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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Unleashing pet-friendly Rivah spots


It’s perhaps the most common travel conundrum of dog owners:  What to do with a furry family member when you go on vacation? Based on a survey of local residents around the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, Lancaster County stands out for its variety of vacation spots welcoming travelers and their furry family members.

by Audrey Thomasson

Fanny was the inspiration for the charming “Fish Tales” becoming a vacation rental. (Photo by Audrey Thomasson)

Vacationing with a pampered pooch
When Catherine and Robert Bennett travel, they always take their dog along. However, no matter where they go their biggest challenge is finding pet friendly lodging.

“I had so much trouble in North Carolina, I had to drive to South Carolina to find a motel that would take pets,” said Catherine.

During their travels, the couple has resorted to claiming they have a colicky child in order to be assigned a motel room in an obscure location so they could sneak in their ginormous Old English Sheepdog, Fanny. Each time they found themselves surrounded by rooms with loud, boisterous children, while Fanny slept quietly on the floor.

“I thought it was ridiculous because only very good, well-behaved dogs get invited to travel with their family while terrible, screaming children are welcome everywhere,” said Catherine, whose pooch is the Bennett’s only child. “A dog’s family knows that it is special to bring their dog along so they take excellent care of the property and clean up after them.”

As part of Catherine’s real estate business, the Bennetts own a waterfront home on three acres in Corrotoman-by-the-Bay in Lancaster County. The cottage was for the exclusive use of clients looking to buy in the area. But after their travel frustrations, they expanded “Fish Tales” to a pet friendly vacation home rental. 

“People who travel with their pets are the nicest folks. They appreciate the opportunity to bring their pets.”

Fish Tales even has a pet crate handy for crate-trained pets.

While there are many locations in Rivah country catering to dogs, feline lovers may find themselves up-a-creek when it comes to finding cat-friendly lodging. And since felines are not as adaptable to new surroundings as dogs, kitty might feel more comfortable in his own home under a sitter’s care.

Doggie day-care will exhaust even the most hyper-active pooch. (Photo by Audrey Thomasson)

Shop ‘till you drop in Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock is so dog friendly, it could be renamed Dogtown. Dogs are welcome (on a leash) at many of the restaurants offering outside dining.

Spend some time at the dog park, conveniently located in the town commons on North Main and Town Center Drive. The park is sectioned off to separate smaller pups from larger mutts. There’s even a fire hydrant to inspire them.

The new Baylor Nature Trail on the north end of town is a great place to commune with nature and your pooch. Leashed dogs are welcome. Owners are urged to bring waste bags. The trail is open dawn to dusk.

Want to plan a day trip that doesn’t include your four-legged wonder? Check out Bayside Emporium for doggie day-care. Located between Kilmarnock and White Stone, doors open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with very reasonable rates. Don’t be surprised if your pouch doesn’t want to leave. The dogs get so much playtime, they will have sweet dreams all through the night.

Well-behaved pets on leashes are always welcome to a variety of town events, festivals and area farmers’ markets.

Rascal is a well-pampered Maltipoo. (Photo by Kate Oliver)

Pampered pets
Many of the area hotels and private lodging spots cater to pets. When making a reservation, be sure to mention the furry members of your pack.  Expect to pay a fee or deposit. Owners are encouraged to email hosts to work out the details and get questions answered.

If you want to impress your discerning canine with the best in southern charm and comfort, try the Tides Inn on Carter’s Creek in Irvington. It has a reputation for pampering guests and pets. Dogs are welcome to sit and stay.

“We have certain rooms set aside for pets as some of our guests have dog allergies,” said executive director Gordon Slatford. “And they’re not the bad rooms,” he adds.

While your pooch may prefer to bring along his own bed, the Tides will supply a freshly laundered bed, water bowls, in-room doggie biscuit barrel, pet sitting and grooming through its concierge, and waste bags and resort map indicating doggie relief stations.

Also in Irvington, the Hope and Glory Inn offers a couple of pet friendly cottages on the courtyard. The Kilmarnock Inn offers two pet-friendly cottages.

The Pilot House motel in Topping is pet-friendly as are most area campgrounds—but all require Fido to be kept on a leash outside the room.

Elizabeth Taylor (the Boston Terrier) is joined on the dock by Roger Failmezger and Patti Fraser. (Photo by Audrey Thomasson)

Pet-friendly vacation
When Matt and Patti Fraser of Midlothian wanted a quiet respite from home and kids, they chose a private vacation rental on Senior’s Creek in Lancaster through Of course, they couldn’t leave home without their two Boston terriers, Chelsea and Elizabeth Taylor.

They picked a cozy cedar cottage because the owners, Roger and Liz Failmezger, allowed pets and were not fussy about pooches crashing for an afternoon nap on the furniture.

It was the Fraser’s first vacation to the Northern Neck, and it won’t be their last, added Patti.

The couple enjoyed all the things they could do with their dogs, including hiking, biking, visiting Belle Isle State Park and a variety of restaurants with outdoor dining. They especially enjoyed stargazing at night with the dogs.

“We sat on the dock last night, and watched all the stars. It was so clear. We don’t get to see the stars like this at home...” said Matt.

posted 04.25.2012

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