“Is that a hound dog?”
For vacationers with a senior dog, Nantucket offers a chance to romp
Although Odie has traveled with us before — to Buffalo annually for Christmas with my family; to Montauk on Long Island once, years ago, for a night; and to our place in Vermont every few weeks — he hasn’t actually factored into our vacations. Until this summer, we had never planned a dog-focused trip. We had merely brought Odie along when it made sense to do so.
Nantucket popped into my head around March, when abysmal New York weather inspires trip-planning just to have something to look forward to amid the gloom.
Steve and I are not Nantucket regulars, yet we did enjoy a blissful few days on the island for our mini-moon in May 2016. I met a dog that trip, a gorgeous Great Dane whose name I have forgotten, but whose face I never could.
“We should come back here one day and bring Odie. He’d love it,” I remember saying to Steve after noticing how seemingly every shop and restaurant set out water bowls for dogs.
Between life and a pandemic, it took us six years to finally return to the dog-friendly destination, where our No. 1 goal was to show Odie a good time.
I found pet-friendly accommodations at Regatta Inn, where the dog amenities more than made up for the persnickety house dog, Stella, a long-haired dachshund roughly a quarter of Odie’s size, who offered up a low growl every time Odie graced the inn’s lobby with his cheerful tail wags and sweet demeanor. Nantucket Resort Collection General Manager John Bottino said the inn has only been dog-friendly since he came onboard in 2020. The previous owners weren’t keen on canines, but Bottino said he changed the policy, because he wanted to “create a space for the next generation of Nantucket travelers, and those travelers want to travel with their dogs.”
Clearly, I am biased toward hounds, with their sweet faces and mild tempers, but I was not at all surprised by the welcome Odie received on Nantucket, where golden-somethings appeared to be the dominant breed.
For four days, our family of three explored the tiny island off Cape Cod, Mass., playing by the shore on Cisco Beach and relaxing on the sand with books and Born & Bread sandwiches. Once the food was gone, even Odie, who, until recently, wouldn’t think about settling down amid all of the scintillating surroundings, succumbed to exhaustion, dropping his 71-pound frame down with a big, limb-stretching sigh. Watching Odie go from 100 to zero, as a senior dog with creaky joints and tired eyes, is a constant reminder of how little time we have left with him.
Yet, at nearly 12, Odie still plays like a puppy on a daily basis. His energy, no longer boundless but nonetheless noteworthy, belies the fact that he requires more medical care than Steve or I combined. Our rescue hound takes prescription medications to manage an autoimmune skin disease triggered by a May splenectomy. While caring for Odie in his frail, post-op state, I was reduced to tears watching him navigate his recovery with a cone around his neck and pain meds that left him listless and unrecognizable.
Although Odie made a full recovery, Steve and I set aside notions of overseas trips together in favor of spending more quality time with him — which brought us to Nantucket in mid-August via a high-speed ferry from Hyannis, Mass. We briefly considered flying with Odie via Tradewind Aviation, an aircraft operator with a small shuttle service offering direct flights out of Westchester in New York. But Steve, worried that Odie would feel anxious and uncomfortable, rejected that option. Peter Burke, executive director of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email that the majority of the island’s visitors arrive by boat, which he thinks may be a contributing factor to the high number of dogs on the island.
Most restaurants, including upscale spots such as Dune and the interestingly named Or, the Whale, allow dogs in their outdoor dining spaces; we cannot say the same for restaurants in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Burke pointed to the concentration of local, independent businesses peppering the island: Business “owners can set their own dog policies as opposed to larger corporate chains that have national policies,” he said.
One rainy evening, we had to leave Odie alone in the room, and we left him again a couple of nights later to dine at Topper’s at the Wauwinet inn, where only service dogs are allowed. By this point of the trip, however, it was obvious that Odie needed the down time; his typical daily routine of vigorous morning exercise followed by roughly six hours of on-and-off napping was disrupted by our low-key, yet still active, Nantucket schedule.
Evenings were marked by “sniffaris,” a term I became obsessed with after reading “The Forever Dog: A New Science Blueprint for Raising Healthy and Happy Canine Companions,” by Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker. The authors posit that the mental stimulation provided by leading the way on long, non-cardio walks, where slow sniffing and aimless meandering are the point, is good for dogs’ longevity.
In our family, we categorize sniffaris as “budget,” “mid-level” and “luxury,” based on the length of the leisurely walk and how long we’re willing to stand on a random corner while Odie satisfies his curiosity via fast-twitching nostrils and making his presence known by lifting his leg and marking as much territory as his bladder can manage. On one of our first Nantucket sniffaris, Odie discovered a container of dog treats outside the nearby Nantucket Hotel & Resort. He regularly pulled me in the direction of the hotel on subsequent walks, and I rewarded him with two, sometimes three, biscuits.
Odie is frosty-faced now, distinguished-looking despite his potbellied appearance, a side effect of the steroids he’s taking. But he’s still long and lean and has a propensity to run fast, especially when there’s a squirrel to chase back home in Prospect Park — or a Frisbee to catch on a beach in Nantucket.
Where to stay
78 Centre St.
Part of the Nantucket Resort Collection, this inn has a pet-friendly policy and provides amenities for furry friends. Rooms from $139 per night.
Where to eat
Or, the Whale
38 Main St.
Located in the heart of Nantucket’s downtown historic district, this restaurant is open throughout the week, although the showstopping dish, duck carnitas for two, is only available during dinner service. Open nightly for dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.; for lunch Thursday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and for brunch Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner entrees from $32.
Born & Bread: Mercantile and Bakery
35 Centre St.
Lines start early here, where you can enjoy homemade sourdough, blueberry and thyme scones, and beach-ready sandwiches, such as Kevin, made with turkey, Vermont cheddar, mayonnaise, lettuce, vine tomato, red onion and banana peppers. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to noon. Sandwiches from about $12.
120 Wauwinet Rd.
This upscale spot on a remote part of the island offers a tasting menu and a la carte dishes, with many tables providing views of the bay. The wagyu supplement ($70) is worth the splurge, but those with smaller appetites have plenty to choose from via the deck menu. Open daily in season for breakfast, 8 to 10:30 a.m.; lunch, noon to 2 p.m.; and dinner, 6 to 9 p.m. Deck menu served noon to 9 p.m. Seven-course tasting menu from $160; entrees from $45.
What to do
4 Bathing Beach Rd.
Located on the island’s North Shore, Jetties is walkable from the center of town, but shuttles also take visitors ($2 each way, but pups travel free) from the Whaling Museum to the beach every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (mid-June to Labor Day). The beach is wide and flat, the water is calm and shallow, and there are beach facilities.
5 Bartlett Farm Rd.
This expansive brewery, with ample outdoor space, hosts live music and offers tastings and tours. Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
5 Centre St.
The goods in this boutique dog store are Nantucket-heavy, with dog collars and leashes sporting anchors, boats and names of area beaches. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Potential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Travel health notice information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s travel health notice webpage.