TRAVERSE CITY — Mr. Jackson shops in style in downtown Traverse City.
The toy poodle rides in a stroller and accompanies his owner, Shelly Kauffman, into several stores. No shop owner has ever stopped them — at least not in this area.
“I think they’re really dog-friendly here,” said Kauffman, of Grand Rapids.
Traverse City was ranked 18th out of 567 cities in the “2019 Best Places to Visit with Your Dog” by Reviews.com, a website that evaluates consumer services and recommends the best ones for its readers. In all, more than 1,000 cities were rated.
In a city where store-owned water bowls dot the downtown sidewalks and the family pooch is a common sight on patios and sidewalk cafes, dogs would agree.
“We love that there’s a lot of water,” said Canton resident Lori Davey, whose dog Skylar gets anxious when she is left alone.
“We just don’t want to leave her at home,” said Ken Davey.
Dogs add to the ambiance of a place, said Susan Prescott, owner of the Acoustic Tap Room, where International Dog Day was celebrated all week with treats and, of course, hot dogs.
“There’s something about man’s best friend that just makes people happy,” Prescott said. “It’s like, if a boy can’t get a date he can get a dog and he’ll start getting attention from women.”
To determine if a city was a good vacation destination for Fido, the Reviews.com study looked at the number of dog parks, dog-friendly restaurants and lodging, doggy day cares and the availability of a veterinarian or emergency care — just in case.
When it comes to getting out on the trails with your dog, the study put Traverse City at No. 3.
Kate Lewis, community engagement manager for TART Trails, is not surprised. The 80 miles of paved trails overseen by the organization provide for equal opportunity when it comes to dogs and their owners.
The only time pets are not allowed on the trails is in the winter when they have been groomed for cross-country skiing.
“Dog-walkers are a big section of our trail users,” Lewis said. “For a lot of people, that’s how they get their exercise. They’re walking their dogs.”
Dogs must be on a leash and owners should clean up after them. Many of the trails have waste stations complete with poop bags and garbage containers, Lewis said.
Most owners pick up after their pets, she said, but for those that don’t, there are volunteers that keep the trails clean.
And if every dog has its day, then surely that dog is entitled to a vacation, and there is no lack of hotels, motels and vacation rentals in the area that make room for the family pet.
The Park Place Hotel in downtown Traverse City has 20 pet rooms, though only one dog per room is allowed.
“People love their pets,” said Amy Parker, general manager. “They’re part of the family and they want to keep their families together ... Either that or they can’t find a good sitter.”
Visit Up North Vacation Rentals manages 160 units, about half of which are pet-friendly.
That’s a drastic change from about 15 years ago, said Manager April Carroll.
“There was a time in this area when nobody allowed pets,” Carroll said.
But many of the company’s employees were animal lovers and had pets of their own.
“One day we just decided we wanted to allow pets,” Carroll said. “This is as important as bringing your children.”
It does cost more — from about $45 to $250 per stay, depending on the length of stay and if there are multiple pets, she said.
Vacationers and locals can also take their dogs to several restaurants, wineries and brewpubs in the area, though according to state law, they can’t be indoors anywhere food is served.
Outdoor patios are another story, such as the one at Left Foot Charley in the Grand Traverse Commons.
“People like to walk and hike with their pets and we like to have a place for them when they’re done,” said Meridith Lauzon, operations manager.
Lauzon isn’t sure if not allowing pets would be a deterrent to business, but said the pet-friendly policy definitely makes people feel more welcome.
The dogs have to be leashed and well-behaved, she said. If they’re bad dogs, however, they may be asked to leave.
“They would have to be really, really bad,” she said.
At the Amoritas Vineyards Tasting Room in Lake Leelanau dogs are allowed on the porch of the family-owned establishment.
“I’d rather have people be able to bring their pets with them than to leave them at home,” said Matt Goodell, owner.
Dogs occasionally come to work with employees, said Goodell, who loves other people’s dogs, but does not have one himself.
“Not yet,” he said. “My wife’s pretty bent on getting one.”