thought there should be a place where both dogs and owners can socialize, enjoy both inter- and intra-species interactions, and have some fun.
She formed a partnership with Hartness, one of her doggie daycare customers who had a background in running bars and restaurants. And in October, 2005, they opend the bar.
On a typical night, there might be 15 dogs in the joint, on Fridays even more.
We dropped in on a Sunday. Ace and a black Great Dane named Dungy (after the football coach) were the first to arrive. Dungy was ready to play. Ace, not quite sure what to make of a dog bigger than himself, mostly kept his distance. Soon more dogs arrived — a boxer named Dempsey (after the boxer, Jack); two more Great Danes, one blind, one deaf; and Zero, a first-time visitor.
“This place is fantastic,” Zero’s owner remarked the second she and her dog came through the double gates entrance. “It really is a dog bar!”
The bar charges a $10 lifetime membership fee, and requires proof of rabies vaccination, and that dogs over a year be spayed or neutered. There are no breed restrictions.
“As long as the dog is friendly off leash, there’s no problem,” Hartness said.
The bar has a fenced outdoor area — complete with plastic palm trees and beach umbrellas — where dogs can run, play and sip from troughs of water. Sometimes, when the crowd gets too big, they fence off the parking lot as well. Inside the bar, which has windows opening onto the patio, one wall is covered with black and white photographs, taken by Brewer, of her dogs and many of the regular canine customers.
Non dog-lovers don’t always get it, Brewer told the Charlotte Observer in an interview a couple of years after The Dog Bar opened.
“You see people walk past here and they do a double-take,” she said. Once, two elderly ladies drove up in the parking lot and asked, “What kinds of hot dogs do you sell?”
But dog-lovers do. Hartness says dog owners know to bring only well-socialized dogs, and she advises those who appear to have trepidations about their dogs to come back when their pets are better socialized. Most, though, know their dogs limits.
The presence of dogs — four-legged icebreakers that they are — means conversations start and flow easily at The Dog Bar. If there are any awkward silences, a dog generally drops by to help fill them. There were no real altercations on the night I was there — human or dog — and the only damage done I could see/feel resulted from the tendency of Great Dane’s whip-like tails to be exactly at human groin level. When they get happy, watch out.
Other than that, the night was sheer joy, in the kind of place I’ve only dreamed about — where dogs and humans can enjoy each other and be themselves.
Here’s to a happy future for The Dog Bar.
While The Dog Bar is, beyond doubt, the dog friendliest establishment in Charlotte, there are many more dog-friendly locales. Keep reading for the list.