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Four-Legged Adventures

Family fun and summertime go hand in hand. All too often, though, our four-legged family members get left behind when everyone else heads out. Sure, your cat probably prefers it that way, but if you’ve seen one too many hangdog expressions from your canine companions when you depart for a day of adventure, maybe it’s time you do something about it.

“Dogs aren’t any different than people,” says Orlando resident Alex Peaks, whose family often includes their pooch Oscar in their daytrip plans. “Leave them in the house too long, and they get stir crazy. In Oscar’s case, we like taking him along for the ride.”

Luckily for you and your pets, the Greater Orlando area has plenty of options for making animal companions a part of your plans. Dog parks, pet bakeries, nature trails, glamorous photo sessions and more await those looking to make a day of it with their furry friends—and yes, we have some selections for the cat lovers out there, too.

Dining and Shopping

Human, dog or cat, one thing’s for sure: We all love to eat. Happily, the foodie trend that’s blossomed in Orlando in recent years isn’t limited to restaurants—we also have access to a range of gourmet pet-food bakeries. Furthermore, pet-supply stores such as PetSmart and Petco, among others, invite guests to bring their pets along for the shopping.

“In my opinion, the best bakeries/pet-supply stores are Pookie’s Pet Nutrition & Bow Wow Bakery and The Doggie Door in Winter Park,” says area resident Mary Brill. “Pookie’s bakes their treats on the premises, and The Doggie Door sponsors two events per year to support greyhound adoption.”

Speaking of The Doggie Door, this artisanal answer to big-box pet stores doesn’t just sell products for pets. It also has much to offer those of us who walk on two legs, including travel bags, lamps, memorabilia, wine and gourmet food.

Located in the Dr. Phillips area, Bark Avenue Bakery features homemade dog treats, dog birthday cakes and dog beds. They don’t sell anything for cats, but that could have something to do with their CEO, which in this case stands for Canine Executive Officer: an adorable sheep dog named Winston. Still, he does seem to be a kind-hearted soul, given that he’s OK with his staff teaching others how to open their own dog bakeries for a one-time, non-recurring fee.

Finally, Woof Gang Bakery is a national chain, but its corporate office is in Orlando with multiple retail locations in and around Central Florida. Not only can you bring your pet with you to shop for food and me rchandise, but the stores offer grooming, boarding and veterinary services.

Bark at the Park

Along with nature trails, dog-friendly and off-leash parks are sprinkled throughout the Greater Orlando area. For centrally located residents such as Clinton Euler, the dog-friendly section at Lake Baldwin Park is frequently the go-to destination.

“We love Lake Baldwin Park because of all the room to roam,” says Euler. “[My German shorthaired pointer] Georgia loves to splash in the water and check out the woods inside the park. And you’re always sure to meet new people.”

Peaks and his family’s dog Oscar also prefer Lake Baldwin’s dog park. “It’s big, well-kept and has lots of room and a washing facility for when your dog runs into the lake then rolls around on the sandy beach,” says Peaks.

Lake Baldwin is hardly the only game in town. In addition to that location, other dog parks in Orange County include Barber Dog Park, Barnett Park Dog Park, Downey Dog Park, Dr. Phillips Dog Park, Meadow Woods Dog Park, Summerport Dog Park, West Orange Dog Park and Yucatan Dog Park. In Seminole County, notable dog-friendly parks include Beck Ranch Dog Park, Hound Ground, Paw Park and Pawmosa Park.

Also, don’t lose sight of the abundance of nature trails and state parks that are within easy driving distance for Central Florida residents. For instance, Euler and Georgia have gone hiking in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, but there are many to choose from. Information on your local trails and greenways can be found at FloridaStateParks.org.

Photography and More

You probably have pictures of your pet—but do you have high-quality, professional shots of the little rascal? Or better still, breathtaking images of you and your pet together? If not, numerous pet-photography studios in Greater Orlando have you covered.

For example, Le Puparazzi Fine Art Pet Photography specializes in dogs and cats alike. That’s right, owner Donna Miller is able to get felines to stand still for photographs. “You might think your pet would never cooperate long enough to have a photo shoot, but trust me, they always do it,” says Miller. “My trick is to spoil and entice them with organic/holistic treats, lots of fun love and an artistic flair.”

Despite their canine-centric names, Hot Dog! Pet Photography and Photohound Photography don’t just work with dogs; they’re willing to snap your cat, too. Local dog-only pet photographers include Pix ‘n Pages Photography and Angie Kerins Photography.

Another possibility for cat-lovers is Winter Springs’ A Fantasy Forest, which has been in business since 2006 and makes “the ultimate cat tree for spoiled-rotten kitties.” While your cat won’t necessarily want to shop there with you, he or she would likely appreciate a custom cat tree, which are made by the company based on customers’ specifications. After all, outside of your cat, no one knows what he or she likes better than you.

Already taken your pet to all of these places? Maybe he or she would like to join you for a long drive on any number of open roadways on Orlando’s outskirts, or even for an out-of-town excursion—and we’re talking way out of town via Orlando International Airport.

“Southwest Airlines is pet-friendly,” says Brill. “They allow you to take two small dogs or cats in one carrier that will fit under the seat.” Check with your airline of choice to see if they’ll also allow your four-legged friends to ride in the cabin with you.

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