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Parting with your pup for travel can be one of the toughest tasks for a dog owner. After all, some of us rarely leave home without our furriest friends in tow. And while there’s no dog quite like your own, there are a few destinations that can help fill that void.
Animal sanctuaries around the world are devising inspiring and unexpected ways for visitors to interact with their dogs (and cats, birds, horses and more) — whether they’re in the market for a forever friend, or just looking to get some puppy-lovin’ during their time away from home. For shelter animals, time spent outside, socializing with humans, can be a crucial part of forming bonds with potential adopters.
We’ve rounded up some of the best places on Earth for pup-sick travelers to play with adoptable dogs. So the next time you plan a trip away from your pet, consider adding one of these stops to your itinerary. Not only will you get your doggie fix, but you’ll also help a homeless pooch get the human interaction and love they deserve.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
You’ll likely come back from the Caribbean with more than a sunburn when you visit Potcake Place K-9 Rescue, a non-profit in the Turks and Caicos. Potcake Place takes in strays and specifically promotes the adoption of their pups to tourists. If you aren’t looking to take a so-called potcake home, visitors are encouraged to take a dog out for a stroll on one of the beautiful white sand beaches of Providenciales. Potcake pups — typically a mix of Labrador, German Shepherd and English Fox Terrier — get their name from the congealed peas and rice mixture that locals traditionally feed strays.
Say aloha to an adorable shelter dog on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. The Kauai Humane Society allows visitors to “check out” a dog for a day trip to one of Kauai’s many dog-friendly beaches or hiking trails. There are plenty of to choose from, considering Kauai has the most miles of beaches and hiking trails of all of the Hawaiian islands. Because only a few dogs are available to be checked out on a first come, first serve basis each day, be sure to get there early. Other visitors can stay on-site and play with a dog inside an enclosed area.
Hit the trails and head out on a hike with a hound with the Aspen Animal Shelter’s Rent-a-Pet Program, which allows dog lovers to take a pup on an adventure for the day. The shelter will match your interests, athletic ability and personality to the perfect pooch. And if one day isn’t enough, you can take the dog overnight on a camping trip. The shelter supplies a harness with an “Adopt Me” badge, so even if you’re not able to give your temporary companion a new home, the people he or she encounters along the way know he’s looking for a new fur-ever friend.
The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located in southern Utah, wedged between the dramatic red rocks of Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. The sanctuary is home to more than 1,600 homeless animals, a dizzying array of dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, pigs, goats, mules, sheep, burros and other wildlife. Travelers can visit The Sanctuary for daily tours of the property, which includes specialized areas like Dogtown, Cat World and Horse Haven. The visitor center coordinates interactive weekly events like Kittens and Coffee, Puppy Socialization Class, Ask-a-Trainer sessions and Paint Your Pet (on a canvas of course, not an actual animal).
St. John, US Virgin Islands
Get something more rewarding from your time in the Caribbean than a powerful piña colada hangover. The Animal Care Center on St. John encourages visitors to take on the role of volun-tourist during their vacation. The shelter organizes weekly morning hikes with their adoptable dogs, where travelers can enjoy the island’s famous blue waters with a pup by their side. Volunteer to socialize an island dog, and not only will you have an awesome time playing with a furry friend, but you’ll make the day of a dog who has had a ruff start to life.
Kauai isn’t the only Hawaiian island with canines in need of some tourists’ love and affection. The Maui Humane Society has a Beach Buddies program that allows visitors to take a dog out for a day of island fun. The shelter provides participants with everything they’ll need, including a dog harness and leash labeled “Adopt Me” — not unlike the Aspen Animal Shelter’s program. It’s not unusual for the Beach Buddies program to fill up two to three months in advance, so be sure to sign up as soon you know your travel dates.
Free Animal Doctor is a crowdfunding organization that raises money for rescue pets in need of medical attention. The non-profit organizes hikes in the southern California cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and Sierra Madre in order to exercise, socialize and publicize the dogs that are available for adoption. All of the hiking locations include Instagram-worthy photo spots, intentionally selected to encourage photo sharing of the adoptable dogs. You may even see a celebrity on your hike of Runyon Canyon with a dog in need.
Heredia, Costa Rica
Let’s just call this a doggone paradise. The Territorio de Zaguates, or Land of the Strays, is an animal sanctuary home to over 1,000 homeless dogs. Take a two-mile trek around the hills of the farm with a herd of dogs running alongside you. If you want to do more than just play with the pups, you could volunteer to help with dog grooming or general upkeep at the facility. The sanctuary allows visitors, free of charge, from 9:00am to 12:30pm on select days each month.
And if you happen to catch a serious case of puppy love during your getaway, all the aforementioned shelters will guide you through the necessary steps to bring the lucky dog back home with you. Just remember, pets are a longterm commitment, and not your average travel souvenir.
Know before you go.
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