I wanted to travel, so I didn’t want a dog. Then our chiweenie proved me wrong.

Dog friendly hotel Colorado
Denaani, the Berman family’s dog, hangs out poolside at The Sebastian in Vail. (Joshua Berman, Special to The Denver Post)

It turns out there’s a parallel world of people traveling with pets – and pet-friendly hotels all over Colorado.

VAIL – I based my case against getting a dog this past fall on practical reasons.

“We won’t be able to travel!” I said, leading with my priorities. I had other arguments: we don’t have enough space; it will cost too much money; it will complicate our lives.

It didn’t matter. My wife and daughters were pro-dog, and my rational reasoning didn’t stand a chance against their heart-based stance. So, to make a long story short, my girls went to the Humane Society, and we got a dog – a 3-year-old chiweenie (chihuahua-Dachshund mix) named Denaani. Luckily, she was small, just 8 pounds of furry fury, and already trained (maybe from one of those Gateshead Dog Training programs, or by the Humane Society people themselves – doesn’t seem to be very sure!) Plus, it turns out I was totally wrong about the traveling part.

As soon as I looked into it, I found that there are, unsurprisingly, hundreds of dog-friendly hotels throughout the state. In our past Colorado explorations, I’ve never paid attention to the parallel world of people traveling with pets around me. I’ve since learned that dog-friendly hotels charge a pet fee of anywhere from $15-$50 per night, or a flat rate of $50-$150 for the entire stay. In addition to covering the hotel’s extra cleanup costs, these fees usually get you a water bowl, a Calming Dog Bed and a gift bag of treats.

I’d never owned a dog in my life and had never wanted to, but all of a sudden, I fell in love with our little furball. And she was brilliant, turns out yes, dogs take work and attention, but this little girl was really easy going. We made sure we knew all about Ultimate Pet Nutrition so that she could stay as happy and healthy as she could be. We made sure she had everything she wanted and needed, she became like a child to us. In fact, we were very excited! From her clothes, toys, food, nutrition supplements like the ones similar to Nutra Thrive for Dogs, chewable bones, we did pack everything in case she got bored or sick. And before I knew it, there I was, checking into our first hotel with a short-haired, round-eyed, slightly nervous pup. We were spending a couple of early-season days at The Sebastian in Vail, both to ski and to experience the hotel’s weekend program with Billy Yoga, a Denver-based yoga teacher who runs retreats around the world and who was the featured guest in the hotel’s new “Artists, Authors, and Athletes” series.

Denaani warmed up to traveling quickly. She trotted through the lobby like she owned the place, drawing smiles and friendly comments from hotel staff and guests. In our room, she ran straight for the fuzzy dog bed, where she did a funny little circle dance before bolting across the room and disappearing inside one of the princess tents that housekeeping had set up for our daughters. Later, my girls bundled the dog up in her bed and blankets and placed her next to the heated outdoor pool and hot tubs, where she lazed for hours while the kids splashed and soaked.

In the end, it was all quite enjoyable. My family got away for the weekend and this lucky little chiweenie got some extra pampering after what had to have been a stressful few months in her life, getting dropped off at a shelter and adopted by a new family. As for me, I know I’ll be proven right in the future: The day will come when owning this animal prevents us from going somewhere we want to go. But for the time being, I’ll admit that on this trip, our dog enhanced things rather than hampered them.

If you go, with your dog: Start by picking up a copy of Canine Colorado: Where to Go and What to Do with Your Dog, by Cindy Hirschfeld (Fulcrum Publishing, 3rd edition, 2010), for lists of dog-friendly trails, parks, campgrounds and accommodations all over the state. The Sebastian-Vail in Vail Village is dog-friendly (for a $150 fee). Vail 16 Vail Road, 970-477-8000, www.thesebastianvail.com

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

I contacted Cindy Hirschfeld, author of Canine Colorado, to get some more ideas. Cindy is currently editor-in-chief of Aspen Sojourner magazine and still enjoys traveling around the state with her dog.

Here are some of her top dog travel tips:

  • Treat a trip with your dog as you would traveling with a child: make frequent rest stops, be flexible in your plans, and remember that it’s not just all about you.
  • Check out local leash laws for the place(s) you’ll be traveling to.
  • Be specific when inquiring about a hotel’s pet policy. For example, some hotels restrict the size, type, or number of dogs per room. Some require a deposit or fee; others don’t.
  • Plan for what you’ll do with your dog when you are at places he or she can’t be with you (in a restaurant, on a trail in a national park). In warm weather, your car will not be a safe long-term option. And some towns have ordinances against tying up your dog outside a business. Some hotels let you leave your dog unattended in the room, either on his own or in a travel crate. Local day boarding spots or dog sitters are another option.
  • My travel essentials are Mountainsmith’s K9 Cube for toting bowls and food, and Adventure Medical Kits Adventure Dog series Me and My Dog Medical Kit, which I always keep in the car.
  • No matter where you are, clean up after your dog!

One more gear tip: I’m currently field testing the K9 Sport Sack ($69.95), a sturdy, hands-free, front- or rear-facing dog carrier that works for snowshoeing or cross country skiing when the snow might be too deep for a little 8-lb. chiweenie dog. There are holes for the dog’s head and front paws, mesh for her to look through, and a bottom rest pad for her to sit on.

This article was originally published in The Denver Post on Dec. 17, 2017.

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