“There isn’t a café or hotel in Miami that doesn’t welcome dogs,” says Ruth Remington, organizer of the South Beach Dachshund Winterfest, which drew 400 dachshunds while I was there and awarded my Zoli a prize for her Amy Winehouse costume. (There’s a vague resemblance.) “Everything’s outdoors, so it’s very dog social. You can take them anywhere.” It also helps that both cities allow dogs at outdoor portions of restaurants.
Indeed, at the Standard hotel and spa, which doesn’t allow children, dogs of all shapes and sizes lounge at the bay-side pool among models and hipsters. (Well, nearly all shapes and sizes; dogs must be under 14 pounds, according to the hotel’s policy.) When Zoli and I visited one afternoon, we watched a Doberman lay poolside on a towel and chew on a coconut as we lunched at the outdoor restaurant; I had the seafood salad and Zoli had some crudités. (Dachshunds are the socialites of the canine world—they keep their thin figures by eating raw vegetables.)
That evening, at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, a favorite new restaurant among Design District locavores, Michael Schwartz, the award-winning chef, stopped to say hello (to my dog, not me), as did half the people eating around us. Then, a smitten waitress knelt all the way down, as if for a princess or Lady Gaga, and presented Zoli with a plate of artisanal dog biscuits.
“These are made with organic wheat and skim milk, with a touch of peanut butter,” she said at ground level. Zoli cocked her head, then dug in. My friends were amused.
“She gets better service than we do,” one said.
It was true. But then, there’s something about dogs on trips that disarms people. You’ve never had a friendlier check-in at an airport than when you’re carrying on a dog. (As long as the dog is quiet, ticketed, and in a regulation-size carrier for the flight.) And when you walk around a terminal, harried looks morph into sentimental sighs and smiles.
“Did she have a good trip?” dog lover Morley Safer once asked me at Newark International, where we’d gotten off a plane from Austin, Texas. “She looks like she did.”
Well, why not? Dogs don’t have to make plans and connections. When it’s time to settle in for the evening, it doesn’t matter where they’re staying. They don’t need special menus, either, nor do they need spas, psychics, and other luxuries—a nuance that is lost on many owners.
“I get all kinds of pet requests,” says Stacy Lee, the marketing director of the Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club, in Palm Beach, home to the top-rated Café Boulud and where Zoli and I were ending our Florida sojourn. “Guests ask for room changes because their pet isn’t happy. I’ve even seen someone send a meal back because her dog didn’t like it. Can you imagine, with the chef we have here?”
As part of a package, the hotel provides a limousine to go shopping with your dog on nearby Worth Avenue. You may laugh, but it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds when it’s raining cats and dogs on your last day in Palm Beach, as it was for ours. After a chauffeur opened the door and Zoli (who simply does not do rain) jumped in, we found ourselves gliding south past the Louis Vuitton store to the Chateau de Puppy, where we sniffed at the Juicy Couture nail polish, fur conditioner, and other luxury absurdities. We also stuck our snouts into a Tory Burch store that had sold out of its collars and sweaters early in the season. I was worried that a pet would not be welcome.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Nicole Roach, the store’s young general manager. “If we didn’t allow dogs in here, we wouldn’t have any customers.”
At Tiffany & Co. we considered some lovely Elsa Peretti drinking bowls.
“My dog really seems to love this store,” I told the sales clerk.
“I’m not surprised,” she said. “All girls do.”
Last stop: Chanel, where there were no more coco’s pet leashes with silver chains. “They were five hundred dollars and they flew out of the store,” a clerk said.
All she could offer Zoli was a bottle of Evian water for the drive home.
On the way back to the hotel to pack for our return to New York, Zoli sat in the back with me, looking out the tinted windows as we passed palms and pastel-colored homes in the rain. Despite the weather, it had been a delightful afternoon.
“We both had such a pleasant time,” I told the driver.
“It’s a pet-friendly society,” he said. “All the dogs seem to get along down here.”
“What about the people?” I asked.
“That’s another story,” he said.
Some things are just too much to ask.