Diwali special: Travelling with paws
The most common term for someone with pets is “pet owner”. But most people these days prefer the term “pet parent”.
I think of myself as a pet parent. The first and most important reason is that I don’t own my pets (a purebred Indie and an Irish Setter and Indie cross), I adopted Simba and rescued Stella, four years ago. The second reason I prefer to be called a parent is that I feel a deep love, appreciation for and attachment to both my dogs. That feeling is something I neither bought, nor own. It’s something my pets honed.
But the fancy, self-important, new-age term and the feelings it incited didn’t stop me from travelling on holidays for days and sometimes weeks, leaving my dogs in the care of my housekeeper or nanny. Clearly, like many pet parents out there, I too had double standards.
Yes, my heart broke every time we backed out of the driveway, waving goodbye as the dogs peered at us through the windows. But in time I evaluated this heartbreak and realized it was actually guilt because even if I couldn’t put them in perforated steel crates and cargo them to Europe, there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t take them on our drives to Palakkad, Puducherry or the dog park 45 minutes away.
So last weekend we finally loaded up the car with our overnight bags, and along with a toddler bicycle, added a bag of treats, towels and toys for our four-year-old dogs.
Both our dogs had driven down from Mumbai to Bengaluru in 2013 and 2014. But years of not travelling in a car had changed them. Simba, a nervous wreck in the front seat, refused to sit down for the 2-hour journey to Hosur, Tamil Nadu. Every bend, curve and bump in the road was met by a steady swerve that would make even the most seasoned surfer jealous. Stella, in the back seat with the toddler and I, had it worse as she battled motion sickness by sticking her head out of the window.
But we finally arrived, after getting lost just once, still sane and happy, at a pet-friendly resort called The Hideaway. As the first family to arrive that day with dogs, Simba and Stella immediately marked the resort section of the 35-acre property as their own.
I learnt a lot of things about my dogs over the next 24 hours. That Simba is a feisty little fool who tries (and fails) to dominate dogs 10 times his weight and size. That Stella is a dream dog, a flower child who loves every blade of grass crunching under her paw and the odd plunge into the lotus pond. They didn’t abandon us in the all-natural and stimulating environment—they stayed close behind while we went exploring the restaurant pavilion, the pool for humans and finally, the pool for dogs.
This first trip with our family of five made me realize that I hadn’t adopted my dogs only to leave them behind while we went off on adventures. I adopted them because I really wanted to enrich their lives. Just as they have helped enrich mine.
Here are a few recommendations for resorts where pets are welcome.
Dune Eco Village & Spa, Puducherry
Situated 14km outside Puducherry, the Dune Eco Village & Spa has something for every kind of traveller, including pets. The property with a private beach and multi-cuisine restaurant has special villas for families with pets and also provides pet meals on site. The Puducherry city centre, a 20-minute drive away, has great options for families looking to explore the promenade in the French quarter, the eateries in the Tamil quarter or just getting lost in long walks through the city’s beautiful by-lanes, dotted with heritage buildings and candy-coloured houses.
Rates per night (weekends and holidays): Rs10,200 onwards for a double room; dogs stay free.
Distance from Chennai: 138km
Contact: 09159550341; firstname.lastname@example.org; Dunewellnessgroup.com.
Tree of Life, Jaipur
This luxurious resort and spa, nestled in the heart of the Aravalli Hills, is located around 22km from Jaipur’s bustling city centre. The property has 13 luxurious villas where your pet can roam freely, though the resort doesn’t offer food for pets on site. The resort, built on 7 acres, is surrounded by lush open spaces. You can take a chef-guided tour of their Eternal Garden, an orchard where organic fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown, and pick fresh produce that the kitchen will turn into a scrumptious meal. Relax with your pet at Serene On The Ridge, an open-air seating area where you can order from a range of drinks and snacks before dinner.
Rates per night (for Diwali): Rs30,400 for a two-bedroom garden villa for four people; dogs stay for an additional Rs2,500; dog meals not provided on site.
Distance from Delhi: about 300km
Reservations: 09602081000; Treeofliferesorts.com.
The Elgin, Darjeeling
Once the summer residence of the maharaja of Cooch Behar, the 125-year-old Elgin is now a boutique hotel that allows guests to keep pets in their rooms—only puppies and toy breeds such as chihuahuas, Maltese and pugs are permitted. They are not allowed in common areas, such as the restaurant, though they can run around on a designated lawn. You can, of course, take your pet outside the hotel, to the tea estates close by in Dooars, or trek up Tiger Hill for its views, and even spend a few moments by Darjeeling’s Peace Pagoda atop Charlimont Hill. The Elgin also has properties in Kalimpong, Pelling and Gangtok, with similar dog policies.
Rates per night: Rs11,039 onwards for a double room; dogs stay free but you should carry their food.
Distance from Kolkata: 615km
Reservations: 033-40646300; email@example.com; Elginhotels.com.
Hideout, Palghar, Maharashtra
This organic farm is known for its sattvic food. Expect clean eating, sustainable living and an active lifestyle. The farm has large rooms that accommodate groups of four and six, while pets stay free. There are a range of activities on and off the property, which include trekking, kayaking, organic farming and cycling.
Rates per night (weekends and holidays): Rs10,000 per night for a single-room accommodating up to four people; Rs12,000 for a double room accommodating up to six people.
Distance from Mumbai: 120km
Contact: 08698446676; firstname.lastname@example.org; Hideout.co.in.
The Hideaway, Hosur, Tamil Nadu
You know a place loves hosting pets when they give it a section in their contact sheet online. The Hideaway is so called because it’s hidden inside the 35-acre Hidden Valley in Hosur, on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. A 55-minute drive from Whitefield, Bengaluru, this place has modest rooms, home-style buffet meals, and prepares special meals based on your pet’s preference. It also has a special pool for dogs. Other activities include walks with the pets, unleashed if you wish, along the property, cycling (Rs50 per hour to rent one of their cycles) and safaris to the Kudremukh National Park and Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, both an hour’s drive.
Rates per night (weekends and holidays): Rs4,000+Rs300 extra per pet.
Distance from Bengaluru: 41km
Contact: 07708132980; email@example.com; Thehideaway.in.
The Den Corbett, Uttarakhand
Established in 1989, The Den, Corbett, is bang in the middle of the jungle so exercise caution when letting your pets off the leash. On the bright side, every cottage has a beautiful view and they are all spaced far away from each other. The resort also has special rooms assigned to families travelling with pets, and an orchard with mango, mulberry, star fruit and lychee trees. Other activities include exploring the vast property, in-house spa treatments, trekking, elephant rides and, of course, day trips to the Corbett National Park, Jim Corbett Museum and Corbett Falls.
Rates per night (weekends and holidays): Rs4,500 onwards for a cottage; pets stay free.
Distance from Delhi: 280km
Contact: 011-40623695; firstname.lastname@example.org; Thedencorbett.com.
Waterfront Shaw, Lavasa
The Waterfront Shaw has studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, equipped with every facility to make the family comfortable, including a kitchenette that comes in handy as they don’t provide pet food on site. Go for long leisurely strolls along the Dasve Promenade, or ride a bicycle and indulge in some water sports along the lakeshore, or just spend a day at their park or video-game arcade.
Rates per night (weekends and holidays): Rs9,100 onwards for a one-bedroom apartment; pets stay free.
Distance from Pune: 59km
Contact: 022-24185236; email@example.com; Waterfrontshaw.com.
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