Fancy kennels abound, and there's always the prospect of a live-in petsitter who will pamper your beloved pooch while you head off for an out-of-town getaway. But will man's best friend still love you after a weekend apart? Actually, yes, he will - isn't unconditional love and tail wagging the number-one reason to have a dog? But better not to risk a rift.
Instead, bring Rover along as you dine al fresco, tramp along wooded trails, and shop in interesting boutiques. Maine is an exceptionally dog-friendly state (where else do the First Dogs merit their own Web page?) that boasts an array of activities for dogs and their people.With the help of Kim Salerno, owner of South Portland-based tripswithpets.com
, we've selected the state's best destinations for dog-friendly fun. Just remember: pay attention to local leash laws and always clean up after your furry friend.Cape Elizabeth
Why it wags our tail: With an array of beautiful beaches, lovely walking trails, and one of the state's most luxurious dog-friendly inns, Cape Elizabeth has got to be tops on any four-legged traveler's itinerary. Inn by the Sea owner Maureen McQuade offers a warm welcome to pets (no extra fees for your dog here) with water bowls, towels, and blankets available on loan, as well as a doggie room service menu. Upscale animals can request a special package that includes canine outerwear, gourmet treats, and other goodies.
Bring a picnic and the pooch to Fort Williams, where you can watch the kites soar next to Portland Head Light, or grab a lobster roll, eat on the rocks, and bark at seagulls at the Lobster Shack. If you need to walk off all those calories, head to one of the Portland suburb's two oceanside state parks, Crescent Beach and Two Lights. Or visit one of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust's protected lands, with scenic trails near Great Pond and in Robinson Woods (well-behaved dogs may be off leash here).
Canine alter ego: A labradoodle, the must-have designer mutt.
The last woof: A quiet spot for pooches and their people.The Kennebunks
Why it wags our tail: Pooches with a penchant for the briny deep will fit right in at the Captain Jefferds Inn, an 1805 sea captain's home in Kennebunkport. Five rooms in the carriage house - each with its own entrance - are dog-friendly, and there's an in-house dogsitter to boot. Out on the town, Fido can make puppy friends at the dog park in Kennebunk, which is managed by a team of local volunteers. If it's human interaction you're after, stroll the sands - on leash and during the appropriate hours, of course - at Kennebunk, Gooch's, and Mother's beaches.
Forgot a special toy or just want to get your four-legged friend a special treat? You can choose from two local pet stores, Downeast Pet Supply and Scalawags in Kennebunk. And if your pooch always wanted to go to sea, First Chance Cruises allows dogs on its sightseeing cruises, depending on size and behavior.
Canine alter ego: Springer spaniel - if it's good enough for the Bushes, it's good enough for you.
The last woof: An action-packed getaway for salty dogs.Boothbay
Why it wags our tail: There's plenty of room to roam in Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor. On a warm day, visit one of the Boothbay Region Land Trust's properties. You can hike the 2.3 miles of trails at Linekin Preserve (couch potatoes, beware - we're looking at you, Lucy - the trail is very steep in places), head straight to the water at Marshall E. Saunders Memorial Park, wander through Lobster Cove Meadow, or visit a number of other beautiful preserved lands.
For a more populated setting, meander across the Mace Carter Memorial Footbridge, which connects the east and west sides of Boothbay Harbor. You can grab a bite at one of two picnic tables the Lobster Dock reserves for dogs and their people. If you're in town for a week or more, rest your head (and your paws) at one of the homes rented by Cottage Connection of Maine; more than 75 percent of the homes and cottages they rent are dog-friendly.
Canine alter ego: Blame Wegman - it's a weimaraner, all jaunty angles and aloof attitudes.
The last woof: A suitable destination for a solo stroll.Bar Harbor
Why it wags our tail: Not many national parks are welcoming to our four-legged friends . . . of the canine variety, that is. But Acadia National Park abounds with opportunities for Rocky and Max to stretch their legs. A few caveats to keep in mind: dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet, and you must clean up after them. And, sadly, only humans are allowed at Sand Beach and Echo Lake. If your dog's not the hiking type, consider exploring the park on one of the private carriage tours offered by Wildwood Stables.
Of course, downtown Bar Harbor's got plenty to do, too. The fountains in the Village Green make excellent doggie bowls for thirsty pets, and restaurants with outdoor seating abound. And though both the business and the building are for sale, you won't want to skip a trip to Bark Harbor, where (if you must) you can find something to bring back for the cat.
As for lodging, book a room at the Ledgelawn Inn, a classic old hotel with several pet-friendly rooms, or the Atlantic Oakes, an oceanside resort on twelve park-like acres (they'll even supply you with bags for cleaning up after Spot).
Canine alter ego: The water-loving Newfie gets all wet on Mount Desert Island.
The last woof: A classic vacation spot for adventuresome pets.Portland
Why it wags our tail: For the state's biggest city, Portland is cer-tainly friendly to its canine citizens. Most of the city's bookstores have at least one four-legged staff member, and places to frolic outdoors are numerous. Even the downtown Eastland Park Hotel, a big-city high-rise compared to most Maine accommodations, welcomes pets from a pint-sized hamster to a looming Great Dane with no extra charge.
What's more, Portland abounds with opportunities for off-leash fun, from Capisic Pond Park to the area behind the pond at Evergreen Cemetery to the dog run near Jack School on Munjoy Hill. Leashed dogs can explore the city at will, of course, and especially in the Old Port take advantage of the nu-merous restaurants that allow outdoor seating (for waterside seating, try the picnic tables at the Port Hole or the deck behind Flatbread Co.). There are even opportunities for your pampered pet to rest her paws on one of Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad's scenic train rides or Casco Bay Lines' ferry trips out to the islands. If you're low on dog supplies or - perish the thought! - canine companionship, swing by the headquarters of Planet Dog for plenty of puppy swag.
Canine alter ego: The trendy, snorting, surprisingly hardy pug.
The last woof: An ideal destination for the sophisticated canine.Freeport
Why it wags our tail: How could the home of L.L. Bean be anything less than dog-friendly? Many downtown merchants set out water bowls for thirsty pets, and a surprising number of stores - including, of course, the locally owned Pet Pantry - allow dogs inside. You could have an entirely pooch-oriented vacation without ever leaving downtown: stay at the Harraseeket Inn, where pet-friendly rooms include a doggie bed, food, and bowls for your companion's use, do some shopping, and enjoy lunch or dinner on the patio at Azure Cafe or the deck at Gritty's Brew Pub.
But then you'd miss some of Freeport's most scenic attractions, including Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park, which rambles from wooded interior to rocky coast to groomed picnic areas, and the grounds at Pettengill Farm, a saltwater farm on the estuary of the Harraseeket River.
Canine alter ego: In Maine's shopping capital, it's got to be a Pomeranian pocket dog.
The last woof: Dainty dogs and their acquisitive owners will be right at home in Maine's mecca for conspicuous consumption.Greenville
Why it wags our tail: The Moosehead Lake region is the spot for active canines. Northwoods Outfitters can send you and your pup on any number of guided or self-guided activities, ranging from hiking Mount Kineo to canoeing on Moosehead Lake. Or pitch a tent on the shores of Moosehead at Lily Bay State Park, where your dog can swim (quietly!) while you fish for togue, brook trout, and landlocked salmon.
Several of the camp operators and motels in the region allow canine guests; Beaver Cove Camps, on the east shore of Moosehead Lake, welcomes all pets for just ten dollars a night. When you're hungry, grab a seat at the Rod-n-Reel Cafe's outdoor picnic table, or Auntie M's picnic area.
Canine alter ego: The good old Lab is the obvious choice.
The last woof: The perfect spot if you and the pooch want to be dog-tired at the end of the day.Bath
Why it wags our tail: It's a blast to explore Bath, which boasts a walkable downtown and plenty of green space to roam. Get the lay of the land - not to mention some facts about the lovely historic architecture - on a self-guided walking tour mapped out by Sagadahoc Preservation (for a fee, the organization will provide a guide for groups of six or more). Or see what Brandy thinks of the paintings and pottery on display at the Third Friday Art Walk. If your pooch is truly refined, bring her along to Mae's Cafe, where you can enjoy a sticky bun on the sunny front deck.
Dog lodgers are welcomed, subject to certain conditions, at both the Inn at Bath and the Galen C. Moses House.
Canine alter ego: A poodle, posed carefully on an antique rug listening to Bach.
The last woof: Cultured canines will fit right in at the City of Ships.Camden
Why it wags our tail: Unlike some of its southern Maine brethren, Camden recently increased dogs' access to beaches, with a recent citizen initiative making them open to four-leggers from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. from May through September (and around the clock the rest of the year). As if that weren't enough reason to visit this midcoast gem, Camden also boasts two pooch-friendly hotels: the Lord Camden Inn, whose Pampered Pooch Package includes a plush bed, gourmet biscuit, food and water bowls, and local dog-friendly info for just twenty bucks a night; and the Camden Riverhouse Hotel, which allows a total of five dogs at a time in its first-floor rooms (prior approval is necessary so the hotelkeepers can keep a canine head count).
Teach your mutt - as long as he's friendly and on a leash - a thing or two about lobster on the Lively Lady Too's two-hour tour, or take to the sea on one of the Schooner Olad's harbor cruises. If he's been extra specially good - no sniffing the pigeon poop - then take him over to Bayview Lobster for a Frosty Paws.
Canine alter ego: The ultimate yuppie status symbol, the sweet, but air-headed, golden retriever.
The last woof: Everyone is beautiful in Camden (even those with dog breath).Bethel
Why it wags our tail: This western Maine town is so dog-friendly that a movie called The 12 Dogs of Christmas was filmed here a few years back. And no wonder: it's a four-season destination that's just right for the canine set - in Bethel, you and your pooch can hike, ski, leaf-peep, and golf (okay, maybe Princess ought to stay at home for that last one). You've also got great choices in accommodations, ranging from the Bethel Inn and Country Club, which allows dogs in some rooms, to L'Auberge Country Inn, which welcomes up to three pets of any kind at any one time, with dogs required to be on leash when outside your room. Can't find a pet-friendly room? Send your mutt to the Doggy and Kitty Motel while you hit the slopes.
Once you've tired of outdoor activities, take a stroll down the wide sidewalks of Bethel's Main Street. Stop in at Cafe DiCocoa, which did some catering for the movie crew, where dogs are welcome on the front porch, or grab a cup of joe at Java House, where your pooch can curl up on the deck while you recaffeinate.
Canine alter ego: The active - and self-absorbed - Siberian husky.
The last woof: Ski bums and their pets will be right at home on the New Hampshire border.