Palm Springs is for the Dogs (and we’re jealous!)

By Carole Jacobs

Chloe, my 4-year-old Australian Shepherd, is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a daughter, which may explain why she travels everywhere with me. My husband says we have the same temperament (Princess and the Pea) and friends say we even look alike (although Chloe’s hair is black on top and blond on the bottom while mine is the exact opposite).

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On a recent trip to the Palm Springs, the city’s stunning scenery (sweeping desert climbing to craggy peaks), its sharp, clean air and the city’s slew of dog-friendly amenities had us at hello. Despite its glitz, glam and stiletto-teetering celebs, it was clear to both me and Chloe that Palm Springs was for the dogs.

Our pet-friendly room at the Hyatt Palm Springs was no exception: It had the deep soaking tub and high-thread-count sheets I craved while Chloe had a separate living room outfitted with sleek, unfussy furnishings and a cozy corner where she could curl up with her ratty rawhide bone and alternately chew and snooze.

It’s a dog’s life

About three years ago, a photo popped up online from a local animal shelter. Chloe was chained to a fence in a dark cell and sitting straight up posture-perfect, gazing beseechingly into the camera. She looked so eager to please and desperate to make a good impression that she reminded me of someone, but who? I showed my husband Tom the photo -- he had never had a dog and wasn’t eager to get one --and he just groaned. “She’s you with fur,” he said. “You might as well go get her.”

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I had never had a dog, either. Anxious to be a good mother, I purchased a dog crate, lined the bottom of it with a down pillow covered with a 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton pillow case, installed an official doggy water bowl and food bowl and clustered some new toys in a corner. Since I live three hours away from the shelter, I filled the doggie bowl with “the world’s healthiest” (and most expensive) dog food (Organic ‘Jammin Salmon) so Chloe could nosh in style all the way home. In fact, she bolted it down as soon as she got in the car and then, channeling Peggie Lee, looking at me beseechingly. (Is that all there is?)

At home the following morning, Tom poured some Walmart kibble into Chloe’s bowl. She gave it a suspicious sniff (You’ve got to be kidding) and looked at me hopefully. I replaced the kibble with Jammin’ Salmon and she wolfed it down pronto. “See that, she loves it!” I exclaimed. “She should since it costs more per ounce than caviar! replied Tom. “I thought we were getting a dog, but Chloe’s no dog, she’s…the reincarnation of Julia Child!”

Sniffing out Palm Springs

After settling into our deluxe digs at the Hyatt Palm Springs (Chloe not only had her own pillow—she had her own room) we took the industrial-style elevator took us down to the hotel’s pint-sized park, basically a scruffy and yellowed patch of grass. Chloe, who’d quickly become accustomed to our 400-acre spread where she could do her business in privacy, sniffed the grass, tilted her head and looked at me quizzically:  Huh? You expect me to pee and poo in public?

In search of a bathroom she could call her own, we wandered around downtown Palm Springs past swank sidewalk cafes, trendy restaurants, sleek hotels and women in diamonds and stilettos with prancing little pooches in tow.  At Cold Nose Warm Heart, one of Palm Spring’s many fetching pet store, Chloe introduced herself to a fluffy white miniature poodle about a fifth her size wearing a rhinestone-studded collar. As the two of them sniffed away (give it up, Chloe, he’s not your type) I looked around the store to see if I could find Chloe a new bone.

The night before, Chloe had mortified me by trotting into the Hyatt’s swank lobby with her beloved rawhide clutched between her teeth - a ratty, malodorous bone I thought I had thrown in the garbage two weeks ago. The store’s collection of designer bones was exorbitantly pricy, but at least they were clean and didn’t smell. I put the cheapest one ($24!) one on the floor so Chloe could sniff it, but before I could pay for it, she clenched it her teeth and bolted out the door.  By the time I caught up with her, she was digging a hole in the Hyatt’s manicured flower gardens.

Back on the streets, we finally found a dog park, one of Palm Spring’s many designer versions with a beautiful fence created by a local artist and several adorable fire hydrants made from recycled plastic. Chloe paused to sniff each one before lifting her leg: Mine-mine-mine-mine-mine....

By now it was 11 a.m. and already too hot for Chloe (who wears her fur coat all year), to hike in the desert.  To beat the heat, we followed a steep, winding highway into the rugged San Jacinto Mountains that hover wall-like over Palm Springs. We finally arrived at a densely-wooded plateau where a trail pushed into the trees. As we set out, the pines parted to reveal a startling view of 9,000-foot-highTahquitz Rock shooting from the forest floor like a guided missile. I gasped and Chloe panted, but I think we were saying the same thing.

Doggone awesome digs

The new morning, we vacated our palatial suite at the Hyatt for a deluxe Spanish-style casita at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in neighboring Rancho Mirage. The 9-acre sprawl boasted championship links, lakes, waterfalls, spurting fountains, gourmet restaurants, cool bars, an elegant spa – and it also put on the Ritz for visiting canines: Chloe promptly got comfy in her Heavenly Dog Bed and totally related to the hotel’s adoption project, which works with a local animal shelter to provide temporary homes for homeless dogs. Guests can visit the resort’s swank canine digs to see if they might find a furry friend to adopt, and Chloe was ready to take home Spock, a pint-sized Chihuahua mix that was the hotel’s 20th adoptee.

That night, we headed to the resort’s pet-friendly Fireside Lounge Bar and Restaurant, settling into a plush outdoor patio overlooking gardens and a crashing waterfall. The waiter brought two menus to our table – ours and Chloe’s.  Chloe’s 3-course canine meal, which made Jammin Salmon look like chicken feed, included raw organic beef and veggie appetizers, chicken-flavored mutt-zo-ball soup, nonalcoholic beer and peanut butter and banana cookies.

Chloe wolfed down her gourmet chow with undisguised gusto, but Tom prayed she’d forget all about it before we got home.

www.hyattpalmsprings, www.westinmissionhills.com

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Box 1: More pet-friendly stuff in Palm Springs

Pet-friendly restaurants: Several of Palm Spring’s hottest eateries not only cater to canines, but are named after the owners’ dogs. Check out the elegant Spencer's Restaurant; Jake's Palm Springs, a hip bistro; Copley’s, a swank eatery located at the former estate of Cary Grant, and LULU, a cool California bistro.

www.spencersrestaurant.com, www.jakespalmsprings.com, www.copleyspalmsprings.com, www.lulupalmsprings.com

Dog who take the plunge: Desert Hot Springs Inn, a natural hot spring resort co-owned by Dr. Paula Terifaj, D.V.M., a retired Palm Springs veterinarian, has no pet fee, size or breed limitations. The resort has a dog park, pools, mineral springs, a restaurant and more. Provided dogs are accompanied by their owners, they can go anywhere on the resort without a leash.

www.westinmissionhills.com, www.deserthotspringsinn.com

Latchkey dogs: At the Pet Hotel at Barkingham Palace, Fido can take Pilates, get a massage or a relaxing Klay-9 Ultra Luxury Treatment, snooze in a plush private suite, doggy paddle in the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, trot on the treadmills and get deluxe grooming. www.thepethotelatbarkinghampalace.com.

Box 2: 6 Tips for Dog-Friendly Travel

Palm Springs veterinarian Paula Terifaj, D.V.M., owner of the pet-friendly Desert Hot Springs Inn, offers these tips on safe and happy vacations with your dog.

  1. Do your homework: Research dog guidebooks and websites to ensure your vacation destination has plenty of pet-friendly amenities.
  2.  Crate your dog during car travel: This will prevent your dog from getting loose if you break down or have an accident.
  3. Avoid feeding pups right before a car trip:  Feed puppies at least six hours before leaving to prevent carsickness.
  4. Flying your dog to your holiday destination?  If the airline can’t guarantee you that your dog will travel in a temperature-controlled part of the plane, leave your dog at home with a dog-sitter.
  5. Don’t change your dog’s diet on vacation: Bring your pet’s usual food and stick to his normal feeding times to avoid stressing your dog out.
  6.  Make sure you are really up to traveling with your pet: If the notion of taking care of your pet on vacation overwhelms you and/or you already know it’s going to be a hectic trip, do yourself and your pet a favor and leave him at home with a dog-sitter.
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