Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Be a Tourist with Your Dog Series: Sarasota, Florida

We've always seen people kayaking along the Chicago River, and it wasn't until we read about Roo that we realized some pooches do it too. Now we have a not-so-secret envy of Florida pooches living an aquatic lifestyle. Adorable Pit/Pointer-mix Roo takes us on his 'Surf and Turf' tour showing us a purely Florida experience by water and land complete with wildlife spottings, bay-side dining, and activities in downtown Sarasota.

The only way to really enjoy all Sarasota, Florida has to offer is visit it by water as well as land.
Here is Mom and I kayaking in one of our favorite parks (Robinson Preserve) about 30 minutes north of Sarasota.
You never know what you might see. Like this raccoon feeding on oysters amongst the mangrove roots.
By land you have an equally entrancing experience. This photo was taken at the same park from a wooden walkway leading to the mouth of the Manatee River.
You can view subtropical bird life here such as this White Ibis.
There are so many wonderful parks to visit in this area. Emerson Point Preserve is another of our favorites. Check this website for more park and preserve options in Sarasota.
Of course you and your dogs will need a place to stay. The Turtle Beach Resort is one delightful option you can explore.
Not only do they welcome dogs (their only rule is no barking) but your cottage comes with unlimited usage of their kayaks, bicycles and fishing poles! Bring your dogs’ life jackets with you and you can paddle out to the sandbar at low tide for a fabulous off leash romp!
Nearby (within walking distance) is Turtles On Little Sarasota Bay offering casual waterfront dining both you and your dogs can enjoy.

This is a photo of the bay side dining area where dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds are welcome.
Just up the road is a place where you can rent a boat (CB’s Saltwater Outfitters). If you don’t have boating experience, there are captains available for hire. You and your dogs can scan for dolphins and manatees, search out sandbars, and just enjoy life on the water.
Also not far up the road on the mainland is Downtown Sarasota where the Farmer’s Market is held. Dogs are welcome here as well as browsing what Mom refers to our own little Rodeo Drive, St. Armand's Circle. Go north a bit on the key and you’ll find Siesta Key Village where you and your dogs can quench your thirst and grab a bite to eat at The Old Salty Dog restaurant and bar.
Even though all gulf front beaches are off limits to dogs, there is so much you and your dogs can experience in this little subtropical paradise called Sarasota  Come to Florida!
You can read more of Roo's hilarious adventures on his blog here.
We loved seeing this insider's view of Florida, and even if we can't literally make it to Florida, it's still inspiring to see the types of things we can do with our dogs in our own city (kayaking, anyone?). And as one reader pointed out, it's always a good idea for pit bull owners to research beforehand as some parks and areas might not allow pitties. In case you missed them, you can also read about things to do with dogs in Portland, Richmond, Seattle,  Kansas City, Nashville, Alaska, and Chicago. And you can read about roadtripping with 4 large dogs and boating to the Bahamas with a pit bull. We do love hearing insider's tips, and if you would like to share your hometown, please click here for more information or contact us through our Facebook page.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Miss Goofus and Mr. Gallant

 It was just the other day that I had the epiphany: our pooches were just like Goofus and Gallant from Highlights magazines. These characters look similar, but they aren't twins. Gallant is always nice and respectful, while Goofus just does whatever he wants. Let me show you what I mean.
Mr. B is appreciative and happy to be bathed:
While Miss M lets them know they aren't working hard enough:
Mr. B enjoys laying contemplatively by the flowers:
While Miss M is critical of our decorating decisions:
 Mr. B is loyal and loves spending time with his family:
While Miss M is always interviewing and campaigning for a new home:
In most dog duos, will there always be a Goofus and a Gallant? Or does anyone have the misfortune to have 2 Goofuses?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Best of Mr. B's Photography

Ever since he got his new camera, Mr. B has become quite the photographer. The Go Pro camera is a huge improvement over his former Pet Eye. We really like the ability to film videos, and the quality of the photos are immensely better. In addition, the only limitation is the size of the SD card we use and the battery life, but battery life is not even an issue right now, which we can replace unlike the Pet Eye which is done once the battery dies. Here are some of Mr. B's favorite photos:
"Self-Portrait: I'm the Big One"
"Hello Ladies"
"Hey Kid, Gimme that Stick"
"Treats Under Dog Truck"
"The Mean One Showing Off"
"The Mean One Pretending She's Nice"
"The Mean One on the Prowl"
"Fraggle Rock"
Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chicagoing: Fido to Go Food Truck for Dogs

I think Chicago may be a little late to the game, but all of a sudden food-trucks are the latest city sensation. The idea is mainly based on serendipity, that you will be walking along and all of a sudden find a "pop-up restaurant" presenting you with empanadas, or gourmet sausages, or sliders. But we have been taking the serendipity out of it by attending Food Truck Tuesdays in CB2's parking lot, and Ethyl's Trucking Thursdays where many food trucks gather at a scheduled time. So does it still count as "finding a food truck" if we already know where they're all scheduled to be? Much like the long-standing debate of whether it still counts as "fishing" if the fish was already dead when it was caught?
 Regardless, I think one place Chicago is ahead of the game is with the Fido to Go food truck. This bright yellow dog bakery on wheels has made our food trucking outings into a family adventure:
 The truck offers a variety of fresh-baked dog treats, even gluten-free, and frozen deserts. Our pooches favorite has been the Mac and Cheese ice-cream, where a portion of the proceeds benefit local rescues which change every month. July's rescue was Don't Bully my Breed, which made us happy about buying the pooches ice-cream, and the pooches were equally happy eating it:
The pooches have been lucky enough to find the food truck at West Fest and it is often parked over near Moonshine. They have already become conditioned to realize big yellow trucks hold treats. Here is Miss M trying to make her break-in.
And ever wonder what a food truck looks like from a dog's perspective? Here are some photos Mr. B took with his camera.

Monday, July 25, 2011

City Dog: Taking your Dog to the Farmer's Market

 While we may not be able to have our own personal garden in the city, the next best thing are the Farmer's Markets. These markets are held in various Chicago neighborhoods each day of the week.I go for the flowers and tomatoes. Miss M goes for the petting opportunities.
We usually go to the Saturday morning market at Clark and Division which is near the Gold Coast: an area close to downtown with a lot of high-rises. I think this market has the best flowers. Since many high-rises have weight restrictions, most of the neighborhood dogs are tiny. So you really don't see a lot of pit bulls walking around. I'm always surprised how many people stop us to ask what kind of dog she is, so since she is the first pit bull many people meet, I want her to be extra well-behaved. Here are some things we do:

Wear a Backpack:
We use Ruffwear's Approach Pack. When Miss M puts on the backpack, she immediately realizes she has a job to do. She becomes more focused. Plus, it keeps my hands free to focus on her because she is carrying everything.

Practice Sit-Stays and Down-Stays:
In crowds like these, it's so important to be aware of everyone's space. Not everyone likes dogs, so in the tight quarters of the booths she needs to make herself as obsolete as possible. This is where all of our practice has a real-life application and she needs to sit and stay while I'm looking at the flowers or paying the vendors.

Choose a Dog-Friendly Market:
While all the markets allow dogs, some are just easier to go to than others. We like the Clark/Division market because it does have such wide aisles. We also choose to go early in the morning which is not only less-congested, but gives us a better selection. I find it difficult to go to the Wicker Park Farmer's market because the stalls are way too close together and there isn't a good walk way. There are also a lot of big dogs coming over from the dog park, and these owners don't always respect boundaries. The last time we were there one girl let her large dog stand at the end of the leash in the passing aisle while she picked out flowers. When we passed by the dog decided to aggressively bark and lunge at us, pulling the girl who literally fell to the ground. Even though Miss M didn't react to the lunging dog, we still prefer to avoid these types of situations so no one can associate us with this type of negative behaviors.
Does anyone else have any good tips for going to the Farmer's Market with your pooch?

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Be a Tourist with Your Dog Series: Portland, Oregon

We are one of the many currently swept up in the Portland craze (Portlandia?) and it has made our short-list of favored travel destinations. We were so excited to not only hear more about Portland, but hear about all the fantastic things to do in Portland that include dogs. Our hosts include Pit-mix Sadie, Lab Maggie, and puppy Hurley. From food trucks to coastal views to mountains, waterfalls, and brew pubs, here are itineraries of what to do in 1, 2 or 3 days:

One of the best aspects of Portland is its geographic location.  Beyond the city is some of the most beautiful scenery you can find anywhere.  A visit to Portland is incomplete if you skip on checking out the beautiful countryside.  The best part?  The scenic areas outside of the city are perfect day trips for you and your dogs.
The following is our “visitor” itinerary.  You come visit us for a 3-day weekend, this is where we’ll take you and what we’ll do, dogs in tow.  We hope you enjoy your visit!
Day 1:  The Coastal Loop
The morning starts out with a Portland must – the food cart scene.  Portland has a diverse and extensive selection of food carts, located mainly in pods around the city.  You can literally find any type of cuisine in a cart.  The bonus of food carts?  Being outside, they are naturally dog friendly.  Our favorite is the waffle cart close to our home.  After filling up on the PB & Nutella-(or Jam & Sweet Cream or Ham & Cheese)-filled waffles, we are ready to load up the dogs and hit the road towards the majestic Pacific.
Oregon has some of the most gorgeous coastline in the US.  Sunny, sandy beaches you will not find here.  We call it the Coast, not the Beach, for a reason.   Sunshine is a rare occurrence at the Coast so make sure to pack your windbreaker (Portland fun fact:  Portlanders never use umbrellas, we’re just used to the rain & mist being constant) and bring warm layers.  Our favorite spot along the Coast is also a short hour drive from Portland out Hwy 26.  Cannon Beach is a quaint coastal village; for us, it’s reminiscent of the villages on Cape Cod or the Maine Coast, where the hubster and I spent much of our childhood.  We stop in Cannon Beach to enjoy this beautiful beach (OK, we do have beaches in Oregon, just not sunny ones) and to grab a few sandwiches and a bottle of wine for our next stop.
After a good walk through the town of Cannon Beach and a stroll along the beach to view Haystack Rock (pictured), we head to Ecola State Park, just north of the town.  This is the perfect spot to build a fire out of driftwood, crack open that bottle of wine and watch those crazy surfers who brave the frigid temps of the Pacific this far north.  It’s also generally less crowded than Cannon Beach and the dogs are able to romp off leash in the waves.
Once we are sufficiently drenched by the drizzle & spray and have warmed ourselves back up with our beach bonfire & wine, it’s time to head back to Portland.  We take Coastal Hwy 1 up to Astoria and Hwy 30 along the Columbia River back to Portland.

Day 2:  Mt Hood & The Columbia Gorge
We will likely get you up early on your second day visiting us in Portland.  Getting in Mt Hood & The Gorge is a tall order for one day but one that you won’t forget.  I remember driving across the Gorge from Washington when we moved here and just being stunned by how majestic this part of Oregon is.  It literally takes your breath away and though we’ve lived here for 5 years, my breath still catches every time we drive out I-84 and enter the Columbia Gorge.
Our day will start about an hour and a half from Portland at Lost Lake.  This is my favorite place to catch views around Mt Hood.  The dogs enjoy a great swim and you get to take gorgeous photos of Mt Hood.  We enjoy a leisurely stroll around the lake with the dogs splashing in whenever there’s an opportunity.
After a few hours at Lost Lake, it’s time to ramble our way back to Portland.  First is a stop in Hood River for a bite to eat.  There are many dog-friendly cafes with outdoor seating in the downtown corridor of Hood River.
With lunch in our bellies, it’s back on I-84 towards Portland.  We’re not headed straight back though – as no visit to the Columbia Gorge would be complete without some serious waterfall viewing.   At Multnomah Falls (the most popular and most crowded waterfall of the Gorge), we stop for a gander and the requisite hike up to the bridge.
After these falls, we take the scenic route on the old Gorge highway past a half-dozen waterfalls or so.  We get out at the less crowded ones to let the dogs have a romp in the streams and pools.
Back in Portland, we will head over to the Lucky Lab brew-pub.  Yup, you guessed it!  Totally dog friendly and an example of Portland’s status as Beer City (we love our beer and the volume of breweries and brew pubs here is enough for a post in its own but alas, this is not a How to be a Beer Tourist series).  It’s been quite a day of sight-seeing and we deserve a pitcher (or two) and pizza to cap it off!

Day 3:  Portland, finally!
This is a trip to Portland after all, right?  I love to give my guests the option of where they would like to go here in PDX, once we’ve taken in the Coast and Mt Hood/Gorge.  The only requirement I have is that we start our day with Portland’s best brunch at The Tin Shed.  Not only is their patio 100% dog friendly;  many of their dishes are dog-themed  and they also have doggie bowls.  That’s right – brunch for you and for your dog!  One of our favorite memories of our dear Suzy was her visits to The Tin Shed.  She was a big fan of their chicken & rice bowl for dogs but didn’t really like the mushrooms so much.  She would meticulously lick each one and place it beside her bowl, uneaten.  The wait staff always had a good chuckle at our expense once we started special ordering her bowl sans mushrooms.
After having the best breakfast you’ve ever had, we’ll likely head to one of the many city parks.  Forest Park is the world’s largest city park and contains miles of hiking trails – a great place for the dogs! However, if your pooches are tired out by the previous 2 days’ activities and not up for a hike, we may head to Washington Park to take in the Rose Garden and enjoy glimpses of the beautiful Portland skyline.
Following our walk in one of the parks, we’ll take you out to either Alberta St or Mississippi St for some light shopping and serious people watching.  Both are great examples of what makes Portland such a unique and interesting place to visit.  Hopefully, you’ll coincide your visit with one of the fabulous street fairs they put on each summer.  The dogs of course are totally welcome and we’ll make a pit stop at either Amnesia Brewing or The Mash Tun, both great brewpubs.
We hope your enjoyed your virtual visit to our neck of the woods.  Wanna move here yet?  This place sort of has that affect on our visitors and we are truly blessed to have such an amazing place as our backyard.  PS – the dogs enjoy it as well.
We loved seeing this insider's view of Portland, and even if we can't literally make it to Portland, it's still inspiring to see the types of things we can do with our dogs in our own city. And as one reader pointed out, it's always a good idea for pit bull owners to research beforehand as some parks and areas might not allow pitties. You can read more about Sadie, Maggie and Hurley here. In case you missed them, you can also read about things to do with dogs in Richmond, VirginiaSeattle,  Kansas CityNashville, Alaska, and Chicago. And you can read about roadtripping with 4 large dogs and boating to the Bahamas with a pit bull. We do love hearing insider's tips, and if you would like to share your hometown, please click here for more information or contact us through our Facebook page.
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