I don’t usually take Frankie along with me on day trips — car rides are not his favorite activity, to put it mildly — but this past January, I decided to bring him with me to The Lazy Dog Ranch, a bed and breakfast about two hours from Tucson. I had pitched and gotten an assignment to cover the inn for a national magazine on the basis of its appealing — and unusual — features. It’s on the San Pedro Riparian Natural Conservation Area, a lush riverside preserve known for its excellent birding. It’s close to popular southern Arizona attractions like Tombstone and Bisbee. And it accepts dogs of any size — up to three in a room — for only a minimal extra charge.
Car ride aside, there were other factors I weighed in my decision to bring Frankie. I knew he would prefer being with me to staying home alone for most of the day and I knew he would enjoy the quiet of the countryside, but I was worried that he might be overwhelmed by the resident menagerie, which includes:
- Human: Inkeepers Michael and Catherine McCormack who, between them, have lived on more than half the continents in the world (Europe, Australia, and South America in addition to North America).
- Canine: Mack, mostly German shepherd; Zorra, Great Pyrenees & Anatolian shepherd; and Thor, a Bernese Mountain dog. We are talking BIG dogs here.
- Equine: Misty and Patron, both quarter horses
- Feline: Evita and Roxanne, house cats.
But I had mentioned in advance of our visit that Frankie was shy and Catherine assured me that the resident pups would not bother him, if he didn’t want to be bothered. This turned out to be absolutely true. The dogs were all big hairy teddy bears, a little curious but not at all pushy. I had the sense that Thor would have let Frankie lie on him like on a white shag rug if Frankie had wanted to. Which he didn’t.
So I was expecting a pleasant day of peaceful coexistence among critters in a pretty setting. But Frankie is still capable of surprising me.
After touring the main house, which has three very appealing Southwestern-style guest rooms — I love the idea that traveling with dogs doesn’t have to mean resigning yourself to generic motel beds — we headed over to the bank of the San Pedro River, part of the inn’s property. En route, we stopped by the corral to look at the horses.
Frankie has seen horses before on the trail where we walk in Tucson; they don’t seem to phase him one way or another. So I wasn’t worried as we approached the fence and one of the horses — sorry, I’m not sure if it was Misty or Patron — came over and bent down to check Frankie out. But rather than retreating, as is his usual MO with all creatures great and small (myself excepted), Frankie approached. If Frankie and the horse didn’t actually touch noses, they came pretty darned close.
Frankie the Brave.
I almost caught the event on camera, but not quite; it was over too quickly. Yesterday’s picture captured only the post-equine encounter: Michael, my friend Tim, and Frankie, three guys serenely surveying their domain.
At the river, Thor and Mack had a nice swim, and then shook themselves off near any humans they could find. Zorra patrolled the shore. Frankie stayed by my side.
There’s only so much bravery a small dog can muster in one day.
For my next segment of Animal Cafe, I’m hoping to interview Michael and Catherine about what inspired them to open a dog-friendly inn, how it’s worked out for them, and what advice they might give people traveling with large dogs. I haven’t asked them yet, but they’re very nice.
And if enough of you comment that you’d like to hear what they have to say, I’d bet that would help too.