7960962062?profile=originalCosta d’Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach offers humans a free stay if an accompanying pet pays a rate starting at $184 a night. Photo provided by Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa

By Arden Moore

Raise your paw, er hand, if you are feeling a little stir-crazy. Got a dose of cabin fever due to the worldwide pandemic that seems to hover over Florida?

The silver lining for many stuck at home since mid-March is having a safe companion who never disagrees on which Netflix show to binge watch next. Yep, I’m referring to our dogs and cats, who have sacrificed oodles of me-alone-at-home nap time to cuddle and console us during our many moods.

Paws up for pets, for sure. At this stage of the coronavirus, opportunities are growing for us with pets to engage in safe activities and to take short getaways to pet-welcoming places. If you are ready to sport your mask, bring plenty of gloves and hand sanitizer, the

Visit Florida team may have a fit for you.

Visit Florida represents more than 13,000 tourism industry businesses throughout the Sunshine State. Recognizing that pet adoptions have surged by more than 300% since April, this group is promoting “fur-babymoon” adventures for people and their well-mannered pets.

From the Panhandle down to the Florida Keys, opportunities exist for you and your pet to safely paddleboard, take beach strolls, hike, sail, rent pet-friendly Airbnbs and dine outdoors.

One of the most fetching options includes free stays for people at the Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa in Vero Beach. The catch?

Their accompanied dogs must pay daily rates from $184 a night.

“We put a playful spin on a traditional hotel package from the dog’s perspective,” explains Jessica Milton, regional director of public relations for Benchmark Global Hospitality. “This is a small hotel with 94 rooms, so you won’t be walking into a massive resort. The hotel has plenty of safe things to do outside and definitely will pamper your dog with a beachside dog massage, water bowls and toys your dog can take home, use of a plush doggie bed in the room and even a doggie menu that includes Muttballs.”

Lisa Radosta, DVM, a veterinarian who operates the Florida Veterinary Behavior Service in West Palm Beach, recently spent a month living in a pet-friendly hotel while her family’s new house was being completed. Their old home sold quickly, so the entire family, including Maverick, a Labrador retriever, and a cat named Chewie were hotel dwellers.

“We chose the hotel based on the fact that they took pets and that we would have enough room (a suite) for us and both pets,” she says. “Factors to consider when traveling with your pets these days definitely include the ability to have space for the pets, a place to safely walk pets and pet-friendly restaurants and attractions nearby.”

Equally important is knowing your pet’s temperament and adaptability to being in new places with new sights, sounds and smells.
When they arrived, their normally easygoing Maverick had issues with the hotel elevator. But having a veterinary behaviorist for a pet parent helped as Radosta steadily built up Maverick’s exposure to elevator rides.

“My husband and I are pretty fit, so we took the four flights of stairs up and down as much as possible to give Maverick a break from the elevator,” she says. “We learned that he needed treats before he got on the elevator and tolerated the ride much better if I asked him to lie down. He rides the elevator just fine now.”

If you want to bring your pet on a day trip or overnight at a hotel, vacation rental, RV campground or cabin in a park, Radosta advises making a pros/cons list with your pet’s needs and personality in mind.

Some pets are genuine homebodies, who prefer staying at home under the care of a professional pet sitter who is practicing CDC health and safety guidelines. Dogs feeling stressed may chew or damage hotel furniture or bark excessively.

“You can’t come and go as you please on vacation, because you have to go back to the RV or hotel to take care of your pets,” Radosta adds.

Know your pet’s likes and dislikes.

“Going out with your dog is really fun — for you! Is it fun for your dog?” she says. “If not, take some time to get your dog used to going to the beach or getting on the kayak before you expect him to spend significant amounts of time in that activity.”

For well-socialized pets, however, such trips are viewed as added adventures spent with their favorite humans. Never before has the unconditional love unleashed on us by our pets felt so good.

If You Go...
Taking COVID-19 precautions into account, numerous pet-welcoming places and activities are available in the Sunshine State. To learn more, go to www.VisitFlorida.com.
To learn more about Dr. Lisa Radosta’s practice, visit www.flvetbehavior.com. Radosta is the co-author of From Fearful to Fear Free. The book spotlights the national Fear Free program created by veterinarians to reduce fear, anxiety and stress in pets at home, in the car, at veterinary clinics and during outdoor activities.

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