Photo by Kira Stackhouse
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There are hidden treasures all over San Francisco that suggest why we have more dogs than children within the city limits, and why Tony Bennett left his heart here. One of my favorite outings with my dog is walking through the Presidio of San Francisco. Depending on your particular mood, you can either socialize with people or escape into a grove of eucalyptus trees and onto a quiet path for solitude. Visitors often know about famous San Francisco landmarks such as Golden Gate Park, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge, but the Presidio, a former army base dating back to 1776, is a gem that people are surprised to discover when they visit the city.
Whether you walk or drive into the Presidio, the wide-open expanse of grass known as Crissy Field must be the world’s biggest green welcome mat for dogs, as well as people. It may be a behemoth compared to the average city park, but if you didn’t know what you were looking at, this national park would be easy to miss. It is well integrated into the urban landscape but worth discovering, and exploring. Signage along trails and markers for historical buildings are prevalent, encouraging exploration of the park. Clearly marked routes allow you to avoid busy roads with bicyclists and joggers headed to Fort Point. The reward for spending time in this enormous urban national park is that each season brings out unique wildlife experiences. You might hear pairs of nesting Red Tail Hawks high above, see a mother fox with her kits hurry through the underbrush, or seals barking at fishermen down at the water. Dotted along many paths on the Presidio property are complimentary dog waste bags alongside trash bins. If your dog gets thirsty, some water fountains feature special low bowls or modified spouts to make it easy to hydrate canine friends. It’s a thrill for you and your dog to enjoy the great outdoors this way without leaving the city limits.
San Francisco’s mild year-round climate is inviting, especially during the times when parts of our country are covered in snow or getting daily downpours. However, what really surprises visitors traveling with or without their dog are the many neighborhood shops and shopkeepers who are dog friendly. Walking along the city streets, you will find shops with water bowls outside on the sidewalk waiting for thirsty dogs to take drink. The storeowner may not have dogs of their own but their attitude is welcoming. In my neighborhood, we have found stores with large plastic containers of doggie treats inside waiting to be handed out at the cash register. Some stores may not always want your dog inside, but many have installed wall-mounted “hitching posts” with cute signs outside, to attach your dog’s leash while you are inside. With a water bowl included, dogs needing to wait outdoors are not forgotten, and are more comfortable than just being tied up to a parking meter. But not all shopkeepers require dogs to wait outside. You can find shops with signs welcoming you to bring your dog inside with you if they are well behaved, whether carried or on leash. A guide with a current list of dog friendly shops, places to stay, trails to hike, and up-to-date leash laws is The Dog Lover's Companion to the San Francisco Bay Area: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog (Dog Lover's Companion Guides) by Maria Goodavage and Phil Frank.
For some of us, our four-legged buddy is our dearest travel companion. San Francisco understands this special bond, and many chic hotels not only allow pets but they roll out the red carpet for their four-legged guests. When you check in with a dog, the Kimpton Hotels in San Francisco provide door hangers that alert others guests and staff that your pet is in the room. What visitors often don’t know is that many taxicab companies, like DeSoto Cab Company, are happy to accommodate you and your pooch if you just call ahead and let them know you have a dog with you. This not only saves you the trouble of waiting for the right taxicab, but you know when you step inside that the driver will be accepting of your dog as well.