There’s nothing more sad than saying goodbye to your dog as you leave for a vacation. Poor little guy, sitting there with his big brown eyes pleading with you to take him along. Well I’m about to make your doggie’s day with five of my all-time favorite pet-friendly getaways to Northern California, from Carmel’s leash-free beaches to Russian River canoe trips and Lake Tahoe hiking trails. And I’ve also included my top picks on where to stay with your pet—not just hotels that allow pets, but ones that welcome them with special treats and pet-friendly itineraries. So call your dog over right now and let him know that he’s about to have the best local getaway a pooch could ever hope for.
DOGGIE PADDLING DOWN THE RUSSIAN RIVER
This is what you and your dog are doing this summer: Driving to the Wine Country town of Healdsburg, renting a very stable inflatable canoe at Russian River Adventures, and spending a gloriously sunny day leisurely paddling down a serene stretch of the scenic Russian River. Yes, dogs are welcome to hop aboard the canoes and boy howdy do they LOVE the experience. I’ve done this canoe trip at least a dozen times with friends and it’s always the dogs that are having the best time, hanging out on the bow sniffing the rivers scents, swimming around the boat, and being the center of attention.
There’s barely a rapid on the river so it’s very safe for both dogs and humans, and they sell doggie life jackets at the canoe rental shop as well. The cost is $49 for adults, $24 for kids 2-12, and $10 per dog. For more information log onto www.rradventures.info or call 707/433-5599. And if you’re looking for a pet-friendly place to stay in the Russian River region, Russian River Getaways (www.rrgetaways.com; 800/433-6673) offers numerous pet friendly vacation rentals to choose from.
THE (DOG) TREATS OF SAN FRANCISCO
My sister lives in Sacramento and makes frequent trips to San Francisco because both she and her dogs (Toula, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Buster, a Borderdoodle) have a ball in this pet-friendly city. Here’s how she does it: She books the “Pet Package” at the inexpensive Marina Motel (www.marinamotel.com; 800/346-6118), which includes special treats for dogs, a safe courtyard setting, and free parking, then takes them for a stroll to the nearby off-leash area along Crissy Field—with incredible views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge—to play with the other dogs.
Then it’s a short drive to the off-leash area at Ocean Beach for some serious ball-throwing exercise, or to nearby Fort Funston (www.fortfunstondog.org), one of the best and most popular off-leash doggie parks in the Bay Area, with plenty of sand dunes, trails, and wide-open spaces where dozens of happy and sociable dogs play daily. Then when it’s time for some serious shopping at Union Square, she drops them off at Wag Hotels (www.waghotels.com; 415/876-0700) near downtown San Francisco for some paw-dicures, dog play sessions, and swim time in the pet pool (well, Toula’s not into the swimming part—it’s a short-leg thing).
RUFFING IT AT LAKE TAHOE
I could write an entire article on all the pet-friendly places to take your dog in Lake Tahoe, but my friends Ulli and Dick, owners of the pet-friendly Tahoma Meadows Bed & Breakfast Cottages on Tahoe’s quiet West Shore, have already done a better job than I ever could. Winner of the “Golden Bone” award for exceptional pet-friendly service, Tahoma Meadows is one of the few properties at Tahoe that allows pets. In fact, Ulli and Dick love dogs, and provide a doggy welcome basket to each visiting pooch.
First log onto their website at www.tahomameadows.com (click on Pet Info), check out the “Adventures with Your Dog at Lake Tahoe” page, then give them a call at 866/525-1553 and see if they have any cottages available (and tell ‘em Matthew Poole says hello). Trust me: You and your dog will love this special lakeside mountain getaway and end up coming back here year after year to visit Ulli and Dick.
CARMEL IS FOR CANINES
My stepmom and dad just came back from a wonderful weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea with their dog Pogo (a Hungarian Kuvasz), so I’ll let her tell this story: “We had a lovely time in Carmel with Pogo. I have never been anywhere that dogs are so ubiquitous—there were breeds of every kind. We stayed at the Coachman’s Inn (www.coachmansinn.com), which has dog-friendly rooms on the first floor.
We spent time at the bar at the Cypress Inn (Doris Day’s hotel; www.cypress-inn.com), and there were dogs everywhere. They are permitted all over the hotel, and it’s also quite nice. We ate dinner one evening at Forge in the Forest (www.forgeintheforest.com). They have an outdoor area, laughingly referred to as the “dog pound” which is where we ate beside a roaring fire in the fireplace. The waiter brought Pogo a water bowl, and there were even menu items for dogs.
Carmel Beach is a beautiful off-leash dog run. There were many dogs there, and Pogo loved the beach (the water, not so much). That evening we enjoyed a nice dinner at Flaherty’s (www.flahertysseafood.com). We were welcome inside with Pogo; there was only one ‘dog’ table that I know of and that was at the plate glass window, facing Ocean Avenue. Overall it was a very enjoyable vacation for the three of us and, of course, Pogo was a gentleman wherever we were.”
MENDOCINO LOVES ITS MUTTS
If you really want to spoil your pooch (and yourself to boot), head over to Mendocino for a luxurious getaway to the Stanford Inn by the Sea (www.stanfordinn.com; 800/331-8884). Longtime owners Joan and Jeff Stanford, who love to travel with their dogs Murphy and Gypsy, always make sure that animals of every ilk get the royal treatment here, from llamas and horses to ravens and their incontinent cat “Stinky Butt” (even their restaurant is vegetarian). In fact, I once witnessed Jeff gently picking up an earthworm in the parking lot and moving it to the flower bed.
At check-in dogs get a welcome treat, stainless steel food and water dishes, pick-up bags, and even “dog sheets” to protect the furniture. There are three nearby beaches that are dog-friendly, and Joan and Jeff will tell you everything you need to know about where to play with your pet in and around Mendocino. It’s a wonderful place to go for a relaxing seaside getaway with your pet.