Tongue in, paws up, and tail back, I soar through the highest hoop like a fur missile. Fifty pounds of goldendoodle hurtling toward the next challenge—a ramp like the kind I want my family to get for the car. On paper, I’m two. In dog years, I’m 14. One day, I’ll have a hard time jumping into the family SUV. But my ability to get in that car is critical. It means I don’t get left behind.
From the top of the ramp I have a killer view of KUA Cumbie Canine Court—large dogs on the left, small dogs on the right, a pair of boxers chasing each other through the crawl tunnel, a Chihuahua getting a boost at the Fido & Me water fountain, and a sleek collie racing through the weave posts. I swear I’m at Westminster until a familiar whistle wakes me from my reverie.
“C’mon Tugs, time to go.” I don’t even mind going back on the leash. Time to smell the rest of Kissimmee’s Mill Slough Park.
When I heard Mom and Dad say they were taking the kids to Kissimmee over spring break, I made a mental note to bring my strongest puppy eyes game until they agreed I could come. But, my baby browns can’t take all the credit for me being here. I overheard them saying Kissimmee seemed as four-legged-friendly as family-friendly.
“Table for five?” asked the waitress. Everyone within earshot looked down at me and laughed. “That’s a first,” Dad said. “But yes.” From our table on the sidewalk in front of Market Street Café, the people and pet watching was prime. Across the street, the lakefront was dotted with wooden rocking chairs and a sea of green. Mom read my mind. “Tugs, we can hit up the lake’s trails to burn off our breakfast,” she said while helping the kids attack a stack of Oreo pancakes. Dad read my mind, “Sorry Tugs, dogs can’t have chocolate.”
An hour later, the roles were reversed as I futilely tried to savor each bite of my frosted pupcake from Woof Gang Bakery. Topped with specialty peanut butter and honey ice cream—made specifically for dogs—it screamed “INHALE ME!”
While Mom and Dad inquired about grooming services, I followed the kids around what can only be described as a sensory overload. The savory smells coming from wooden baskets brimming with rawhide bones and antler chews competed with the sweet aroma of iced cookies in people food shapes. Taco cookies? I’d sit, shake, roll over—heck, I’d even play dead—for one of those.
What Woof Gang was to me, Old Town was to my family. We spent much of the afternoon at this outdoor shopping promenade meets amusement park. I didn’t go into all the stores with them—Dad preferred to stand guard with me outside—and I certainly didn’t ride any of the rides—Mom volunteered to take photos and watch me—and even I was exhausted.
Since Old Town is not the kind of place you can visit without taking a family photo, we ended the afternoon in its themed portrait studio. While everyone else poked their heads out of 19th century period clothing—those petticoats!—I only had to manage a top hat. Around my neck I sported my spiffy new bow tie collar, courtesy of Woof Gang’s clearance rack. Who says souvenirs can’t be stylish?
The next morning, I slept in like it was the Saturday in a week filled with Saturdays. Judging by the friendly reception the guest toting the cat crate had received in the Celebration Suites lobby, this was definitely a pet-friendly property. I snoozed in our suite until I heard those familiar four sets of footsteps in the hall. Ignoring the Do Not Disturb sign, they marched in, and my nose went nuts.
They smelled like a farm on legs! Chickens, cows, goats, rabbits, sheep, and something on Dad’s shoe hinted at potbellied pigs. The kids were saying they already missed “their” ponies. They must have been to that Green Meadows Petting Farm they’d talked about in the car. I was happy for them, but selfishly, I hoped they weren’t too petted-out.
Mom walked in reeking of adrenaline. “I can’t believe I just ziplined over an alligator breeding ground,” she mused. “And Nile crocodiles,” Dad added, sporting a Gatorland t-shirt—I was glad I’d spent the morning dreaming of room service and belly rubs.
I got my exercise in that afternoon when we walked around Kissimmee’s Lakefront Park. If we’d been wearing pedometers, my total step count would have tripled theirs—combined. I think I also saw more birds than they did. There’s a fine line where bird watching becomes bird chasing, but I didn’t cross it. They say all dogs go to heaven, but I’m not taking my chances.
“Good dog,” the waiter said, patting my head as he set a dish of water down in front of me. We were at a table, for five, on the outdoor patio at Broadway Pizza Bar in downtown Kissimmee. Mom and Dad were drinking beers, the kids sipped chocolate milk, and I watched table six’s Supreme pizza as attentively as I’d watched the bald eagle that had flown over us at Lakefront Park.
“When does happy hour end?” Dad asked the waiter. My whiskers twitched with embarrassment. Did he seriously just ask that? What a silly question. Here in Kissimmee, every hour seemed like happy hour. Or as we dogs like to call it, yappy hour.