This year, our youngest child settled fully into college life, and I got an eight-week-old puppy. I claim these two facts are wholly unrelated, but Bruegel the Boston terrier will never leave my house for a dorm room, much less start dating a musician. Upon his arrival, I morphed into the kind of person I used to mock as “puppy whipped.” I have repurposed my 20-year-old baby sling, I have a collapsible water bowl dripping in my purse, and I almost said no to a romantic Lowcountry getaway with my husband because I couldn’t leave “the baby.”
But only almost. Between carry-on luggage built for cats and dogs and whatever supplies are needed to tote an emotional support peacock, pet tourism has become a billion-dollar-plus industry. Everything we needed to hit the road with Bruegel was a click away We rebranded the trip as a “puppymoon,” and headed for Savannah, a city that prides itself on being pooch friendly.
Sure enough, our dog-welcoming hotel options ranged from affordable chains all the way up to four-star riverfront properties. I chose the historic East Bay Inn, steps from lively River Street and housed in a beautiful building from the mid-1800s. The Old World charm of high ceilings, vintage furniture, and hardwood floors was lost on Bruegel, but we appreciated it, as well as the luxurious bedding and delightfully modern bathroom. Best of all, our room had a private courtyard that let us slip out the French doors in our PJs for Bruegel’s 2 a.m. constitutional.
At check-in, we were gifted all-natural dog treats from Oliver Bentleys and a map that highlighted more than 40 dog-friendly businesses and activities, including a blissfully cool nighttime ghost tour. The next day, we wandered from dog-welcoming store to store, sampling Byrd Cookie Company’s famous Key Lime Coolers (us) and peanut butter dog biscuits (Bruegel) before snagging our book club’s pick at E. Shaver, a flagship indie bookstore (be warned, only the Starland location welcomes your well-behaved pups, as the other has resident cats). We beat the afternoon heat introvert style, lounging in the shade at Gallery Espresso enjoying iced coffees and reading. We tried, anyway; Bruegel is a people puppy. He greeted every passerby as his new best friend, and most paused for an ear scratch and a chat.
We had a delightful date night dinner at Cha Bella, an upscale farm-to-table joint with a large, covered patio that was cool enough to be pleasant by 6 p.m. The deep-green color scheme and the breezy little swings hung around the periphery made for a romantic atmosphere. Bruegel charmed our waiter so much that half that the staff left the air-conditioning to come meet him. He then obligingly passed out in his sling before we finished cocktails. We were able to enjoy uninterrupted conversation, an innovative take on a caprese salad made with burrata and pesto, and a perfect shrimp and crab risotto, all with no puppy face pushing desperately toward our plates.
Alas, our refreshing break from ordinary life ended back at the hotel. We popped Bruegel in his crate, but he wept until we relented and let him in the bed. He wriggled his joyful way into the very middle, right between us—just as if we had never left home.
Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 novels, including the recently released thriller With My Little Eye.
This article appears in the Fall 2023 issue of Southbound