Summer Fun: 5 Dog-Friendly OBX Destinations

Tavish on the beach by Jennette's Pier

OBX:  three little letters stand for North Carolina’s Outer Banks and a summer full of fun for dogs and people alike. Many locations along the Outer Banks are denoted simply by their milepost number along U.S. Highway 158.  At Whalebone Junction, the road becomes a decidedly less-congested N.C. Route 12 and is the gateway to Cape Hatteras, designated the country’s first national seashore in 1953. Beaches are dog-friendly, with regulations varying by town and season. Here are the Intrepid Pup’s picks for the top five scenic and sandy spots at this east coast playground:

Bodie Island Light Station

After wandering the grounds, be sure to follow the 1/8-mile boardwalk through the marsh for a picture-perfect view.

35° 49′ 5.30″ N,  75° 33′ 51.53″ W
Bodie Island Light Station
, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Open March – December

Throughout the centuries, the storms and shoals defining this stretch of coastline have wrecked more than 600 ships. Were it not for the area’s lighthouses and lifesaving services, this Graveyard of the Atlantic would have claimed even more. Don’t miss Bodie Island Light Station, the 164.4-foot black and white striped beacon whose light is visible from 19 miles at sea. Constructed in 1872, it’s actually the third light station to occupy that approximate location. Since 2000, it’s been maintained by the National Park Service, and you can even take a ranger-led tour up the tower.  While dogs aren’t currently allowed inside the light station, that wasn’t always the case. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Chess used to climb the tower every day, accompanying his master Vernon Gaskill who served as Bodie Island’s last civilian-era keeper (1919-1939).  According to Elinor De Wire’s book, The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie—on sale in the light station’s gift shopChess had no problem with the heights but apparently drew the line at entering the lantern room, because he didn’t like the odor of kerosene!

Tavish at the Lost Colony

The emptiness here adds to the mystery and kind of proves a point. After all, it is the Lost Colony.

35° 56′ 9.79″ N,  75° 42′ 35.35″ W
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island, North Carolina
Open year-round

A newly renovated visitor center at this National Park Service site interprets the history of Roanoke Island, from Algonquian homeland in the 1500s to a refuge for runaway slaves during the Civil War. But the spot is perhaps best known for what it wasn’t, namely a successful English colony. In fact, no one knows for certain what became of the English settlers who’d arrived in 1587.  When Governor John White returned to check on his transplants to the New World three years later, the 117 colonists plus White’s ill-fated granddaughter Virginia Dare (the first Christian baby born in Virginia) seemed to have vanished into thin air.  An abandoned fort and the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post are the scant clues in this unsolved mystery.

You, too, can explore the grounds of the lost colony. Pass a reconstructed version of the original earthen fort and join up with the Hariot Nature Trail for what amounts to about a 20-minute walk. We came upon a flock of ibises unhurriedly picking their way through the clearing. The wooded trail is slightly overgrown in spots and is punctuated by markers identifying types of trees and habitats. Sprinkled in are quotes drawn from accounts in Old English affirming the myriad challenges that the colonists faced. The trail provides a  picturesque view of Albemarle Sound before circling back to the Visitor Center.  Let us know if you happen to make the separate 2.5-mile round-trip hike on the Freedom Trail out to Croatan Sound—we were unfortunately thwarted in our attempt by a severe thunderstorm!

NagsHeadBeach

The Intrepid Pup officially “off duty” on the beaches of Nags Head.

35° 54′ 36.32″ N,  75° 35′ 43.77″ W
Nags Head Beaches & Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina (milepost 16.5)

Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the towns of Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Southern Shores all permit dogs on their beaches with varying degrees of seasonal access and leash laws. Team Tavish and the Intrepid Pup particularly like the beaches in Nags Head, because dogs are allowed on the beach year-round and at any time of day so long as they are on a maximum 10-ft leash and owners clean up.

Jennette's Pier

A bronze sea turtle stands watch by the pier house on Jeannette’s Pier.

While Tavish loves the water, he isn’t big on swimming, and that’s actually just fine here, because one does have to be mindful of the dangerous rip currents that can lurk offshore. But the beaches are clean and wide…perfect for an Intrepid Pup to snuffle the sand, poke at shells, crabs and seaweed, and skitter through the foamy surf. Walk the beach at sunrise and you’re sure to catch glimpses of skimming pelicans and playful porpoises offshore. Hard to miss at the heart of the beach’s Whalebone District is Jennette’s Pier (see photo at top). It’s been at this location since 1939, and  its current iteration is all concrete and extends 1,000 feet  into the Atlantic Ocean. Dogs aren’t permitted in or beyond the pier house, but you can get as far as the oversize bronze sculpture of a sea turtle. From that vantage point you can watch all the anglers heading out onto the pier to catch bluefish, cobia, skate, pigfish, mackerel, sea mullet, and more.

Tavish at Jockey's Ridge

The dunes at this state park are very cool…just be mindful of your dog’s paws, because the sand can get hot, hot, HOT!

35° 57′ 50.37″ N,  75° 37′ 59.38″ W
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
, Nags Head, North Carolina (milepost 12)
Open year-round

Did you know that this 420-acre state park represents the eastern United States’ largest natural dune system? It’s open to the public year-round, though park hours vary by season. Parking and general access are free. Dogs are allowed, so long as they remain on 6-foot leashes. From the visitor center, you can stroll a 360-foot boardwalk to a dune overlook, set out on the 1.5-mile “Tracks in the Sand” interpretive trail, take a mile-long walk on the “Soundside” nature trail…or simply scale the dunes. The shifting sands create a ridge that varies in height from 80 to 100 feet, providing spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Roanoke Sound. With fairly steady prevailing winds, Jockey’s Ridge is a favorite destination for kiteboarders and sandboarders. On the morning of our visit, hang gliding lessons were just getting underway, and the park was also gearing up for a big kite festival. We’d been forewarned that the sand at Jockey’s Ridge can get anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees hotter than the air temperature, so Tavish came prepared wearing his Ruffwear Swamp Cooler™ vest (a real godsend that made all the difference in his comfort in the dry heat), and he had his protective paw booties at the ready.  A word to the wise:  try taking off your shoes. If it’s too hot to walk on the dunes barefoot, it’ll definitely be too hot for your pup!  When we reached the ridge, the radio announcer for the kite festival approached us to pet  Tavish. Taking stock of all of our water bottles and gear, he remarked, “Wow, I can’t tell you how many people I see come up here with no water for themselves, let alone for their dogs. Big mistake.”

Tavish Wright Brothers National Memorial

The sky’s the limit at the Wright Brothers National Memorial!

36° 0′ 51.20″ N,  75° 40′ 4.40″ W
Wright Brothers National Memorial
, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (milepost 7.5)
Open year-round

Modern aviation is indebted to two Ohio brothers who journeyed to what at the turn-of-the 20th century was a remote patch of dunes. Carefully chosen for the winds, lack of distractions, and sandy landings, Kill Devil Hills was where Orville and Wilbur Wright first achieved powered, controlled, and sustained human flight on December 17, 1903.  You can follow in the brothers’ flight path with a visit to this National Park Service memorial. With Tavish in tow, we covered a total of approximately 1.5 miles walking the grounds. A pathway with stone markers traces the trajectories and landings of the Wrights’ first four powered flights. Trek uphill to get a panorama of the site, topped by a 60-foot granite memorial; it’s the same promontory from which the Wrights had earlier experimented with glider flights. Before turning back to further explore the informative Visitor Center, head downhill beyond the memorial. At the apex of the trail loop is a bronze and stainless steel sculpture group entitled, December 17, 1903. It captures the same instant of first flight as the iconic photograph and makes for a pretty nifty photo opp all its own!

Dogging the Details

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansYou see a lot of dogs on the Outer Banks enjoying outdoor activities a-plenty. So at first we were puzzled by the fact that dog-friendly lodging and dining weren’t as abundant. It turns out that many dog-owning OBX vacationers rent beach houses by the week (Sunday to Saturday) so they’re not needing as many hotels and always have the option of cooking in.  That being said, there are approximately a dozen pet-friendly overnight accommodations. We stayed at the Dolphin Oceanfront Motel (milepost 16.5), finding it to be minimalist but functional, with its key attribute being that it had a primo location right on the beach. By no means inexpensive, it was still comparatively less pricey than the pet-friendly rooms at the national hotel chains and some of the local B&Bs.

Tavish at the Front Porch Cafe

Chillaxing at the Front Porch Cafe

Foodwise, we stopped at a couple places with patio dining only to discover that dogs weren’t allowed.  We hit the jackpot, though, in finding the Front Porch Cafe for breakfast. We ate at their locations in Nags Head (milepost 10.5) and Kill Devil Hills (milepost 6). In addition to making a good cup o’ joe, they have a wide assortment of muffins, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. We sat outside in roomy Adirondack chairs, and the staff was quick to offer Tavish dog biscuits and a bowl of water.  Pigman’s Bar-B-Que was our other find. We took our order out to their picnic tables, and Tavish happily sampled our Carolina-style Que, hush puppies, fries, slaw, baked beans, and cornbread. OBX ranks a “2” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for providing enough canine fun in the sun, sand and surf to blow Tavish’s ears back! Grab a leash and go!

Gettysburg: Intrepid Pup Ventures to Hallowed Ground

Gettysburg_collage

Gettysburg’s hallowed ground. At left: the Virginia Memorial overlooks the field where Pickett’s Charge took place and General Lee lost more than 5,000 men in a single hour. Center: Cannon dot the fields along West Confederate Avenue, near the Observation Tower. At right: A memorial to the 5th Michigan Infantry in the Rose Woods.

Seven score and ten years ago, there was Gettysburg. Or, more to the point, the Battle of Gettysburg, the “High Water Mark” of the Civil War and its most devastating battle. The first three days of July 1863 turned Pennsylvania farmland into a blighted battlefield, claiming some 51,000 casualties and 3,000 horses. It’s a battle rightly memorialized—its tactics, weather, and personalities endlessly scrutinized.

Team Tavish’s visit to Gettysburg came about after spending the better part of a day hiking the trails at Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park (see blog post).  In consulting a map, Gettysburg looked to be close by, just across the Mason-Dixon line (and the Maryland-Pennsylvania border).  Before heading on, though, we consulted with a local just to be sure. Even as she confirmed that it’d indeed be a short trip, she began shaking her head. “You know, we used to take our horses out to ride the bridle trails at Gettysburg,” she said, her face clouding. “But those horses spooked every damn time. And if you were riding by yourself? Forget it. It’s like they knew.”

Gettysburg_20thMaine

Tavish traced the footsteps of fellow Mainers en route to Little Round Top and this memorial commemorating the role of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

So with that little sense of foreboding, we drove up the road to Gettysburg, covering in a half hour a distance we knew would’ve taken Civil War troops infinitely longer.

With a late afternoon arrival and a lot of hiking already under our belts, we opted to experience Gettysburg this time around via the 24-mile auto road.  A map obtained from the Visitor Center guided our way, and the sixteen stops provided ample opportunity to get out and explore. Cannon, historical markers, and memorials are at every vista. It seemed fitting for Tavish as a native Mainer to check out the memorial at Little Round Top dedicated to the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. As we traversed the path through the copse to the monument, the stillness was in marked contrast to the bedlam of July 1863. There, on the battle’s second day, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and his Maine volunteers were charged with holding the beleaguered Union line at all costs. . . which ultimately translated to a bayonet attack and fighting at close range. The line held, and for his leadership that day, Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor. Chamberlain would also go on to personally see the Civil War through to its conclusion at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in 1865; General Grant asked Chamberlain to command the Union troops overseeing the surrender of weapons and colors by General Lee’s infantry. Notably, Chamberlain ordered his men to silently salute the Confederates as they passed. Chamberlain remains one of Maine’s most beloved native sons—for his battlefield valor as well as his post-war contributions as Maine governor and president of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain’s house remains open to the public and is interpreted as part of the Pejepscot Historical Society in Brunswick, Maine.

Gettysburg_wolfhound

Tavish meets the gaze of the wolfhound at the memorial to the Irish Brigade in the Rose Woods.

Our last task at Gettysburg was to locate the monument for the three New York regiments of the Irish Brigade.  The narrow approach skirts The Wheatfield—where fierce fighting killed and wounded more than 4,000 men—and then snakes into the Rose Woods.  Despite all the tourists at Gettysburg  on the afternoon of our visit, we were strangely alone when we came to Sickles Road. Dappled sunlight streamed through the trees, and it was here more than anywhere else that day that it wasn’t a stretch to imagine spooked horses. On the left of the roadside, a Celtic cross reaches some 19 feet skyward. Crouched in perpetuity at its base, head resting between outstretched paws, is a lone Irish wolfhound sculpted by William Rudolf O’Donovan, a veteran of Gettysburg.  The noble hound is meant to signify the fidelity of the Irish Americans who fought for the Union. The Irish Brigade had already suffered heavy losses in the war and on the evening of July 2, 1863, added another 76 to its grim tally of wounded, missing, and dead.

Gettysburg_IrishBrigade

The solemn stare of Gettysburg’s Irish wolfhound.

While the wolfhound on the Irish Brigade memorial is symbolic, many actual dogs have been documented in the annals of Civil War history. Some were adopted as unofficial regimental mascots,  others followed their masters to war, and still others were strays seeking human companionship in the encampments in the wake of the conflict.

Gettysburg demonstrates the power of place, and reminds us still—in the words of President Lincoln—”that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion….”

 

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansDogging the Details

39°48′40.08″N,  77°13′31.50″W
Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg earns a “2” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for the many ways in which one can experience the military park and its canine connections. Make like the Intrepid Pup, and embark upon your time at Gettysburg with a stop at the national park’s Visitor Center.  An outdoor sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (see below) provides a good photo op. Once oriented, you can set out by bike, via hiking trails, with a licensed battlefield guide, or on a self-guided auto tour.

Gettysburg_Lincoln

Penny for your thoughts? Tavish and President Lincoln sit for a spell at Gettysburg’s Visitor Center.

Leashed dogs are permitted on trails and grounds throughout Gettysburg National Military Park. Be sure to bring ample water for yourself and your dog; it can get pretty toasty on the battlefield, especially during the summer months. As always, be sure to clean up after your dog.

Pets are not allowed in the Visitor Center itself or at Soldiers’ National Cemetery where Lincoln delivered his now-famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863—a little more than four months removed from the battle. To fully appreciate the extensive interpretive offerings at these two venues, you’ll need to return on your own.

One final note:  unlike Tavish—who unfortunately missed seeing this on his visit—you’ll want to be sure to seek out the monument to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, located on Doubleday Avenue in the northwest corner of the park.  At its base lies a bronze replica of the regiment’s scrappy mascot, a bull terrier named Sallie. She was present at Gettysburg and had become separated from her regiment during the turmoil. Soldiers later located her at the day’s original battle line, where she was keeping vigil over the wounded and the dead. Sallie’s heroics were well documented throughout the Civil War. She had participated in the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville; purportedly received a tip of the hat from President Lincoln during a review of the troops earlier in 1863; and was subsequently wounded at Spotsylvania. Sallie died of a gunshot wound in 1865 during the Siege of Petersburg. Her comrades buried her on the battlefield.

Gearing Up for Summer: Intrepid Pup Reviews Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler™ Vest

Dog Days

Maybe when I open my eyes that thermometer won’t still read 100 degrees!

Summer is almost here, and—for us, anyway—that means it’s going to get HOT.  Hot, as in: 80° at 7AM and with the heat index frequently topping 100. You get the idea. And, oh, the humidity! Truth be told, there’ll be days the air quality won’t be fit for man nor beast, and all are advised to “stay indoors and keep activity to a minimum.”  Yeah, well, um, try telling that to a vizsla.

Yet while Tavish may be the Intrepid Pup, he fades quickly in the heat. But he also goes completely bonkers if he doesn’t spend some time outside every day, so there’s got to be a happy medium during the dog days of summer, right?

Hydration is of course always critical, but for years we of Team Tavish have experimented with various additional ways of keeping Tavish cool:

  • Oceans/ponds/streams:  Yep, he loves ’em all, but they’re not always close by when you need them.
  • Spray bottles:  Tavish thinks it’s grand to be misted while out on a walk. . . but then he’s a very wet dog.
  • Cooling bandannas:  You’ve seen the various kinds with the gel beads that you wet and put in the fridge or freezer? We truly had high hopes for one we’d purchased awhile back, and it really had promise. . . until it encountered our region’s special brand of humidity. We followed all the instructions, but the gel beads apparently went into overdrive, and the bandanna swelled up so much that we initially couldn’t even velcro it around Tavish’s neck! When we finally could, poor Tavish looked like he was in traction wearing a neck brace. He gave us those puppy eyes and couldn’t turn his head. Off it came. *Sigh*
swampcoolers_horiz

“T” is for tea leaves and Tavish–all made more comfortable via the evaporative properties of a swamp cooler. Pictured at left is an industrial swamp cooler we noticed in use at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, to keep conditions in the greenhouse consistent and just right for young tea plants. Pictured above at right is the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler ™ vest keeping Tavish one cool Intrepid Pup in Virginia.

So. . . cue the Swamp Cooler ™ vest, a relatively new product from Ruffwear, the well-known Oregon-based manufacturer of performance dog gear. Full disclosure here: Ruffwear contacted Team Tavish last year after IntrepidPup.com won “Best New Blog” in the BlogPaws 2012 “Nose to Nose Awards,” wondered if we’d be interested in trying out this product (no strings attached), and sent us one.  It turns out we’ve independently been very happy Ruffwear customers and have purchased several of their products (leashes, collars, and a pack) over the years. Since Ruffwear’s commitment to “active outdoor dogs” really resonates with the Intrepid Pup, we welcomed the opportunity to test the vest.

Originally being from coastal Maine—where high heat and humidity is kind of an alien notion—Tavish wasn’t familiar with the magical properties of the swamp coolers all you folks in the southwest have been enjoying for ages. For those not already in the know, a swamp cooler is a fairly low-tech device that works by moving hot dry air over water (or through water-soaked material), setting up an evaporation process that results in cooling. Ruffwear has managed to translate the concept into a three-ply breathable vest for dogs.

Tavish with Swamp Cooler VestSizing & Appearance

As a 42-lb. vizsla, Tavish’s slight build and a deep chest often makes sizing problematic. Pay attention to the recommended fit measurements on many dog products, and we humorously wind up with stuff clearly intended for much smaller breeds. Go by weight or girth, and Tavish ends up swimming in the “big dog” sizes. So when we find something that fits the Intrepid Pup appropriately, it’s pretty darn exciting!  Tavish went with a size medium Swamp Cooler™ that proved to be the perfect fit, affording maximum coverage of his topside while remaining lightweight and providing ample flexibility and range of motion.  It’s an easy on-off with side buckles. Tavish  took to it immediately.  No squirming here!

The vest only comes in a color officially listed as “graphite gray,” a light, icy blue intentionally selected to reflect the sun’s rays and help keep your dog even cooler.  While it’s not necessarily a color you’d pick otherwise, hey, this is about staying cool and not about runway fashion.

SwampCooler_Test1_2Performance

Counter-intuitive though you think it might be to put a vest on your dog in the middle of summer (yes, anticipate the occasional quizzical look from passersby). . . think again!  Simply douse the Swamp Cooler™ vest in cool water, gently wring it out so it’s not dripping, and put it on your dog!

Our first test of the vest was on an afternoon last July.  It was an exceptionally muggy 100° at 4PM.  Lovely.  Because it’s the Intrepid Pup, you just know our “proving ground” had to be someplace of historical interest, so we  headed for picturesque Fort Ward in northern Virginia. It dates to 1861 and was built as one among several forts defending the nation’s capital during the Civil War. Today it’s part of a city park with a 0.6-mile loop road favored by joggers  and dog walkers alike. When the temps aren’t akin to being inside a convection oven, Tavish is game for as many laps on this loop road as we are with no problem. In several previous late-day attempts without the Swamp Cooler™ vest, however, Tavish wasn’t even making it 1 full lap before pulling his impression of a mule and opting out in favor of a shade tree. What happened that afternoon?  On went the vest, and off went Tavish!  He did nearly 3 laps before calling it quits. Ok, so this isn’t as “scientific” as laboratory testing, but in our book, the Swamp Cooler™ vest bumped up Tavish’s staying power roughly 150%.  He panted but was never in distress, and his skin remained cool to the touch.  Depending on the temperature, you’ll find as we did that while the vest’s top waffle-weave layer will dry out and you may need to re-wet it, the middle and inner layers will absorb water and take on the workload of transferring the cooling effect to your dog.

The vest appears well-designed and sewn, and another nice touch is that it includes reflective trim for low-light visibility. There’s also a fabric loop on top near the neckline for attaching a beacon or other lightweight item. Our one suggestion would be to move that feature further back on the vest and perhaps switch it to a durable metal ring so it could double as leash attachment.

SandstoneFalls

The Swamp Cooler™ vest performed respectably in high humidity and predictably did even better when it was hot and dry–as it was the afternoon we took to the trails and boardwalk at Sandstone Falls in West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River recreation area.

Overall Assessment

The Swamp Cooler™ vest retails for approximately $54.95. For many dog owners, that may not constitute an impulse purchase, but it is ultimately reasonably priced for an accessory that works as advertised, fits comfortably, and is well-made.

Remember that—like any swamp cooler—the Swamp Cooler™ vest works optimally in a dry heat.  While high humidity will diminish the vest’s effectiveness, we’ve witnessed Tavish reaping measurable returns even on muggy days.

When it becomes simply too hot, you’ll find Intrepid Pup inside or in the shade with a big bowl of water. But for all those other times when some extra cooling comfort makes all the difference in being able to get Tavish out and about without bonking on the trail, we’re going with Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler™ vest all the way.  We have several outdoor adventures planned for over the summer, and you can be sure our Swamp Cooler™ vest will be the go-to accessory when we’re on the go!

 

Canine Connections with the Interior

U.S. Department of the Interior

Tavish checks out the view from 1849 C Street, NW. While the U.S. Department of the Interior dates to 1849 (easy to remember because it’s also the street address!), this headquarters building opened in 1937.

Given the Intrepid Pup and Team Tavish‘s affinity for national parks, it should come as no surprise that making a stop at the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has been on the “to do” list for awhile now. The Department’s 70,000+ employees are scattered far and wide—all throughout the United States, U.S. territories, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau. DOI’s main headquarters building located just north of the National Mall in Washington, DC, contains offices for some 2,000 of them.

Simply put, DOI is a huge agency with huge responsibilities concomitant with being the steward of approximately 20% of U.S. lands. The National Park Service? DOI. Bureau of Land Management? Also DOI. Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Reclamation, Surface Mining, Ocean Energy Management: all DOI.

If you imagine a federal building encompassing two full city blocks to be pretty imposing, you’d be right. Portions of DOI are open to the general public, however, including an extensive research library, a cafeteria, the Indian Craft Shop and the Interior Museum.

Pet-friendly walking tours

“Pups and Petals”–especially timed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival– is just one of several pet-friendly ranger talks presented within the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

As you might have guessed, the “general public” gaining admittance to DOI doesn’t include the canine variety, so Tavish the Intrepid Pup had to be content with seeing the exterior of Interior. But just because dogs can’t enter the building doesn’t mean dogs aren’t well represented within its halls and walls. Case in point:  the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service has expanded upon an initiative first piloted in the 1990s by newly training four retrievers—Butter, Lancer, Locket, and Viper—as “wildlife detector dogs” stationed at various ports throughout the country. The dogs can sniff out protected species as well as smuggled wildlife products like ivory, canvassing as many containers in a few minutes as a person working unassisted can inspect in a single workday.

Within the National Park Service, Denali National Park & Preserve is the only national park in America with historic, working kennels. A corps of approximately 30 sled dogs performs an integral role in the ongoing management of the park, especially during Alaska’s winter months. You can even track new litters of pups on the park’s puppy cam. And clear across the country, the National Mall and Memorial Parks has integrated dog-friendly, ranger-led walks into its roster of interpretive programming. What a fun, healthy way for people and their pets to get out and enjoy the parks!

Details from DOI murals with dogs

Finally, there are the DOI building’s murals. With more than 50 of them embedded throughout the 1.3 million square-foot structure, there is more Public Works Administration artwork here than in any other U.S. government building. And the icing on the cake? Four of these murals feature dogs. Let’s take a closer look…

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

Dogging the Details

38°53′36.86″ N,  77°02′33.21″ W
Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building, Washington, DC

Murals tours at the U.S. Department of the Interior are offered to the public free of charge. Check here for times and reservation information. Tours last approximately one hour.

North County by Gifford Beal

North Country by Gifford Beal (1879-1956).Oil on canvas, 1941,
104.5″ h x 224.5″ w

When the current DOI headquarters started being built in 1935, 1% of the construction budget was expressly earmarked for art. Interestingly enough, that concept continues to this day via the  U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Art in Architecture Program, through which GSA “reserves one-half of one percent of the estimated construction cost of each new federal building” for commissioning artwork.

DOI’s murals thus technically belong to GSA, but staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum are the ones who provide murals tours to the public. There’s not enough time to visit every mural in the building, but the guided tour takes you past dozens and gives you a good workout to boot; there are nearly three miles of corridors!

Alaska mural by James Michael Newell

Alaska by James Michael Newell (1900-1985). Fresco, 1939, 114.5″ h x 234.5″ w

Some of the most illustrious artists of the 1930s were commissioned to paint these murals. You’ll find that some are oils on canvas while others are frescoes (painted onto wet plaster) or seccos (painted onto dry plaster). The murals portray the work and salient themes of DOI’s bureaus contemporary to 1935, making them both artistically and historically significant for today’s viewers.

So, it’s a particular delight to discover the dogs in four of the murals. It’s akin to Forrest Gump showing up at seminal moments in American history, except here it’s dogs at the Oklahoma Land Rush,  homesteading, and the opening of Alaska.

The Alaska fresco by James Michael Newell is up on the 6th floor. There are three huskies in a panorama which also contains narrative elements about Eskimos, fishing, and prospecting for gold. The remaining three dog murals are on the 5th floor. Gifford Beal’s North Country is also set in Alaska, with a team of seven sled dogs in the foreground as the focal point.  Finally, both of John Steuart Curry’s massive 19-foot murals (see below) include canines.  In Rush for the Oklahoma Land – 1894, a black whippet races along, caught up in the melee of people, horses, wagons, and even a  train all streaming westward.  Curry’s other painting across the corridor, The Homesteading and the Building of Barbed Wire Fences, shows a far more tranquil scene. A shepherd-like dog in the background keenly follows along behind two men pounding fence posts into their newly claimed land.

If these works have inspired you to take the murals tour at DOI, tell them the Intrepid Pup sent you! This excursion earns a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for packing art and exercise into the same visit.

Rush for the Oklahoma Land - 1894 by John Steuart Curry

Rush for the Oklahoma Land – 1889 by John Steuart Curry (1897-1946). Oil on canvas, 1939, 109.5″ h x 235″ w

Homesteading and the Building of Barbed Wire Fences by John Steuart Curry

The Homesteading and the Building of Barbed Wire Fences by John Steuart Curry (1897-1946). Oil on canvas, 1939,109.5″ h x 235″

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Four Ways to Savor the End of Summer with your Dog

Lounging

Don’t throw in the towel on summer just yet: Tavish the Intrepid Pup has—count ’em—FOUR great ideas for eking out the last bits of summer fun.

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, officially signaling that summer is drawing to a close. But just because the sun is setting earlier and the number of BBQs is dwindling doesn’t mean there isn’t still fun to be had. To that end, Tavish the Intrepid Pup has picked four can’t-miss activities to help you and your dog savor these last days of summer and tide you over ’til next year.

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansEach of these tops out the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter at a “3” not only for being canine-specific but also for being fun for dogs and people alike. While they all happen to take place within the greater metropolitan DC area, Team Tavish suspects that there are similar events elsewhere in the country…let us know in the comments section below!

 

Canine Cruise

Ahoy! Tavish spent the whole Canine Cruise facing into the breeze.

Canine Cruise with Potomac Riverboat Company, Alexandria, Virginia
38°48′18.40″N,  77°2′22.99″W

Only two more cruise dates remain in the 2012 season: Thursday 9/6/12 and Thursday 9/13/12 at 7PM and 8PM, weather permitting

Here’s your chance to get out on the water! The Potomac Riverboat Company offers a whole host of water taxi services and scenic tours along the Potomac, but this one is billed especially for dogs. Board the double-decked, open-air Admiral Tilp from the Alexandria Dock at the base of Cameron Street; look for the dog-friendly drinking fountain near the gangplank! Though you’ll have to purchase a ticket ($15/adult; $9/child, reservations are suggested), your dog rides for free and usually even receives a complimentary dog biscuit from the crew!

There were approximately six other dogs sharing the upper deck with us on the evening of our 40-minute excursion. It was typical, sultry end-of-summer weather, so the light breeze off the water was welcome. The captain pointed out the highlights and shared a few pieces of trivia, but otherwise this was not a highly narrated affair. You’ll head as far south as the impressive Woodrow Wilson Bridge and as far upriver as Bolling Air Force Base. Along the way there are lovely views of Old Town and National Airport on the Virginia shore and National Harbor and the Naval Research Laboratory on the Maryland side.

Dogs are required to be on 6-foot flat leashes.

Dog Swim

Tavish prefers wading and splashing to actual swimming but had an absolute blast at last year’s Dog Swim at NVRPA’s Great Waves Waterpark.

Dog Swim at NVRPA Waterparks
38°48′18.04″N,  77°6′1.56″W
Saturday 9/8/12 – Noon to 4PM

On the final day of the season before the pools get drained, all five of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s waterparks go to the dogs! Although the “rides” and slides are off limits, there’s plenty of action to be found in the wave pool, play areas, giant bubblers, and waterfalls. Come prepared to fill out a waiver/registration form and to pay the entry fee of $5 per dog. Once you pass through the security gates you can let your dog off leash, but be sure to keep your dog in view. Remember to bring a towel, doggie bags, fresh water for your dog to drink…and a camera! The sight of all those dogs racing around and grinning away (easily 50 at any given time) was priceless!

Though you may be tempted to join in the frolicking, only dogs are allowed in the water on the Dog Swim afternoon. And one final tip, shared from personal experience:  As your dog careens through the pools, be mindful of his toenails and paw pads, since the concrete decking can rapidly wear them to the quick or cause a tear. If your dog is due for a nail trim, don’t do it right before the Dog Swim.

NPS tour

Fala, you sly dog, you! Tavish poses with the bronze statue of Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed Scottish terrier and confidante, at the FDR Memorial. It’s the only presidential memorial to include a pet.

Presidential Dogs and Four-Legged American Heroes Tour, beginning at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, DC
38°53′2.24″N,  77°2′38.89″W

Upcoming dates are Sunday 9/9/12, Sunday 9/16/12, and Saturday 9/29/12, beginning at 5PM…plus a couple dates in October TBA, beginning at 4PM.

How better to explore man’s best friends’ contributions to our nation than via DC’s national memorials? Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome on this innovative (and free!) walking tour led by a National Park Service ranger. This particular tour is a relatively new offering—the first one was a month ago— and is rapidly growing in popularity. The tour convenes at the bookstore at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and, fortunately, finding late-afternoon weekend parking nearby on Ohio Drive isn’t impossible. In about 90 minutes’ time, you’ll cover approximately 1.5 miles at a leisurely pace, with built-in stops for water breaks and dog treats. Ranger Eddy Kahle readily held the attention of our multi-generational group consisting of 10 people and 5 dogs. Brimming with anecdotes and a dog-owner himself, Kahle is clearly passionate about the important role pets play in our lives. You’ll learn which president had the most pets in the White House (hint: one was a pygmy hippo!), who had a pair of beagles named “Him” and “Her”, and what dog joined the president on his morning jogs. As the tour moves away from the Tidal Basin and toward the war memorials, the focus shifts to the role of dogs in wartime and their value to returning veterans.

For your dog, bring along doggie bags, fresh water and a 6-foot leash. For you? Don’t forget a camera. After all, how else are you going to get that requisite photo of your dog alongside a super-sized Fala immortalized in bronze?

Yappy Hour

Tavish discovered that the Hotel Monaco’s open-air courtyard is a pretty happenin’ place.

Doggie Yappy Hour at the Hotel Monaco, Alexandria, Virginia
38°53′2.24″N,  77°2′38.89″W

5PM on Tuesday and Thursday evenings through October, weather permitting

One of the very first dog owners we met the winter we moved to northern Virginia told us point blank, “Come April, you must go to the Hotel Monaco.” That’s when the boutique hotel opens its brick courtyard for the much-anticipated Doggie Yappy Hours that take place every Tuesday and Thursday evenings all the way through October.

The ground rules are simple: no more than 2 dogs per handler, no paws on the tables, and dogs must be on 6-foot leashes and have current rabies tags. There’s a good vibe, and the people/canine-watching is pretty sublime. It’s not uncommon for the café tables and cushioned wicker sofas to be filled to capacity, with close to 25 dogs of all breed and sizes (plus a few adoptable dogs from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria) lounging alongside. Hotel Monaco staffers are quick to accommodate with water bowls and complimentary dog treats. There’s no cover charge, but don’t think you won’t need a wallet. There’s an eclectic mix of non-draft craft beers available from the outdoor bartender. Wait staff will help you choose from a tasty selection of small plate “new American tavern” dishes from the hotel’s Jackson 20 menu. (Think fried green tomatoes, BBQ sliders, shrimp fritters, waffle fries with pulled pork and smoked gouda…yum!)

If you time it right on a Thursday, you can have drinks and appetizers at the Yappy Hour and then walk the three blocks down to the waterfront to catch the Canine Cruise described above.