June 28, 2008

Dog days in wine country

by winecountrydog

Are you a dog headed for wine country? . . .
It's not easy in summer for a dog traveling in hot California, Oregon, and Washington wine country. Where are you gonna hang out and stay cool? Dog-friendly places? . . . In California, you can't go in restaurants or farmer's markets, and relatively few winery tasting rooms. There are few places that'll let you inside with your guardian/owner. Yet you could die from heat stroke waiting in the car.

I've got to admit that, if I were a tasting-room manager or gift buyer, I wouldn't want rowdy dogs wagging merchandise off the shelves. And as a winery patron, I wouldn't want to run into big rowdy dogs, especially in crowded tasting rooms.

So what's a friendly dog in wine country to do?

1) Get to googly pawing. Find dog-friendly tasting rooms, not just dog-friendly wineries — there's a difference. Ask wineries whether they have shady outdoor spots for us dogs. And look for other dogstinations — you know, dog events like Bark in the Park, Graton Day festival Pet Parade, and Healdsburg Dog House Halloween parade. Always make sure you've got your dog bytes right though: Contact wineries, inns, and events to confirm their dog policies!

2) Make a plan for how you're going to stay cool, which means all day long in summer. Don't worry about evenings; it cools off before sunset. You could get a professional dog walker, doggy daycare, or a dog spa visit along your travel route. (Consider a single-run kennel 'cuz you might get overwhelmed by strangers.) Tell your people to see about advance reservations and other requirements!

3) Pack everything you need to stay cool: your water bowl, plenty of water, your leash and outdoor tie-down, cooling bandana neck-scarf, cooling pet mats, Cool Vest, shade umbrella, and a stack of towels. Towels soaked in cold water and wrung out will help you and your people stay cool. Remember, too, to pack your food, treats, travel ID, toys, emergency contacts, vaccination records, and other regular stuff.

4) Get a good doggie seatbelt harness. I wear my Ruff Rider Roadie harness and wouldn't do car travel without it. Forget the dog crate! You'll suffocate inside that thing in the summertime here.

5) Tell your people to sit-stay flexible. Be prepared to change the itinerary on super-hot triple-digit days. We have only a few in a row, then it cools off again. On the hottest days, head for wineries and recreation spots in the cooler Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. (See WineRoad.com.)

6) If you get desperately hot on the wine road: Ask your driver-person to stop and buy bags of ice to arrange close to you — not directly on you!
Even with ice and cooling mats, you cannot survive long alone in the car. If your people park in the sun instead of the shade, you're done for. You're taking a risk if you even try to stay in the car, so just don't let your people leave you there.

7) If your people have an emergency: Tell your guardian/owner to speak up, and go get the people at the winery or restaurant or wherever to let you go inside with them while they take care of the emergency!