Maine is an exceptionally dog-friendly state. That should come as no surprise: Mainers are outdoors people, and dogs are well suited to a life spent exploring our thousands of miles of coast; our thousands of lakes, ponds, and mountains; and our hundreds of thousands of acres of forest. There’s no end to the sights you can see with your dog devotedly scampering beside you.
Still, there are rules, and traveling with dogs requires planning, especially if your trip includes a stay in the city. Dining out can be a challenge; finding lodging too. Did that sign say “pet fee” or “pet free”? Leashed or unleashed?
Let us lead you to some of Maine’s most canine-friendly inns, destinations, and activities — and don’t forget to bring along some Maine-made toys and gear guaranteed to make tails wag.
Many Maine inns, hotels, and campgrounds permit dogs, but a few lodgings roll over backwards to make them and their owners feel at home.
Delightful doggie host Carolyn Bailey provides dog beds or crates and dispenses plenty of treats at the Paws Inn. Guests often leave their doors open, allowing their pup — and those of other guests — to come and go. And if guests want to go out to dinner or skiing sans pooch, that’s fine too — Carolyn is happy to keep an eye on them indoors or out (there’s a fenced backyard play area). 372 Walkers Mill Rd., Bethel. 207-824-6678.
Pet fees are voluntary at The Dolphin Den, and the money is donated to charities, like Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Massachusetts, and LoveHandlers, the Tennessee sanctuary that rescued Snickers, the chocolate Lab who oversees this sweet five-room motel with Rick Christo and Joe Botticelli. 69 Cottage St., Ogunquit. 207-646-5639.
Maine’s original pet-friendly hotel, The Colony greets dogs with treats and sends them to their room with their own quilt — a retired people blanket, often mended with a bone-shaped patch or two. The resort’s private beach is always open to dogs, no matter the season. The renowned Dog Lovers Weekend, replete with costume party, formal dinner, and pool party, is on hiatus this year, but look for its return in October 2018. 140 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. 207-967-3331.
Warning: even if you don’t take your dog to Inn by the Sea, you may leave with one. A foster dog from the Animal Refuge League of Portland is always in residence, to be petted, fed, and walked by staff until a guest falls in love and takes him home (total pushovers to date: 96. Your own dog chooses from a gourmet menu (think “meat roaff” and “doggy gumbo”), gets an in-room massage, and finds a turndown treat at bedtime. 40 Bowery Beach Rd., Cape Elizabeth. 207-799-3134.
Like its sister hotels, Lord Camden Inn and Grand Harbor Inn, Camden’s newest luxury boutique hotel, 16 Bay View metaphorically wags its tail whenever a pup (or cat, bunny, or parakeet, for that matter) comes visiting. It starts at check-in, where treats and a water bowl await and a chalkboard welcomes the furry and feathered by name. Rooms come equipped with a dog bed, treats, two bowls, plus a bottle of water for refilling. 16 Bay View St., Camden. 207-706-7990.
Acadia National Park is exceedingly popular with the doggy set, but Mount Desert Island is surprisingly light on dog-friendly accommodations. Wonder View Inn, a modest hotel perched on a hill with incredible views of Frenchman Bay, fills the void. At check-in, guests receive a doggie dish and a treat, all wrapped in a poo bag for that first walk in the park. Dogs are welcome on the porch of Looking Glass, the inn’s restaurant, which serves breakfast and dinner. 50 Eden St., Bar Harbor. 207-288-3358.
We find dog owners are very reasonable: if they can bring their best friend with them, we’re one step ahead of the game. Dogs don’t go home and take the remote control in their luggage. Dogs don’t open up the window at 3 a.m. and throw up. Dogs don’t go back to New York and take all the towels.
— Rick Christo, companion to Snickers and owner of the Dolphin Den, Ogunquit
Lead the Pack
Holly Neal, co-owner of Loyal Biscuit co., explores Maine with Fenway, Chuck, and George. Here’s her advice for travelers.
► With the exception of service pets, dogs are not permitted inside restaurants in Maine. Many eateries do allow dogs on their porches or patios, but it’s always a good idea to call ahead and confirm. It may depend on the animal’s breed and temperament.
► Pack plenty of your dog’s favorite food or make sure there’s a store near your destination that carries that brand. Some stores, such as Loyal Biscuit, will special order food for your dog even if they don’t ordinarily carry it.
► Even pet-friendly hotels may not allow you to leave your dog unattended in the room. Research kennels, day cares, and dog-sitting services if you’re planning on activities without Fido.
Best in Show
In Maine, September is the most canine-friendly month of the year.
[column]Barks in the Park. Rescue organizations, veterinarians, and dog trainers are among the many exhibitors at this event, but that’s not why dogs like it. For them, it’s all about the other dogs — and the treats. Sept. 9, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Gardiner Waterfront Park. 207-582-3100.
Strut Your Mutt. A few hundred dogs take their owners for a leisurely stroll at this annual Animal Welfare Society fundraiser. Sept. 10, festivities at 9 a.m., walk at 11 a.m. Mother’s Beach, Kennebunk. 207-985-3244.[/column]
[column]Maine Wienerfest. The only things funnier than a sausage dog are many sausage dogs. At Wienerfest, scores of dachshunds parade, race, and act bigger than they are. Did we mention there’s a costume contest? Sept. 10, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Steamboat Landing Park, Belfast. 207-338-2160.
Whisker Walk. Dogs and owners pair up for a mile-long amble on Rockland Harbor Boardwalk for the benefit of the Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County. Looking for something a bit more challenging? Try the agility course of ramps, tunnels, and hoops, then hit the doggy day spa for some pampering. Sept. 16, 9:30 a.m. registration followed by walk at 10:30. Festivities end at 2 p.m. Harbor Park, Rockland.[/column]
Paws on Parade. Keep on walking! This shindig on the Bangor waterfront include a dog parade, vendors, a costume contest, and a shelter-dog runway show. This is the 24th year for this event, a benefit for the Bangor Humane Society. Sept. 30, 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Bangor Waterfront.
15 Dog-Friendly Beaches
Wouldn’t it be easy if there were a universal rule for dogs on Maine beaches, something we knew to be true every day of the year? Alas, rules vary from strand to strand, season to season, even hour to hour, and fines can be steep for those who disregard them. These 15 are among Maine’s dog-friendliest, but — we can’t emphasize this strongly enough — check the websites before you go and read the posted signs when you get there.
petMAINE is by far the most comprehensive guide for dog owners exploring Maine, with geographically organized lists of parks, beaches, trails, lodging, kennels, day care, sitters, and veterinary care. Pick it up at tourism offices, chambers of commerce, and pet stores, or visit gotravelmaine.com · The monthly newsletter Downeast Dog News, petMaine’s sister publication, is filled with stories of dogs and their people, training tips, veterinary advice, and product recommendations. Pick it up at newsstands and pet stores, or visit downeastdognews.villagesoup.com · In addition to marketing her own line of Maine-themed dog collars, leashes, and placemats, Deb Collins dishes on lodging and outings discovered on her travels with husband Mike and their golden Labrador, Ted, at HappyMEstuff.com · The Trip Advisor of the pet world, BringFido.com points the way to reader-reviewed hotels, restaurants, events, services, and activities · Independent pet-supply stores are often the best source for information on where to go and what to do with your dog. Here are a few of our favorites (*indicates in-house groom shop or self-serve dog wash):
*Loyal Biscuit Co.,
1 Belmont Ave., Belfast. 207-930-8100;
421 Wilson St., Brewer. 207-907-2323
(no dog wash, although grooming is available next door at Fetch Grooming);
408 Main St., Rockland. 207-594-5269;
56 Commercial St., Rockport. 207-236-3354;
109 Main St., Waterville. 207-660-9200.
Duds, Toys & Treats
Dog owners-turned-entrepreneurs prove necessity really is the mother of invention.
Link. Planet Dog’s newest interactive toy, Link, is a treat-dispensing puzzle comprised of interlocking pieces that you add, subtract, and re-order to bump up the problem-solving challenge. Conceived in Westbrook (where five to seven dogs are in office daily), made in Biddeford, and sold at Planet Dog’s retail shop in Portland, as well as in pet shops around the world. 211 Marginal Way, Portland. 207-347-8606.
Lobster Treats for Salty Dogs. Friendship lobsterman Greg Havener catches the bugs; his wife, Patricia, cooks them, mixing the meat into a dough made of flour, eggs, corn oil, chicken broth, and beet juice, then baking it into savory (or so we’d imagine) bone-shaped biscuits. Sold in shops around the state and on Facebook, Etsy, and Amazon. 207-832-4024.
Tug ME toy. Loyal Biscuit Co.’s braided polyester tugs, manufactured in three sizes at the Charleston Correctional Facility, will give your pooch’s jaws a serious workout. Available at Loyal Biscuit’s five stores (see Resources), other pet-supply shops, and online.
Barkdanna. After one too many of Clyde and Schmo’s bandannas went missing behind their Newburgh home, owner Janice Kanzler created a no-knot, stain-resistant scarf using a dog-collar buckle and reversible, washable fabrics. She sells her jaunty Barkdannas, at craft fairs and online. 207-234-7298.
Doggie Safe n Dry. When Jeanne Monesano stitched up a couple of florescent-orange safety vests to protect her fawn-red boxer and vizsla during Cape Elizabeth’s bow season, neighbors noticed: they wanted the same for their dogs. Encouraged by the folks at Planet Dog, Monesano now sells a whole line of brightly colored waterproof vests, fleece-lined coats, and rain gear online.
Growlin’ Gourmet Organic Treats. “I won’t feed my dogs anything that I wouldn’t eat myself,” says Steve Harmon, a chef whose résumé includes a stint at Kennebunk’s elegant White Barn Inn. So Harmon used wholesome ingredients like rolled oats, blackstrap molasses, and flax seeds to bake biscuits for his pups, then for his friends’ pups, and now for the masses. Three flavors: wild blueberry, cheddar cheese, and peanut butter.
Fido the Foodie
Food fanciers tend to hang with folks who share their passion. Dog fanciers, likewise, are a chummy bunch. Maine Foodie Tours brings them all together on the Doggy and Me Tour, a gregarious afternoon of tasting and tail wagging in Kennebunkport and Lower Village. “It’s a riff on our culinary walking tours,” says Maine Foodie Tours founder Pam Laskey. “Kennebunkport is particularly dog friendly. We go into a couple shops where the shopkeepers have treats on hand, and to a couple restaurants where dogs are welcome. The people on the tours all get to know each other, and the dogs love to meet each other too.” Each tour is limited to six people and four dogs. $34 per person. 3–5 p.m., Saturdays, May–October, 207-233-7485.