Key West is a great place to be a dog. The island city’s canines can often be spotted as passengers on scooters or in bicycle baskets, they’re welcomed with bowls of ice water in many outdoor bars and restaurants (one notable eatery even provides bacon), and they have their own beach.
Dog Beach is located on the Atlantic Ocean beside a popular gourmet restaurant called Louie’s Backyard. Around cocktail hour, it’s common to see four-legged and two-legged friends hurrying toward it — the dogs heading for the beach to play water Frisbee or coconut chase with their buddies, and the people heading for Louie’s deck to enjoy a libation while their pets have fun.
And let’s not forget Pet Masquerade, the costume contest where pooches promenade on an oceanfront stage at the lovely Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. A highlight of Key West’s Fantasy Fest masking and costuming festival, the family-friendly competition draws entries ranging from pet-and-person duos to animal-and-human ensembles staging choreographed performances.
In fact, dogs even have their own New Year’s Eve celebration on the island: the annual Dec. 31 Key West Dachshund Walk, drawing about 200 dachshunds and their owners each year for a noontime stroll through the picturesque downtown district.
Given all that, it’s no surprise that many visitors to Key West choose to bring their cherished canines with them. And here, from nationally acclaimed pet expert Charlotte Reed, author of “The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette,” are a few tips to help people and their pups have a doggone good time during their stay.
CHARLOTTE REED’S GUIDE TO GOOD TRAVEL MANNERS
Although Key West is one of the most pet-friendly destinations in the United States, it is important to remember that you and your pooch are canine ambassadors wherever you go. As a result, practice your “petiquette.” Petiquette is the art of understanding and behaving properly with your companion pet. Apply your conventional manners and consideration for others, especially when you travel.
As the Mistress of Canine Etiquette, Miss Fido Manners provides her best travel tips:
Hotels: To make cleaning up on a daily basis as easy as possible for you and the hotel staff, feed your pooch in the bathroom so you can easily wipe up the tile floors. Additionally, if your fur-baby likes to sleep in bed with you, bring an extra sheet to prevent shedding or soiling. Most importantly, when you check out, make sure you leave the room the way you found it — intact!
Beaches: Treat dog-friendly beaches like rare jewels. Care for them by scooping the poop.
Stores: Before entering a business establishment, ask if your dog is welcome. Whatever the response, always thank the person or staff member who has helped you. If allowed admittance, take care that your pet stays with you at all times. And remember, if your pet plays, eats or pees on the merchandise, be prepared to buy it!
Street Smarts: Prior to your arrival in the Keys, practice your “Leave It!” and “Let’s Go!” commands. The appearance of a gypsy chicken, common in Key West, can turn the most well-heeled dog into a barking and frenzied hound. Additionally, in the evenings, when the sidewalks are full of pedestrians in the most popular areas, consider alternative walking routes so that your pet gets the most effective daily exercise.
Restaurants: With the challenges of confined spaces, a busy wait staff and diners who may not expect to share their eating experience with four-legged patrons, only the most well-mannered and best-groomed dogs should be taken out to eat in an outdoor restaurant. Additionally, carrying pet supplies (like portable pet bowls) is a must for doggy diners, since it is inappropriate to allow pets to drink or eat from restaurant dinnerware.
Dog Parks: While at the dog park, don’t upset the local residents. Your pooch should be under your control at all times.
A good dog and his owner are a team and should always follow local rules and regulations regarding pets. Check with the local health department to find all laws pertaining to dog ownership.