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BJ Bangs

BJ Bangs, a freelance writer, photographer, and blogger/journalist, resides in Maine’s Western Mountains. She can be contacted at bjbangs@yahoo.com.

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Posted: July 31, 2014

Pet-friendly trips: You can vacation in Maine with pets, but it takes planning

Written by: BJ Bangs
File photo by Greg Rec.

File photo by Greg Rec.

Whether you are going hiking, camping, beach walking, or sightseeing, vacationing with a pet is a challenge and requires planning ahead. Otherwise, you might find things don’t turn out as planned because not everyplace welcomes pets with open arms.

Certain places on the Appalachian Trail, including Baxter State Park, prohibit dogs. Pets are not allowed at Sebago State Park. Many beaches exclude dogs at certain times of day, or even whole blocks of the summer season. Don’t assume your dog will automatically be welcome.

Hotels and lodging facilities may say they are pet-friendly, only on arrival you may find exorbitant pet deposits for potential damage, or rooms that you might consider subpar. It’s best to call the facility and ask them what their policies are. They may require certain restraints, leashes for cats and dogs, muzzles for noise control, and kennels or tents in which they must sleep. Bathroom duty for Fluffy or Fido may have certain restrictions as well.

 Jane Forner, visiting from Saratoga, New York, walks her dog Ebony, a Black Lab, with a leash on Ferry Beach in Scarborough. File photo by Gordon Chibroski.

Jane Forner, visiting from Saratoga, New York, walks her dog Ebony, a Black Lab, with a leash on Ferry Beach in Scarborough. File photo by Gordon Chibroski.

By far, dogs are the most common pets people travel and vacation with. According to the US Travel Association, 78 percent of people travel with their dogs. Most like to ride, and they are ideal walking companions. But as people are making dogs more a part of the family, places are seeing the other 22 percent travel with cats, rabbits, turtles and iguanas. Many don’t want to leave their beloved pet behind, and they take the pet(s) along for vacation. The idea of their pet being left home with a pet sitter or kenneling them is not acceptable.

Maine is one of the most pet-friendly states in the country, so it’s no surprise that it’s also pet-vacation friendly. VisitMaine.com has a whole section about vacationing with pets, listing everything from hotels to restaurants that are pet-friendly.

Bruce Farnham, manager and supervisor at Weld’s Mount Blue State Park, which is divided into two sides totaling 7,300 acres about 15 miles apart, says there are a lot of pets there. On Memorial Day weekend, the people working at the park entrance booth counted 56 pets. “It’s mostly dogs, with some sites having two or three dogs, but there were two cats. They must have been in the trailer because I didn’t see them,” he said.

“People should not leave the dogs unattended, and they need to control the barking. Most people are pretty good about  it, keeping them on a leash and taking care of them. But there are a few that let it get out of control, and then the rangers need to step in to make sure the dogs aren’t disruptive to other guests.”

Photo by Amelia Kunhardt.

Photo by Amelia Kunhardt.

People’s relationship and attachment to their pets has changed over the years, he said. When he started as a ranger 27 years ago, you’d see an occasional dog. “Today, they go wherever the family goes.”

That’s true for Leyla Murphy and Ian Hoygoard, who were camping for the night at Mount Blue State Park with their dog Maggie. The couple, originally from Boulder, Colo., now reside in Philadelphia, Pa.

Murphy said they had planned a whirlwind trip to Maine to hike Mount Katahdin, but found the park didn’t allow dogs. As it’s part of the Appalachian Trail, “that’s quite unfortunate.” They changed their plans and extended their three-day stay in Maine to include West Quoddy, taking in the first sunrise in the country, and dog-friendly Acadia.

They chose Mount Blue State Park because it’s on the way, and they had the availability to stay. “Dogs are welcome, so that’s always good. It can be a challenge to find a place to stay, especially since we have the dog.”

Whenever they vacation, they plan ahead, altering their itinerary, even while on the road. “Most campgrounds allow dogs as long as you keep them on a leash.”

“We like being outdoors and go hiking  with Maggie,” and keep her with them most of the time. “We don’t want to leave her in the car. She’s a chow hound and will get into anything she can find.”

Vacations and the reason behind them can be as varied as the owners themselves. Kristen and Christopher Bangs of Mechanicsburg, Pa., combined a short vacation to Maine with their black Lab, Boone, with a more somber graveside funeral service for their grandmother.

Planning ahead is especially important. Kristen went online searching out pet- friendly vacations, and found lodging facilities, including a new hotel in Belfast. A lot of hotels have a 25-pound weight limit. “Surprisingly, we found the Double Tree by Hilton hotel in South Portland welcomes dogs and doesn’t even charge a pet fee …It’s hard to find a really nice place to stay that welcomes dogs.” They also look for hotels that have places where they can take Boone for a walk.

‘We call the facility to find out what the expectations are,” she said.

Christopher added,  “Some guests look at you askance, making a big circle and staying clear of you. Others are really excited, and you can catch their smiles as they walk by.” They keep Boone on a leash, and carry plenty of plastic bags to pick up when making pit stops.

On the road, they carry plenty of toys and take his favorite bed. They also carry plenty of water, and make plenty of stops so she can stretch her legs and get a bite to eat. Christopher said she really travels pretty well.

As they were venturing out, Kristen, a first-time visitor to Maine, was excited by the chance to see the coast. They were on their way to check out the Fireside Inn and Suites in Belfast, which is listed as pet- friendly. BringFido.com says “two pets of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $20 per night. Pet rooms are located on first-floor only.”

While not necessarily vacationing, David and Nancy Morgan of Phillips travel with their cats, taking them to their winter home in Florida. They plan ahead as well, making sure the hotel will accommodate the cats, including their litter boxes. With plenty of food and water, toys, their beds, and litter boxes, they’ve adjusted to traveling quite well, Nancy said.

According to the website HowStuffWorks, (http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/pet-travel/5-pet-friendly-vacation-spots.htm) the number of people vacationing with pets is mushrooming. It’s no wonder; according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the percentage of U.S. families with pets is double the number of families with children.

Consequently, they “pamper them, brag about them and look forward to being with them every day,” including vacationing with them.

Twenty-nine million Americans traveled with their pets in 2007. Travel guides, including “Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook,” which is updated every year, lists more than 13,000 pet-friendly AAA-approved hotels, campgrounds and attractions nationwide that your companions will love.

Websites such as HowStuffWorks (animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/pet-travel/5-pet-friendly-vacation-spot) BringFido.com, and petswelcome.com list whether pets are welcome at  hotels, restaurants, attractions and events.

While many hotels are pet-friendly, many are not. Bed & breakfasts are not usually set up to accommodate pets. Cruises, boats, beaches, and hiking trails, airlines, campgrounds, museums and special events – all have their own rules and restrictions. It’s best to plan ahead so you maximize your vacation fun with your entire family – including those with fur, paws, scales and hoofs.

If you are vacationing with your pet, you might want to consider checking out one of the 519 dog-friendly cities or towns in Maine, including ones with miles and miles of terrain for you and Fido to romp and roam off-leash.

Maine has many dog parks, including Portland’s Quarry Run Dog Park, Valley Street Dog Park, Baxter Woods, and Whole Dog Camp, which offer an ideal places for Fido to play. Bar Harbor’s, Little Long Pond Leash-Free Area and York’s Wiggly Bridge. These are just a few of the many dog parks throughout the state where your pet can romp and roam, having a grand old time.

Cat lovers might want to consider entering Fluffy in one of the two cat shows in the state. Nauticats has its annual show in Augusta in March, and the Cat Fanciers Federation and United Maine Coon Cat Association Cat Show in Springvale in November.

To enter, contact http://cffinc.org/index.html or www.nauticats.com. There are household divisions allowing all-breed entries.

To find out about pet-friendly beaches, visit http://www.petvr.com/index.php/pages/beachesdogfriendlyme.html. because lots of beaches prohibit dogs during the busiest times of the year, and/or day.

For information on hiking trails, check out www.bringfido.com. And for hotels, www.visitmaine.net/pet_friendly  or www.visitnewengland.com/pet-and-dog-friendly.

AAA has a whole host of information about traveling with pets from hotels, campgrounds and just about everything. For more info, check them out at http://petspot.aaa.com/pet-friendly-
hotels/ or http://petspot.aaa.com/pet-friendly-hotels/

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