Retail Hound

Tavish at Orvis

Dogs Welcome: The sign is right at dog’s-eye level! Tavish can’t read, but fortunately he didn’t need to. He spotted the water bowl just inside the doorway instead.

While adventures at national parks and historical sites are the usual fodder for IntrepidPup.com, this time we’re exchanging the woodland trail for a little detour down Main Street and an adventure of a different kind:  shopping. Yep, the retail jungle.

It’s de rigueur to bring your pet to places where you’ll be shopping for them (think: pet boutiques, PetSmart®, Petco®, etc.). But, honestly, where can you go when you happen to be out shopping with your pet? For a variety of perfectly justifiable reasons—usually having to do with local ordinances or health codes—many businesses don’t allow Fido or Fluffy unless they’re assistance animals, so it’s unrealistic to expect every commercial establishment to welcome your furry friend with open arms.

When traveling with Tavish, leaving him unattended isn’t an option, so we’ve mastered the drill of taking turns going into stores while one of us remains outside with him. And that’s okay. Seriously. We’ve ended up having some wonderful conversations with folks over the years by virtue of waiting outside a shop with the Intrepid Pup. But when there are exceptions to the rule and we can bring him inside? Those tend to be memorable win-wins.

Here’s our roundup of six favorite dog-friendly re(tail)ers from the road this past year:

 

Dogging the (Retail) Details

42°17’49.82″N, 83°52’12.60″W
Motawi Tileworks,
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks, Ann Arbor, MI

Tavish got the royal treatment at the tileworks. They even snapped a photo of him for Motawi’s Facebook feed!

Fact: We’ve been fans of Motawi Tileworks for years and have quite a few of the company’s signature art tiles in our home. Nawal Motawi started the business in her garage in 1992, and today it’s a tour-de-force in interior design. Carried in more than 350 showrooms and museum shops nationally, Motawi tiles have been featured in Huffington Post and will appear in a 2015 episode of PBS’s acclaimed “Craft in America” series. So when our travels took us through eastern Michigan last autumn there was no way we weren’t going to visit the Motawi factory. It’s in an unassuming industrial park a little ways from downtown Ann Arbor. With Tavish along for our Midwest road trip, we parked in the lot and figured one of us would walk Tavish around the grounds while the other reconnoitered inside.

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks

Motawi’s “Boneyard”: Tavish was a little disappointed there weren’t real bones here, but the humans were excited! It’s actually the firm’s seconds room, where tiles with slight imperfections can be found at reduced cost.

 

 

 

Long story short, the showroom manager caught sight of us through the picture window and beckoned us all in. “Oh, we’re absolutely dog-friendly,” she said, and then added somewhat cryptically: “People are going to be really excited.” With that, she disappeared down a hallway, and moments later, several employees piled out of the back to come fuss over Tavish!

This ended up as a classic example of how being dog-friendly can make good retail sense. Because Team Tavish didn’t have to split up, we were able to browse at a more leisurely pace. What could easily have been a hurried 15-minute stopover turned into a great, nearly hour-long customer experience! Motawi staffers got their dog fix, and we purchased several new tiles as mementos of our visit.

Tavish at Reiner's

“Say, do you guys know where they keep the treats?” Tavish befriends the menagerie at Reiner’s.

43°15’17.49″N, 79° 4’16.79″W
Reiner’s
, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Last year our travels took us across the border to Ontario, Canada, and we spent an afternoon in charming Niagara-on-the-Lake. While eating a light lunch on the outdoor patio of café Taste, the window display of the shop next door caught our attention: finely crafted leather ottomans in the shapes of hippos, rhinos, bears, bulldogs and more! It turned out to be a newly opened flagship store for Reiner’s. Established by German immigrant Reiner Henneveld in 1967, the company has remained in the family all these years, and the pieces are handmade some 90 miles west in Kitchener. The two saleswomen (the store manager and a new trainee) eagerly welcomed Tavish, shared a bit about the company’s history and showed us the various animals. Before long, we’d decided a moose ottoman would not only make a good Canadian souvenir but also a nice addition for our living room. Better yet, we were able to select the leather and have the piece custom made. It was shipped to us about six weeks later—a nice reminder of our dog-friendly shopping experience!

Saks Fifth Avenue

Tavish was particularly fascinated by the woman setting up her Cartier station. Treats? Are those treats?

40°45’28.95″ N, 73°58’38.35″ W
Saks Fifth Avenue
, New York, New York

Cartier, Prada and Gucci, oh my! Although we’d read that Saks was dog-friendly, we were still dubious in approaching this grand dame of Fifth Avenue establishments. Really, a fancy department store? But the doorman assured us we weren’t mistaken, and so we were ushered into the opulence of the women’s accessories and fragrances departments. When presented with big echoing spaces, Tavish has a damning habit of barking a few times, and the glittering ground floor of Saks was no exception. He must think it’s a riot. We, however, were cringing and thinking the doorman would reappear at any moment to escort us out. Au contraire. Tavish’s excited barks turned out to be the siren song that summoned every boutique associate within hearing radius to come over and pet him. Charmed life, mon ami.

 

Tavish at Annapolis Pottery

Amid platters, vases and coffee mugs, Intrepid Pup found a selection of pet bowls, too!

38°58’42.20″ N, 76°29’24.00″ W
Annapolis Pottery,
Annapolis, Maryland

Head to historic Annapolis, Maryland, and an array of dog-friendly options await—from patio dining to taking in views of the Chesapeake Bay or strolling through the picturesque campus of the United States Naval Academy. But if ceramics are your thing, then don’t miss the Annapolis Pottery located on State Circle in the shadow of the Maryland State House. Much to our delight, it’s dog-friendly! For more than 40 years the shop has carried functional and decorative ware hand crafted by talented potters working onsite, as well as sourced from ceramic artists around the country. There’s a dizzying array of forms in colorful glazes, and your well-behaved pup’s visit just might be rewarded with a complimentary dog biscuit or two!  Bonus: the well-stocked Paws pet boutique is just a few doors away.

Orvis_inside

Scanning the retail horizon at Orvis. Adventuresome and outdoorsy…hey, that appeals to me, too!

The Orvis Company, Inc.
(67 retail locations and 11 outlets in the U.S.)

Since the founding of Orvis in 1856 in Vermont, the company has become the oldest mail-order outfitter and longest continually-operated fly-fishing business in America. The company’s retail locations both in the U.S. and in the U.K. sport rugged yet stylish outerwear and clothing, fly fishing equipment, and gear for hunting upland birds. It just so happens they have a pretty extensive selection of dog beds, collars and travel gear, too.

While we’re *pretty* sure that Tavish couldn’t read the “DOGS WELCOME” decal right at dog height on the door, he did see the water bowl just inside the doorway and made a beeline for it. We hadn’t visited an Orvis store in years (there wasn’t one near where we used to live), so Tavish pulling us in was a homecoming of sorts. We got reacquainted with the brand while the sales associate got acquainted with Tavish, lavishing him with a couple of dog treats that “magically” appeared from behind the counter. Hey, whadya know, it ultimately resulted in our purchase of three men’s shirts and a sweater. Retail therapy? Sure, but here’s another thing to feel good about: Orvis is a socially responsible company, donating 5% of its pre-tax profits annually in support of environmental initiatives, community projects and canine well-being. Orvis also runs a cover dog contest for its biannual “Dog Book” catalog and since 2009 has specifically raised over $1 million for canine cancer research grants. Two paws up.

Tavish at Torpedo Factory Art Center

So many studios! Tavish takes in the view from the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s main concourse.

38°48’17.57″ N, 77° 2’23.19″ W
Torpedo Factory Art Center
, Alexandria, Virginia

The Torpedo Factory Art Center was among the early paragons of the adaptive reuse/working studio movement. In 1974, the founding artists took over a dilapidated, former munitions factory on the Alexandria, Virginia, waterfront, converting the cavernous industrial space into a hive of creativity. More than 40 years later, it’s still going strong:  home to 82 artist studios, six galleries, two workshops and an art school. Explore all three floors and you’ll discover jewelry, ceramics, fiber art, sculpture, fine art photography and works on paper and canvas to fit any budget. Each studio is part workspace and part retail, meaning you have surprising access to converse directly with the artists, ask questions and gain insight into their artistic processes; many accept commissions. What might come as even more of a surprise are the studio dogs.

Tavish with Opie in Studio 16

When studio dog Opie (right) is in residence in Studio 16, he’s as big a hit as owner Lisa Schumaier’s whimsical creations in papier-mâché and raku.

Indeed, many generations of artistic muse in canine form have accompanied their owners to the Torpedo Factory and made the studios their homes away from home. Peer past the gate by the counter in Studio 226 and you might just catch a glimpse of Lab mix Donut contentedly lounging in the sun. Look closely, and you’re just as sure to spy Rocky the chihuahua curled up in Studio 214 or dachshund Chester sitting patiently in Studio 321. And it’s because of these resident pups that yours is welcome at the Torpedo Factory, too. So grab a leash and soak up an art scene like no other!

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Game On! Intrepid Pup Bracketology: The 2014 Edition

Tavish with a ball

This Intrepid Pup Bracketology is serious business!

Yep, it’s that time of year again when Intrepid Pup Tavish goes out on the proverbial limb and makes his predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If Tavish’s consistently inconsistent bracketology prowess is news to you, we unabashedly refer you to our 2012 and 2013 editions where his highly entertaining (and completely unbiased!) process is explained and even shown in action. To briefly recap, though, Tavish does not watch endless hours of game footage. Nor does he use some mathematician’s code-based matrix. 

Nope, Tavish relies entirely on his gut.

And this year, his gut had lots of itty bitty pieces of spinach-flavored, shamrock-shaped homemade dog treats that somebody baked him for St. Patrick’s Day.

So what did his gut say?  Let’s just cut to the chase:

 

2014brackets

Click the image to open a larger PDF version

 

Three years into this whole Intrepid Pup Bracketology escapade, we’ve finally fine-tuned the methodology to where Tavish can make his 68 picks in about 40 minutes–considerably less time than it takes Greg Gumbel and crew on CBS’s Selection Sunday.

Every year, Tavish’s gut reminds us that it’s very fickle indeed. He always seems to conjur up an early Cinderella to beat Duke (Way to go, Mercer!) and certainly champions his share of underdogs (Here’s lookin’ at you, 12-seed Stephen F. Austin, wherever you are). But just when you think you see a pattern emerging with teams with dog mascots (Go, UConn Huskies! Rock on, Gonzaga Bulldogs!), Tavish gets all conventional and advances some very solid teams (That’d be YOU, Creighton). Only very rarely does he hesitate, but there was a brief instant of introspection (or maybe just inattention?) before deciding the fate of his Dayton/St. Louis final in favor of the Billikens.

After Intrepid Pup buzzed through his choices for this year, one member of Team Tavish looked over his completed brackets and remarked disbelievingly, “Sheesh, there sure aren’t going to be many people with these picks!” That, friends, is the point. There won’t be many any people whose brackets look like this. And Tavish still has the same 9.2 quintillion-to-1 odds of winning the Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Delightful, isn’t it? Welcome to the madness of March. How do your brackets stack up?

P.s.  Several of you commented last year on how nice it was to see Tavish’s elusive housemate (Hobbes the cat) get in on the picks. We tried to rekindle that again this year, but Hobbes couldn’t have cared less. Picking brackets is for the dogs!  🙂

Tavish: Faster than a Speeding Airplane?

FASTER

Faster than a flying Orville? Why, yes! Tavish covered the famous “first flight” distance of 120 feet in about half the time it took Orville Wright to fly it — without even breaking into a pant.

In this post we’re seeing if Intrepid Pup Tavish is faster than an airplane. Well, not just any airplane. More specifically: whether he’s faster than the first airplane. And to do that, we head to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright first achieved powered, controlled, and sustained human flight on December 17, 1903 at 10:35 AM.

The site was a relatively remote coastal area when the Wrights were here more than a century ago, and they’d specifically chosen it because they could experiment without a lot of distractions and—presumably—prying eyes. The dune environment also afforded fairly consistent breezes and sandy landings to boot. After all, laying claim to being the first in flight was very much a risky venture!

Today Kill Devil Hills is a big draw for beach-goers to the Outer Banks, and the Wrights’ humble proving ground is now managed by the National Park Service as the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

A short distance from the Visitor Center is a large granite boulder commemorating the spot where Orville took flight. A pathway extends from it, and four markers along the way show the ever-increasing distances the Wrights successfully flew that momentous morning. To better Orville’s historic first flight, Tavish would have to cover 120 feet in less than 12 seconds. Complicating matters was that 1) park regulations dictated that Tavish needed to remain on a leash, and 2) a preponderance of prickly pear cacti in the field meant he also had to stay on the straight and narrow! In fact, Tavish had already managed to step on a prickly pear earlier in his visit, so he wasn’t eager for a repeat.

With one member of Team Tavish holding the leash and the other standing at the 120-foot mark with the stopwatch app primed on a smartphone (my, how far technology has come!), Tavish was literally straining to get going. But could he do it? In a word? Yes. Handily. The Intrepid Pup didn’t exactly break the sound barrier that pilot Chuck Yeager would end up doing a mere 44 years after Orville severed the bonds of earth…but, boy, did Tavish hustle! Final time? 5.89 seconds. And Park Ranger Shafer even handed us a little card to record the achievement (see above). Mission accomplished. Actually, seeing Tavish sprint across aviation’s sacred ground really put things in perspective: only a handful of generations ago, powered flight was inconceivable and now we don’t even think twice about boarding an airplane and jet-setting around the globe.

WrightBrothersFlyer

Tavish gets an Orville-eye-view of Kill Devil Hills from Stephen Smith’s life-size sculpture, December 17, 1903.

In March of 1917—more than 13 years after his first flight and just five after his brother Wilbur’s untimely demise from typhoid, Orville got a dog: a St. Bernard named Scipio. (We always knew Orville was a cool guy). Fortunately the Library of Congress has 13 marvelous photographs of Scipio, and it leaves us to wonder:  Did Scipio ever sense his owner’s lofty achievements? And could he, too, run faster than a flying Orville?

 

 

 

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

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

A visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for providing a fun, outdoor experience on a very historic site. There’s a nominal park entrance fee, but there’s waaaay more to do than just test whether you can outrun the first airplane. Take in everything the park has to offer, and you’ll easily cover approximately 1.5 miles with your dog.

Wright Brothers hangar

A reconstructed replica of the Wrights’ hangar provides some welcome shade for the Intrepid Pup.

If you’re going in the summer months—as we did—be aware that the grounds are exposed and can get very hot. Bring along water for your pup; there are restrooms and drinking fountains onsite for a refill. Shade is hard to come by, but Tavish found some in the replica of the Wrights’ hangar. Be sure to trek up Big Kill Devil Hill to get a panorama of the park but also a view to the sea. This promontory was where the Wrights logged thousands of glider flights testing their theories on how best to control pitch and yaw. It’s topped by an impressive 60-foot granite shaft erected by Congress and dedicated in 1932. By the time we got to the monument, it was high noon and pretty toasty, so Tavish’s Ruffwear Swamp Cooler ™ Vest  provided him extra comfort.

Wright Brothers monument

Crowning Big Kill Devil Hill is a monument to the Wright brothers’ crowning achievement, “the conquest of the air.”

Before turning back to further explore the Visitor Center or catch a ranger program, head downhill beyond the memorial. At the apex of the loop road  is a five-ton bronze and stainless steel sculpture group by Stephen Smith entitled, December 17, 1903. It captures that exact instant of first flight preserved in a photograph known the world over. In fact, it makes for a pretty great backdrop for taking some photos of your own (see below).

Finally, there are even more places to explore with your pup within easy distance of the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Check out the Intrepid Pup’s earlier post, “Summer Fun: 5 Dog-Friendly OBX Destinations” for a few suggestions!

Sculpture by Stephen Smith

The hand of “Wilbur Wright” holds the leash that includes the Intrepid Pup in this now-famous scene. Sensing that they’d be successful on December 17, 1903, the Wrights wanted to photograph the instant the flyer left the ground. They set up a tripod, and Orville asked bystander John Daniels if he’d man the camera. (No pressure, there, right?) The rest is history. Better yet? It was the first time Daniels had ever used a camera!

National Howl-iday Scene, Part VI: President’s Park

Pathway of Peace 2013

Tavish beholds the National Christmas Tree from the Pathway of Peace in President’s Park. The national tree has been illuminated by GE since 1963–originally with thousands of incandescent bulbs and now entirely by eco-friendly LEDs. The lighting design changes each year.

Intrepid Pup Tavish has been in dogged pursuit of the best of the national howl-iday scene. In Christmases past and present, he’s sniffed out “Season’s Greenings” activities at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, yuletide preparations at The Biltmore, and much more (see the blog index for the others).  His next stop? The National Christmas Tree!

The tree lives year-round on the grounds of President’s Park, 82 acres maintained by the National Park Service and encompassing the White House itself. For much of the year visitors take little note of the evergreen on the Ellipse, but come December, it becomes the focal point of the park. Fitted with a mantel of LED lights, the tree is officially turned on by the President during a televised ceremony complete with a concert.

Tavish in President's Park with the 2012 National Menorah

Lighting of a national menorah was a tradition begun by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in nearby Lafayette Park. The 30-foot menorah was incorporated into the President’s Park festivities in 1987. Here’s Tavish in 2012 on the final night of Hanukkah.

President Franklin Pierce is credited with putting up the first Christmas tree inside the White House in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1923 that President Calvin Coolidge lit a national tree outside for the benefit of the American people. For more than 90 years, the storied tradition of a national Christmas tree has continued. Early on, the ceremony took place either on the White House lawn or in nearby Lafayette Park, and various trees were designated as the “national community Christmas tree.” During WWII a national tree was decorated but never illuminated. When the ceremony permanently moved to its existing location on the Ellipse in 1954 to better accommodate crowds, the National Park Service began annually cutting and transporting a tree to the site. By the early 1970s, however, they returned to having a planted tree, and there have been 5 since. The long standing 1978-2011 tree was removed after irreparable storm damage. Its replacement lasted only a year before succumbing to transplant shock. The current National Christmas Tree—a 28-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce—was planted in October 2012.

Just as the trees have changed, so too has the pageantry at President’s Park evolved. Various elements have been added, such as a menorah (1987), a model railroad (1993), and Santa’s Workshop (2008); others have fallen by the wayside like the Yule Log (2012) and live reindeer. Performances by local choirs and musical groups occur nightly (except Mondays) following the initial tree lighting ceremony and continue all the way up until Christmas Eve. What has remained a constant since first introduced on the Ellipse in 1954 is the Pathway of Peace, a walkway lined by cut Fraser Firs to flank the National Christmas Tree each December. The Pathway now contains 56 tree representing all 50 states, plus Washington, DC, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each is decorated with distinctive ornaments handmade by schoolchildren and artisans from that region.

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

38°53′41.57N,  77° 2′10.98W
The National Christmas Tree
, President’s Park, Washington, DC
Annually, early December to January 1 ( site is accessible 10 AM – 10 PM)

National Tree 2013

The 2013 National Christmas Tree with the White House in the background.

President’s Park ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for being relatively easy to get to and for providing a unique experience once you’re there. If you’re coming with your dog, plan on doing some walking as you can’t bring your pup on the Metro system. Metered street parking is available, though, and we’ve found that it’s usually a little easier to find a space in the blocks west or north of the White House. Timing your visit for during the week or early in the evenings also helps.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds of the National Christmas Tree, and admission is free—no tickets or reservations are required. Be forewarned, however, that there are typically large crowds, which aren’t always every pup’s cup of tea. If your dog doesn’t like getting jostled or is otherwise prone to claustrophobia, simply forgo walking along the Pathway of Peace; you can still enjoy the tree lights from afar from various vantage points throughout the Ellipse. It’s also been our experience that visitors are so busy looking at the tree that they’re not necessarily looking down and may even be startled to see a pooch in their midst. For your and your dog’s comfort, we recommend visiting at an off-peak time. If you’re going at night, consider adding something reflective so your pet stands out and is visible to other passersby (Tavish’s Chilly Dog® jacket has reflective piping, and he sometimes wears his Nite Ize® SpotLit blinking LED collar light, too). Your best photo ops will come a bit away from the fray, where the Pathway leads south from the tree and opens up onto the Ellipse. With the tree and the White House as your backdrops in the middle distance, you also won’t be holding up throngs of foot traffic to get that perfect shot!

Intrepid Pup Heads to Virginia’s Hunt Country

Hunt Country Collage

Virginia’s Loudoun and Fauquier counties await you and your dog!
From left: downtown Middleburg, Barrel Oak Winery, and Glenwood Park

Just an hour’s drive west of Washington, D.C., gridlock—both vehicular and political—gives way to polo grounds, stunning equine facilities, foxhounds, and vineyards. That’s right, Virginia has wineries. . . approximately 200 of them!

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter means
Here are three activities that will not only get you out to Virginia Hunt Country but also keep you coming back. Collectively these have earned a “3” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for appealing to your canine sensibilities, whether in viticulture, field sports, or history:

 

BOW_bottle

The Barrel Oak label features a dog gazing up into an oak tree and graces everything from a tasty Tour’ga Franc to a popular “Chocolate Lab” dessert wine. Tavish approves.

38°52′58.42″N,  77°54′13.95″W
Barrel Oak Winery (BOW)
Delaplane, Virginia

There’s a lot to love about a dog-friendly vineyard that turns out award-winning wines and whose official greeter is a Vizsla named Birch.  Sited on 22 acres with sweeping views of  the foothills of the Piedmont, Barrel Oak Winery (a.k.a. BOW) has all the comforts of your living room—if you happen to have 20,000 vines growing in your backyard! Founders Brian and Sharon Roeder planted their first grapes in 2007, opened to the public in 2008, and haven’t looked back since.

While several of Virginia’s wineries now permit dogs on their grounds, it’s BOW that goes the extra mile by welcoming dogs into its lodge-like tasting room as well.  That means your pup can sit patiently at your feet as you decide whether to sample 6 wines or splurge on the full flight of 12. Varietals include Viognier (Virginia’s state wine grape), Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Traminette, Chambourcin, and Norton.
BOW_Birch

Vizslas unite…what a life! Tavish feels right at home hanging out in BOW’s expansive tasting room with the vineyard’s top dog, a senior Vizsla named Birch. When he’s not chilling out, Birch–with a slight hitch to his gait–systematically makes the rounds of checking on each and every table of guests on the patio. Birch is such a beloved staffer that the vineyard annually celebrates “Happy Birch-Day.” That’s just awesome. 

BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic), and select a wine from BOW. They’ll uncork it and bring the bottle out to you chilling in a bucket of ice.  Plant yourself at a picnic table or at one of the bistro tables on BOW’s spacious patio overlooking the vineyard, and you’re good to go!  There’s rarely a weekend when there isn’t live music, and BOW also generously hosts and supports various charity fundraisers, including animal rescue organizations, since the Roeders have  four dogs of their own. As for your pups, “Doghaus Rules” apply; they need to stay leashed and at your side, and BOW makes that a fun place to be by providing a water bowl and complimentary dog biscuit.  Intrepid Pup has now been out to BOW on several occasions, and there’s never been a time when Brian hasn’t personally come over to say hello. It’s that kind of hospitality that defines the BOW experience and makes a lasting impression on canine and human alike!

 

Middleburg races

Tavish watches the field intently at Glenwood Park.

38°59′25.79″N,  77°44′8.79″W
Steeplechase Races at Glenwood Park
Middleburg, Virginia

Experience the beauty of Virginia’s Hunt Country by taking in one of its oldest and most unique traditions: a steeplechase race.  The “season” here begins in late April and runs through mid October. While the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup races are the most celebrated, there are plenty of smaller, more accessible events.

Glenwood_paddock

Crowds can get an up-close look at the horses warming up in the paddock prior to each race. It’s also great for spotting other spectator dogs: lots of Jack Russells and GSPs! Always double-check the event listings beforehand just to ensure that your leashed dog will be welcome.

We particularly enjoy heading out to Glenwood Park, a 112-acre grassy expanse at the edge of Middleburg that serves as the venue for several equine and agricultural events throughout the year. We go specifically for the Middleburg Spring Races and Middleburg Hunt Point-to-Point (both in late April) and the Virginia Fall Races in early October.  Pricier tickets get you into tents and enclosures (think fancy hats, fascinators, and gourmet spreads). We tend to opt for general admission, which can range from $40 for a carload of 4, all the way up to $30 per person, depending upon the event. We bring along the Intrepid Pup, a blanket, a couple of collapsible chairs, a picnic, and a bottle of wine; honestly, if the weather is glorious, there are few better ways to spend an afterHunt Country lawn jockeynoon.  We set up on one of the knolls overlooking the course and watch the pageantry unfold over timbers, hurdles, and on the flat.  A horn is sounded to call “riders up,” and a race steward in a perfectly tailored red hunt coat leads the field from the paddock to the start.  Since the course is fairly open and sloping, you have a clear view, even when the horses are traversing the far sections. The crackle of excitement is palpable as the announcer calls the race over the public address system, and it’s a thrill to witness the colorful blur of silks as the horses thunder past on the final uphill curve to the finish.

Want to be an insider? Take note of the iconic Red Fox Inn dating to 1728 as you head into town. Each year, the lawn jockey at the corner of the property is painted in the winning silks of the Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicap which is run during the Middleburg Spring Races.

 

National Sporting Library and Museum

Outside the National Sporting Library & Museum is a heartbreaking bronze sculpture by Tessa Pullan of a haggard horse. It’s the gift of philanthropist Paul Mellon, in memory of the 1.5 million horses and mules of the Union and Confederate armies who were killed, wounded, or otherwise died of disease during the Civil War. As the accompanying plaque notes, many perished in June 1863 in battles fought within just 20 miles of Middleburg.

38°58′1.29″N,  77°44′19.32″W
National Sporting Library & Museum
Middleburg, Virginia

Even though your dog can’t join you inside the National Sporting Library & Museum, you’ll be rewarded (and your pup will give you style points!) for having explored the literature, art, and culture of equestrian and field sports.  Located on Vine Hill in the heart of Middleburg’s charming downtown, the organization started out as just the library in 1954.  Today the library occupies a modern day carriage house constructed in 1999. Its former home—a historic brick residence on the property—was restored, expanded, and reopened with much fanfare in October 2011 as a museum dedicated to sporting art.  This handsome facility draws upon a strong collection and rich exhibition tradition.  The museum’s inaugural show, Afield in America: 400 Years of Animal and Sporting Art (2011), was exceptional for the diversity and quality of artifacts.  Dog-lovers, take note:  other recent exhibitions have included Intersection: Field Sports and the Evolution of Conservation (2012) and American Sporting Heritage: A Portrait Survey of Contemporary Hunters and their Gun Dogs by Jesse Freidin (2013).