By Jeremy L. C. Jones, HubCity Writers Project
We usually go to Spartanburg’s Rail Tails dog park early in the morning or late in the afternoon, but the absolute best time is just after dinner when the sun has dipped but not set, the shade has lengthened, and the dogs of Spartanburg are ready to burn off their excess energy.
One day recently my daughter Molly and I showed up just in time for what we call the Knee High Club, an informal, never scheduled period between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. when all or most of the dogs seem to be no larger than knee high to a human.
Dottie and Cole, our miniature poodles, tugged at their harnesses across the parking lot, lingered by the bushes just outside the safety gate. The fenced-in park gets its name from the neighboring Rail Trail, a former railroad track converted to a walking trail, which just happens to be a great place to walk dogs. Rail Tails is located off Union Street, about three minutes from Spartanburg’s Morgan Square.
Just as things settled down, my cell phone rang. Ordinarily, the dog park was the most relaxing part of my day. Business could wait. I only answered the phone when my wife called. But this was a friend from out of town I hadn’t spoken with in a while.
By the time I’d gotten off the phone I had a problem that needed to be solved fast: my friend and his wife wanted to come visit and bring their two Chihuahuas, Emerson and Thoreau. I needed to do some quick research.
But guess what? I discovered that Spartanburg is a pet-friendly town, even beyond this terrific dog park.
My wife and I are allergic to all dogs except poodles, so I knew the dogs couldn’t stay with us. That meant we either had to find a kennel—rather, a doggie spa—or a hotel that allowed pets. I knew from experience and word of mouth that both Woodpoint Bed and Biscuit (http://bedandbiscuit321.com/) on the east side and Southport Kennel (http://www.southportkennel.com/) on the south side offered the level of dog care that our friends would require. Both of them have big play yards for doggie day care. Woodpoint even has a waterpark for dogs. I made a note to remind my friend to bring Emerson and Thoreau’s vaccination records, a familiar blanket, favorite toys, and their usual food in individually portioned baggies.
Then I remembered: Boarding and doggie play care might be an option for the adventurous Thoreau, but Emerson wouldn’t want to be away my friend for a second. And my friend felt the same. That meant I had to find them a hotel.
I did the fairly typical 21st century thing. I sat down on the picnic table in the shade of a magnolia and Googled “pet friendly hotels Spartanburg SC” on my Smartphone.
Meanwhile, Dottie and Cole wove their way in and out of a pack of lab mixes, terriers, and a Great Dane that was surprisingly gentle. Certainly I would bring my friends here! We bring the dogs here whenever possible and always seek out dog parks when we travel. The stimulation and exercise calms them and makes sleeping in a hotel or riding in a car much easier and more peaceful.
My Google search gave me a listing of six or seven hotels, all of them chains. Each hotel had a different policy concerning pets. I read each, noting whether the cleaning deposit was refundable and how much liability there was. I mean, if Emerson and Thoreau kept everyone awake, would my friends have to pay penalties? That could add up fast!
I chose the Holiday Inn Express Hotel at 895 Spartan Boulevard because of its proximity to I-26, US 29, the movie theater, the mall, and just about everything else on the west side of town, such as Panera, the pet store, comic book store, and Barnes and Noble. It’s also a nice hotel without being too expensive and the pet policy wasn’t too draconian.
My wife and I would be working most of the time that our friends were in town, so I needed to come up with a list of pet friendly restaurants for my friends to choose from—restaurants that they wouldn’t easily find online. I could easily come up with several where my friends could eat outside with their dogs:
I was fairly certain we’d all want to meet at the Hub City Bookshop where we could sit outside, sipping Little River Roasting Company coffee before doing some shopping downtown. The nice folks inside the Coffee Bar have been known to come outside to fill up a thirsty canine’s dog’s water bowl.
Meanwhile, back at the Rail Tails dog park, Dottie waited while a pit-bull puppy slopped water from the bowl, Cole kicked mulch behind him, and, now that I had a plan for my friends’ visit, I felt myself starting to relax into the dimming evening and the gentle routine of the after dinner canine social hour.
Jeremy L. C. Jones, HubCity Writers Project
Jeremy is a freelance writer, editor, and lecturer living in Spartanburg County with his wife, daughter, and two miniature poodles. He teaches English part-time at Wofford College, volunteers at the Carolina Poodle Rescue’s dog sanctuary, and plays folk ukulele … but not very well.