Weekend with the dogs. Best idea ever.
Only thing is, I don’t have a cottage. So, I’m renting at Woodhaven Country Lodge in Ontario, Canada.
The minute I arrive, owner Michael walks me through the door and says, “Don’t worry about them jumping on the couch and bed,” pointing to my dogs. “I don’t care about things like that.”
Clearly, I’m in the right place.
Woodhaven Country Lodge is near Buckhorn, Ontario deep in the heart of Kawartha’s Cottage Country north east of Toronto. Woodhaven isn’t just dog-friendly, it’s for the dogs. Well, it’s for people … with dogs.
“You don’t have to have a dog to stay here,” Michael says. “But we make it clear, there are dogs here.” Very clear. In fact, I first learned about the lakeside wooded cottage resort at Woofstock, an annual Toronto dog festival. Resident dogs, a lab, Rottweiler, and bichon, live at the lodge, but don’t mingle with the guest dogs.
Prior to my visit, I get bumped up from a lodge suite to Jill’s Cottage, one of seven options here. Some units are part of the main lodge where some breakfasts and dinners are served. Jill’s cottage is self-contained, has two bedrooms, a full kitchen, sitting area and deck with barbeque and hot tub. Perfect.
Hand-painted images of dogs surround the bedroom mirror. A painting of pugs peek out from behind a re-purposed window frame and dog-print oven mitts hang in the kitchen. Most importantly, the treed lot off the deck is entirely fenced, so the dogs race in and out the back door freely.
Of course, my dog Victor is here, along with his best canine buddy Sasha, a lab mix. We’ve got Sasha for a week, so what better time to book 72 hours of doggie bliss all together? (During peak summer, the cottage rents for a week minimum).
Three days with two dogs, in the woods, near a lake, with a stack of books.
End result? Best long weekend yet.
Not only can the dogs run in the backyard, chasing chipmunks and barking at wild turkeys outside the fence, they have the run of the property off leash along some trails. We walk the kilometre-long drive into the property and pathways leading to the lakeside dock and a deck over looking the water. We’re particularly lucky here during ‘shoulder season’ because we’re the only guests for three days.
Several times a day, we walk through the property, the dogs running, sniffing and curious … a bit too curious. At one point, Sasha barks furiously at something new and Victor starts running in her direction.
Guess what it is? A porcupine. I was warned to watch for them, and skunks, and this one is hanging out close to the lodge. I wave my arms in the air, calling the dogs, then run the other way. Fortunately, both think chasing me is more fun than learning the hard way – apparently, quill extraction at the local clinic starts at $600.
From then on, we stick mostly to the pathways and spend time on the dock where Sasha, true to her lab roots, jumps in the lake every time. Every time.
Guests can take paddle boats, canoes and kayaks onto Lake Buckhorn, sometimes perfectly calm and sometimes wavy. It’s near the stand-alone cottage available for rent. All are dog friendly. Everywhere is dog-friendly.
“When I first bought the place, we had five golden labs,” Michael says. “It made traveling and visiting difficult. So, I thought, people need a vacation place they can bring the dogs with them.”
Hands down, the best quality time I’ve spent with the dogs in ages.
But here’s the kicker: before we arrived, Victor’s eye infection wasn’t healing and the Vet found several swollen lymph nodes – not a good sign.
While here, I’m waiting on a veterinary oncology report.
That’s one reason I wanted several days of quality uninterrupted time with Victor, free from the distraction of everyday life and watching him play unrestricted with the buddy who taught him to be a friend. Thanks to dog-friendly Woodhaven, mission accomplished.
But not only did I have quality time with Victor, he had quality time with me. Free from stress, the morning rush, playing beat the clock and minor annoyances. Two full days of decompression, unplugged and entirely dog-focused. Victor focused.
I hope to be back, with both dogs especially Victor. Hopefully.