Five Pet Owners Share Their Favorite Dog-Friendly Spots

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Follow these pups on Instagram for even more inspiration on dog-friendly outings

By Jessica Stringer

Jessica Edwin met her dog, Maggie, during an Independent Animal Rescue event at Phydeaux in Chapel Hill. “It was love at first sight,” Jessica says. “She was just really cuddly and cute.” Four-and-a-half years later, Maggie, a mix of Staffordshire terrier, Rottweiler and a few other breeds, is most at home in Chancellor’s Ridge with Jessica and her husband, Matt Edwin. “We have a wonderful backyard [where] she loves to chase squirrels, so we play there a lot,” Jessica says. She explains that Maggie is dog reactive. “Not every dog wants to hang out with other dogs, and she’s just one of those.” Jessica says. “We’ve really put an effort in making sure that she gets the same experiences.”

One of Maggie’s favorite spots is Herndon Park near their house. “We like to just sit and watch people play sports,” Jessica says. “We walk around, and Maggie sniffs [all] over. She loves people and she loves exploring.” Jessica says they always have treats at the ready, and they’ve completed training to help Maggie get through a situation. Another fave is Falls Lake. “My dad has a boat up there, so we’ll take her out on the boat,” she says. “Falls Lake is really quiet, and we can just have our own time. We can park at a beach, and Maggie can swim.”

When they need to go out of town without Maggie, they bring her to The Pet Wagon Hotel. “She can have her own space,” Jessica says. “She gets one-on-one attention from the staff.”

The first place in Durham that Heather Schmitz took Stella, her 6-month-old mini Bernedoodle, was the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. “I wanted to socialize her, so I took her on their back patio, where dogs are allowed,” she says. “[Stella and Hudson, our 2-year- old mini labradoodle,] could just chill out back there. It was a nice place to hang out and look out at the golf course.” Heather, her husband, Robin Schmitz, and their pups, who are half siblings, also frequent Ponysaurus Brewing Company. “They are super dog friendly there,” she says. “Hudson’s been with me a few times – he loves to just look at all the other dogs and jump on my lap and look around.”

They live a few minutes from Duke University Hospital, so Sarah P. Duke Gardens is not far for sneaking in a visit during the hours the gardens allow dogs, which are before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. “Another place [we love] is For Garden’s Sake, a garden center,” Heather says. “They do not mind if you bring dogs along to shop. I’ve brought Hudson there several times for little photo shoots for his Instagram. They also have live music events in the summer with a food truck that you can bring your dog to as well. Hudson enjoyed that last summer. We will surely attend again this year!”

The family enjoys time outdoors and can most often be found walking Cox Mountain Trail at Eno River State Park. When the pups need grooming, Heather takes them to U Dirty Dog Self Wash Spa. “The owner’s name is Whitley Evans,” Heather says. “She’s really great. I just drop them off, and she takes care of them in a few hours.”

Finally, Heather recommends treats for humans and dogs at LocoPops. “Hudson likes the pup pops,” Heather says. “The dogs can’t go in there, but I brought him home some pops made with banana and peanut butter.”

When Kisha Buie’s friend made an Instagram account for her dog five years ago, Kisha was inspired to do the same for her pup, Kingsley. Kisha and Sonté Buie, her twin sister and East Durham roommate (pictured left), eventually expanded their pack to include goldendoodle Charlamagne, 3, and Majesty, a standard poodle who will be 8 months old in August.

The sisters go to Piney Wood Dog Park every now and again with friends. “Kingsley is very active, so we like to walk with her on the American Tobacco Trail to get her energy out,” Kisha says. “It’s flat, so it allows us to keep up with our dogs. It’s nice and shady and easy to access.” 

One entry point in particular is close to another favorite spot, Oliver’s Collar Dog Treat Bakery. “We can park there, go for a walk, come back, get some fun toys, food or anything for the dogs, and then we’ll be on our merry way,”Kisha says.“We [also] love to get birthday cakes from there.”

When Kisha and Sonté want to grab a beer, they head to Hi-Wire Brewing with Kingsley since it’s got plenty of room inside and out. “I think Boxyard RTP is actually our spot right now – we’re obsessed,” Kisha says. “They have a little dog park and Meat & Graze, where you can get a charcuterie board for dogs. Beyu Caffé has great coffee for humans while BuzzyBakes Bakeshop has pup cups. Boxyard has live music, a lot of rescues come out for adoption events, and they just had a pop-up market for dogs.”They also recommend another vendor, Medicine Mama’s Farmacy, for CBD items. “In case you’re worried about your dog being overstimulated by the sounds and noises – sometimes the bands that are playing might be really loud or there might be tons of people there – you can just pop in and get CBD pet treats that help calm your dog down.”

When they want to show their Bull City spirit, they shop for tees and bandanas at Hometown Apparel on Ninth Street. “Our dogs are very large, so we can even put them in some of the kids T-shirts,” Kisha says.

“This is the most dog-friendly place I’ve ever lived,” says Bonnie BoWell, who lives with her wife, Celia-Bess Cotton, near Duke’s West Campus. She and Celia-Bess love to walk through their neighborhood with Calypso, who is 6 or 7 and from Hope Animal Rescue, and Anisette, 2, in September and from The Animal Protection Society of Durham. “I also volunteer at APS, so I know there are wonderful dogs there,” Bonnie says. “The people are amazing and really love the animals.”

Bonnie named Boxcar Bar + ArcadeMotorco Music Hall’s Parts & Labor and Fullsteam Brewery as some favorites for her pups. She also loves Guglhupf’s patio for brunch and Cocoa Cinnamon on Foster Street. Other frequented spots include Bull City Ciderworks with its “wide selection of ciders on tap and great space inside and outside.” She leans toward Spruce Bringsteen, a semisweet, Christmas tree-infused cider with a citrus finish, and Upcide Down, a pineapple cider.

Beer Durham near Durham Central Park is a nice little spot, too,” Bonnie says. At The Boot Room, she’ll order a burger and fries or fried pickles. Calypso and Anisette are fond of the people- and dog-watching opportunities next door at Beer Study. “Our dogs are very friendly,” Bonnie says. “They just get really loud, especially when there are other dogs there.”

And when they need some time in the great outdoors, they head to Duke Forest. “There are plenty of trails there that we like to take them on,” Bonnie says. “Sometimes we go for a hike on the weekends. I’ve taken the dogs on a day off from work by myself.”

After a breakup in 2019, North Durham resident Hannah Mingus dropped by the Animal Protection Society of Durham. “‘I’m just gonna go look at dogs to cheer me up,’” she thought, “‘but I’m not gonna get one.’” Hannah asked the staff if they ever have bichon frisés available to adopt, as she had two growing up. They told her that purebred dogs were rare and got adopted quickly. While she sat in the lobby filling out paperwork for a dog visit, a woman walked in who was returning a bichon for being “too much work.” Hannah recalls thinking, “This is the universe telling me I have to get this dog.”

Today, she and 6-year-old Wally are inseparable. “I take him anywhere that he’s allowed,”she says. “We went to [the Durham Bulls’] Bark in the Park recently. He was so happy the whole time.” She counts EverLou Coffee Co. as a favorite and even hosted a meetup there in July with special drinks like the Lucky Strike, a smoked caramel latte, and The Wally, a pumpkin white mocha. Wally always gets a pup cup with nondairy whipped cream.

Hannah says they also love Whisk & Rye, both the brick-and-mortar bakery on University Drive and its trailer that’s parked at Northgate Park on Sundays and Wednesdays. (“During the holiday season, they have the best gingerbread latte I’ve ever had in my life,” she says.) She’ll typically get a pastry and a coffee from the trailer and sit at a picnic table before walking by the 1960s-era Brontosaurus dinosaur hidden along the Ellerbee Creek Trail.

Hannah and Wally often grab a bite to eat at Namu. “They have the big garden area out back,” she says. “There’s lots of good seating, it’s pretty spaced out, and you can bring dogs inside the beer hall [while you order or to] eat your food if it’s cold [outside]. It’s nice that you don’t have to worry about taking turns to go in and having someone wait with the dog.”

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