April 23, 2009
Pet Friendly Vacations in Wisconsin
Imagine this: You and your dog having lunch at an outdoor café on a sunny day in Madison, Wisconsin. Or, imagine you and your dog playing in the cool water on the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County. How about the two of you wandering through a championship disc golf course nestled in a quiet valley in Sparta near La Crosse? All of these scenarios are possible due to the variety of pet friendly lodging available in Wisconsin.
With fluctuating gas prices and the shaky economy, now is the time to plan a vacation closer to home and see the sights of Wisconsin. And, why not take your dog along, too? Denise Barnett, vice president of marketing and operations of the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, which represents all types of lodging from single vacation homes to waterparks and hotels, says that they are seeing an increase of folks traveling with dogs. The Wisconsin Innkeepers Association website (www.wisconsinlodging.info) even allows you to search for a place to stay with “pets with prior approval” being part of the criteria. About 40% of the Association’s facilities accept pets.
Denise says there are locations to suit every taste, whether “you want to stay in an urban setting and go shopping...or go someplace where your dog can run free on the beach and swim in the lake.”
Stewart Inn in Wausau, Wisconsin has welcomed over 150 dogs to its bed and breakfast. Jane Walter, who owns the Stewart Inn along with her husband Paul, puts a milkbone on the pillow for the dogs instead of the typical chocolate for the humans. There is also a bottomless biscuit jar on the front desk that their 13 year old dog Chester sits by, hoping for guests to wander in his direction.
Jane and Paul moved to Wisconsin from California, where one of their favorite places allowed pets, and decided to open be a pet friendly establishment here too. Three out of the five rooms at the Stewart Inn allow canine guests.
“99.9% of the animals are good. While the guests have wine and cheese, the dogs all hang out together in the living room.” says Jane. Out of all the dogs that have visited the inn, only one younger canine guest was asked to gain a bit more training to control his barking and chewing before he returned again.
Don’t think that a pet friendly place is less well-kept as other lodging. Jane says she has had at least two guests drive by the inn thinking they had the wrong address because “such a nice place couldn’t possibly allow dogs”. The Stewart Inn is a Select Registry Inn meaning that it is one of only 400 in the country and must pass a rigorous inspection to maintain that title.
For those travelers who want to experience Madison with their dog, the Edgewater Hotel is a family-owned, upscale hotel. It is less than 15 minutes away from many attractions, including the Capitol and the Alliant Energy Center. Canine celebrity guests have included George Carlin’s dog, two Totos from the Wizard of Oz and some Madison area opera singers’ four legged friends. Judy Alberts, marketing director, said the Edgewater Hotel staff will greet you at check-in with a “pooch pack welcome gift bag” containing little treats. Judy said the Edgewater is within walking distance of State Street where you can sit at outdoor cafes in the summer and have your dog with you. If you want to do some quick shopping, Judy has even been known to occasionally dogsit in her office and actually loves to do so.
Now, if llamas, a pygmy goat, disc golf or skijoring are what you are looking for in your Wisconsin vacation, Justin Trails Resort in Sparta, Wisconsin is waiting to greet you and your canine friends. Pets are allowed in every lodging choice, including two log cabins, three suites, and a cottage, some of which have whirlpools and fireplaces. In 2009, 15 primitive camping sites will be offered for the first time.
According to Donna Justin, who along with her husband, Don, owns Justin Trails, “the goat and llamas have adjusted to the dogs. Some younger dogs want to bark at the llamas. They just look at the dog and quietly seem to think, ‘oh, so you are a noisy one’.”
There are many activities on their 200 acres which make for happy guests and happy dogs. During winter, Donna and her husband will show interested dog owners how to skijor with their dog. They have harnesses for dogs between 45 and 70 pounds. One dog owner puts skis and a harness on himself or herself and the dog’s other parent stands out front with treats to lure the dog. Donna says, “It usually only takes one trip around the loop for the dog to figure out how much fun this can be.”
For guests and dogs alike, Justin Trails Resort is home to two disc golf courses which are open year round. One is a mile long and the other is a 3 and 1/2 mile championship course.
These are just a few of the places that welcome travelers who bring their four footed friends. Please keep in mind that not every dog is suited for traveling. Even though she works for the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, Denise Barnett’s own dog, Tanner, did not want to leave her side when she attempted traveling with him. Denise says it was not a relaxing vacation for either her or Tanner.
There are also some guidelines for traveling with your dog. You should not expect to be able to leave your dog unattended in your room although some places do allow that. Check with your lodging choice to see what they permit. According to Denise, “it can be very stressful for your dog to be in that situation with strange sounds and smells. Your dog may get lonely and cry and bark.”
Some destinations charge extra for your canine guest. This primarily is because floors, carpeting and furniture must all be cleaned and scrubbed. As Denise states, “There are some people who are allergic to dogs. The property owners have a strong need to make sure that anybody coming into that room can enjoy it.”
With common sense, a bit of research on your lodging options and a sense of adventure, your Wisconsin “stay-cation” will provide fun memories for you and your four-legged best friend. As Denise states, “We truly believe that if you are taking your dog on vacation that it is your dog’s vacation as well!” And the owners of pet-friendly lodgings will do everything they can to help both of you enjoy your stay.
For more information:
- Wisconsin Innkeepers Association www.wisconsinlodging.info
- Edgewater Hotel, Madison, WI www.theedgewater.com
- Justin Trails Resort, Sparta WI www.justintrails.com
- Stewart Inn Bed and Breakfast, Wausau WI www.stewartinn.com
Marie Tubbin loves spending time with her two best buddies, her husband, Mike and her dog, Louie. She met Mike at Burger King and Louie at HAWS and considers those two of the luckiest days of her life.