What's a pet owner to do if they find themselves with a pooch that's allergic to many dog treats and foods and living in a town with no animal specialty shops? Yup, as you probably guessed, long time caterers Pam and Brian Trainor decided to open their own. Knoxville's River Dog Bakery now makes and bakes all treats in the in-store kitchen and started with a simple, crunchy biscuit called Nicholas Nibble Bones safe for their Golden Retriever, Nick. A hit with their pooch and lucky friends and family members, they became inspired to branch out to other treats like Bowser Brownies and Snicker Poodles. All snacks use human-grade ingredients with no additives, preservatives, or artificial colorings or flavors, and come in different flavors, sizes, and textures. The store now includes salmon and tuna treats for kitties, pet products, and their current Golden Retriever, Cooper, who loves to greet shop visitors in addition to being their official taste tester.
Nestled in the Overton Hills, the beautiful sanctuary of Radnor Lake is a great escape in urban Nashville. The 747 acres of land were preserved in 1973 as Tennessee's first natural area and protected ecosystem. The lake area often offers close-up glimpses of herons, turtles, and deer just to name a few — and is a popular spot for nature studies from local university researchers. Because of its important natural habitats, you can hike on the various trails for animal observation, but save those walks with your pup for Otter Creek Road, the only part where pooches are permitted.
Before you even enter Pigeon Forge's amusement mecca, Dollywood, you'll see Doggywood. In addition to kennel runs, Doggywood has four cottages ($30) for pooches to lounge in while you're riding the roller coasters, listening to the music, and seeing the craftsman demonstrations like at the grist mill. Built in 1982, this was the first fully operating grist mill made in Tennessee in more than 100 years. It was created exactly as it would have been back when locals relied on the giant water wheel to grind corn and wheat, but today sells cornmeal alongside its famous cinnamon bread.
Dogs haven't been allowed inside the park since 2002, so the one-of-a-kind indoor care facility is a must-stop for those dog owners who just can't bear to leave Fido that far behind. As an additional bonus, there's a special play area adjacent to the building so you can stop out for a quick walk or frolic before enjoying the rest of your day back inside the park. Like many of the buildings on the property, it's constructed in a rustic Smoky Mountain cabin style — it offers a homey feel with limited space so make those reservations in advance!
We wrapped up our travels in Hawaii with aquatic life, and I stumbled upon some great tips for choosing a whale-watching tour no matter where you are. First and foremost, please remember you are getting the lucky opportunity to spot these creatures in their natural environment and you should never do anything to put them in jeopardy. Before making the pick, ask yourself if the tour operators are putting the animal first and not making any promises (i.e., money-back guarantee) that could cause them to take unnecessary risks. In addition to doing your research (and asking for recommendations), consider the following questions:
- Why are they doing this? Check the training of the crew members – you're there to learn and it's important to know about their training, study, research participation, and length of experience observing whales before you set sail.
- How much time do they dedicate? You'll want to book a trip that brings the whale watching front and center. It's a good sign when the company actually works in whale research year-round and makes that the primary focus of their business – and not just making it a seasonal alternative to a diving or cruise business.
See a couple more when you read more
To finish up our week in Hawaii, let's check out some of the species that call it home. Winter is a great time to go whale watching — in fact, many people consider February to be the peak season on the islands — and their waters are home to 23 species of marine mammals including the humpback whale and several types of dolphins. Aquatic Surfari's Wild Side Specialty Tours, offer daily morning wildlife charters to look for whales combined with dolphin and turtle encounters and reef snorkels to maximize your adventure. They also offer additional afternoon sails this season, which can be a bit better for less boat traffic. While onboard, you'll not only see how they collect data on whales (and other marine life), you can participate in the process and know that a portion of your cost goes towards whale conservation and research.
Oahu-based Hawaii Fi-Do trains assistance dogs to offer physical, psychological, and therapeutic support for people who face the daily challenges of life with a disability (other than blindness) and is the only facility of its type on the island. Dogs are individually trained for two years to do work or perform necessary tasks – all pups get basic obedience and socialization lessons along with personalized training to perform such tasks as opening and closing doors, finding the phone, pulling a manual wheelchair, and even to alert their handlers and respond to different sounds.
Along with providing companion dogs to people who need them, Hawaii Fi-Do also offers a special S.T.A.R. (student teaching animal responsibility) program training and using at risk youth to work with the dogs and educate the public about the roles and rights of service dogs as well as a "Read to Willie Program," the first and only reading program in the state where reluctant young readers are motivated to read to certified therapy dogs.
The cuteness continues on to Cocojor! This shop gets its name from the owner's two American Staffordshire Terriers (Sierra's Coco Chanel and Heir Jordan of Noah's Ark) and offers up authentic island apparel. Among their alohawear are dresses, shirts, and vests made in Hawaii . . . and made for doggies! The main location in Honolulu is worth a stop to pick up something to bring back for your pet or, if you're just dreaming of this vacation, their fashions can be found across the country.
Also, thanks to a tip from karisaamy check out Birken & Bailey’s Boutique in Paia if your travels take you to Maui. Named after the shop dogs (and, yes, the two Pekingese are usually available for photos), the store stocks variety of collars, carriers, and cookies alongside locally designed souvenirs.
While getting into the state is half the battle, once you arrive the Kahala Hotel is the best stomping (and sniffing ground) for your pooch. With 345 rooms and suites that are all open to dogs, the resort offers a Pampered Paws program ($150 per pet) modeled after the similar one launched at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. In addition to a luxe doggy bed and cute bowl, they offer freshly baked treats with your pet's name inscribed on top and a list of Hawaiian commands to teach your pooch – including noho (sit), olelo (speak), hele mai (come), and naue lima (shake hands). He may never want to leave!
Welcome to Hawaii! Off the bat, I want to mention that the Aloha State has a special quarantine law designed to protect resident people and pets from potentially serious health problems associated with the introduction and spread of rabies. All dogs and cats, regardless of age, must comply with Hawaii’s pet import requirements. This makes it impossible to bring your doggie or kitty for a last-minute family vacay – you'll need at least four months of preparation, including rabies vaccinations and a blood test that requires waiting 120 days after a successful test result before entering the state. If you do arrive or relocate on the islands before this time period ends, you'll not only have to give up your pet, but you'll also have to pay boarding fees of $224 for five days or less (plus $17.80 each additional day after that) and relinquish your pet to the quarantine station on Oahu where you can visit during afternoon hours but cannot take animals outside of their outdoor kennel enclosures. To learn more about Hawaii's laws, read more
"What is the nature of the universe?" is simply one of the questions being explored at Fermilab. The (nearly 7,000-acre) grounds of this high energy particle physics lab include wetlands, woodlands, and the prairie seen above. Springtime brings baby bison (awwwww) and Winter, gaggles of geese — feel free to bring your pups to play on a one-acre, off-leash area complete with pond, so get those swimming lessons done early. Located in Batavia, about 45 miles west of Chicago, Fermilab includes all the Midwest ecosystems and that bison herd to symbolize its connection to the prairie and its position on the frontier of scientific discovery. The center is also a member of Chicago Wilderness, an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring natural communities of the Chicago region.