Paws for thought
WE are driving into Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina region. Driving and searching, through the city centre and out the other side. Driving, driving, scouring street numbers. Our destination is a pre-booked, dog-friendly motel.
Driver and Navigator have a clash of opinion. Time to turn back, surely; we must be halfway to Gundagai. Passenger, a golden cocker spaniel, fills the back seat, unconcerned. It’s near teatime, true, and he’s peckish, but he’s in his element when the Pack is motoring and would be happy if we made a snap decision to drive on to Darwin.
Then through the suburb of Gumly Gumly, there it is: the Allonville Motel. At check-in, meal advice is the truck-stop diner next door (should’ve taken the tip; a bistro steak in town is very ordinary) and, heading for the clean ’n’ comfortable room, a sign advises us what to do with our horses. Now that’s pet friendly. I’m amused by the thought of racing Mr Ed to the breakfast hatch in the morning.
Once it was that all pet-friendly motels were the very last ones on the road out of town, with a view of the boneyards and the local radio station transmitter. Today, the dog dollar talks. It’s an age of puppucinos (coffee and clothes for canines — just say no) and the smart money is on accommodation a star or two up and closer to town.
It pays off. Take a town like Albury, a now-bypassed city on the Hume Highway. In motels that once would have done a cracking trade come nightfall, the No Vacancy signs flicker to life less often. The Allawa Motor Inn, dog friendly, in the city centre, always seems an exception.
A few tips for highway hounds. Book ahead for overnight stays. Websites such as Stayz, Dogzonline and Dogsonholiday have made it easy for destination bookings of several nights. But, en route, don’t count on even large towns having motels with a welcome mat for the mutt. Tip two: Always get a clear definition of pet friendly. At one place, after check-in, we are told, “The animal is welcome to stay in the car.” Rewind: check out. Another place has a cage outside the front door “so the dog can see in”.
Montrose of Ballarat in Victoria gets what it’s all about. A heritage cottage and a goldfields bluestone original, it is ideally located and has had a makeover with more than a dollop of luxe. In its garden under the branches of a rare Ellis Orange apple tree more than a century old, sits a plastic moulded kennel. Ballarat is cold, wet and windy. Spaniel Oscar circles the kennel and looks up with his beautiful Marion Cotillard eyes: As if. The Pack repairs to the fireside indoors. The furnishings and linen are luxury white. I turn a whiter shade of pale and lead by example by sitting on the floor.
In Byron Bay in northern NSW, we stay in a beautiful beach house that is dog friendly but here it’s the humans who are on the leash. Every appliance setting, every switch, indeed every object has a warning label. So, basically, “don’t touch”. Even the teaspoons are regimented: “There are six of these, they are placed here, facing north.” We spend one day of four cleaning, and counting and correctly aligning crockery and cutlery, to ensure the return of a bond. Oscar ponders the physics of a doggie-door, the use of which is a life skill that has eluded him.