Three Dog Winery in Picton, Ontario, Canada has one motto: Come. Sit. Stay. And that’s exactly what I did this Covid-clouded fall of 2020. The dog-friendly winery’s expansive backyard and patio overlooking acres of vines is the ideal spot to decompress after a long drive on a singular mission: to find a new dog.
Dog-friendly Three Dog Winery
But first, wine and cheese in the vineyard with the best company: a Golden Retriever named Bakkus. He’s one of three namesake dogs remaining at Three Dog Winery. Unfortunately, Three Dog Winery lost two of their three dogs earlier this year – a loss I relate to considering my own travel companion of eight years, Victor, passed away in July. I miss him each time I get into the car. (He’d visited many dog-friendly wineries with me).
Today, Bakkus is a laidback companion sitting quietly near me outside at Three Dog Winery. Occasionally, he rolls a ball in my direction, but generally prefers, like me, to calmly enjoy the acreage around us. Groupings of seating arrangements dot the yard; in the middle there’s a fire pit, not aflame today thanks to an unseasonably warm start to autumn.
Turns out, Bacchus is not the only dog on the farm. There’s a Golden puppy in our midst.
Unlike Bacchus, I’m extremely interested in the appearance of Harvest – the winery’s newest puppy frolicking on the patio and making this dog-friendly environment even more welcoming. Bacchus has yet to warm up to the new arrival, who’s more interested in the deck floor than smiling for my camera.
Three Dog Winery is dog-friendly (even if Bacchus really isn’t). While I’m sipping my glass, three more dogs filter into the winery property, their humans in tow here to partake in wine tasting flights.
I’m preferring a glass of the house Bacchus (aptly named) wine, a box of crackers and a sealed package of smoked gouda, before I leave with a bottle each of Dog House Red and Dog House White.
Other options? Join the Backyard Pack for $350, and you’ll get 12 bottles of wine shipped to you yearly – three at time. You can also stay at The Vineyard Loft for two-nights minimum above the yoga studio. Oddly, The Vineyard Loft is not dog friendly, so that rules out staying here with Victoria later in November.
Finding A New Dog
That’s right. Victoria. The mission I mentioned earlier is a four-hour drive to check out a litter of puppies – Sprockers, specifically. I’m in the area to check out the last puppy available. Advertised on a Tuesday, all eight siblings were claimed in two days. I’ve got a feeling the final Springer Spaniel/Cocker Spaniel white with black spots female is the answer to help mend the dog-sized hole in my heart.
So, I beeline it out here along the TransCanada Highway from Toronto toward Kingston, Ontario.
Before I secure my new dog with a deposit, however, I’ve got some investigating to do. I want to see that she exists, in what condition and is not a puppy-mill offspring. (There’s a lot of scams online).
What did I do? I got up early the next day and drove almost four hours along the TransCanada Highway, a route I’ve done many times heading to both Kingston and Ottawa, during dog-friendly road trips. Today, I’m without a canine companion but that’s about to begin to change when I arrive at the home of Bailey.
Bailey is a purebred Springer Spaniel living in a rural family home. At the age of four, she’s had one litter of Springers but wasn’t interested in doing it again. So, they left her be – until she took a shine to a friend’s purebred Cocker Spaniel while frolicking outside.
I meet the human family, caring for Bailey and her offspring of nine.
Rolled into a pink towel there she was – the last unclaimed Sprocker prodigy, mostly white with a few black dots, barely a week old. I hold her like a new born and no, surprise: Love at first sight.
Deposit secured, I’ll be back in seven weeks to pick her up, pay the balance and take her to her forever home. Before I leave the driveway, she’s got a name: Victoria. In honour of my precious Victor.
Victoria is the first pet I’ve ‘purchased.’ Of course, I tried to rescue before I searched online ads, but the process was grueling at best, heart-wrenching at worst.
For months, I tried rescue after rescue. I filled in application after application only to be rejected for minor reasons, denied even a meeting because 50 applications for a single small dog was the cut-off, or completely ignored. Shelters and rescues were either completely empty of dogs or void of small dogs. I filled out at least 18 applications. Many rescues, I learned, have a history of rejecting qualified applicants for sometimes questionable reasons, and pandemic restrictions on importing dogs from high-kill America shelters have compounded the problem.
While rescues are well-meaning, I’ve learned I’m not the only qualified home to be rejected – frequently. That’s easily fodder for a future article.
For now, I’m trilled to have met my puppy and am heading home. Mission accomplished.
The Big Apple Dog Run
On the way back home, I pull into a popular stop: The Big Apple in Coborne, Ontario. The looming giant cartoon apple, easily seen from the highway, marks the spot many road-trippers stop. A steady stream of cars exits the freeway and wind its way into The Big Apple parking lot.
What’s here? Apples yes, but very few customers are eating fruit. This is a giant bakery selling apple pies, tarts, crumble, fritters, bread, muffins and more. Add several gift stores of tchotchkes, and now even a brewery, and it’s roadside attraction material. I went home with three kinds of apple cider.
Near the petting zoo – yes, there’s a petting zoo along with mini golf and other outdoor games – is my usual reason for stopping here on every doggie road trip along this major thoroughfare. There’s a fenced leash-free pet run where Victor has stretched his paws many times in the past. The last time we came through in 2019, it was a hot day and he was getting older, so we spent only enough time in the run to pee and drink water.
But knowing where the dog runs are along the highway is important, and there’s not many along the route from Toronto to Ottawa. Inside The Big Apple’s big red ‘barn,’ pick up a coffee and a pie for the hotel room (yes, I’ve done that on previous trips) before you head on your way.
Are there apple dog treats for sale? Of course. Did Victor ever like them? Of course not, but maybe Victoria might. You bet she’ll be seeing the inside of The Big Apple pet run when she’s old enough to travel.
The Big Apple, a roadside attraction with stretch-your-leg activities like mini golf, racket games, outdoor picnic tables, a petting zoo, and plenty of apple bakery treats. Head straight to the leash-free fenced dog run beside the parking lot first. 262 Orchard Road, Colborne, Ontario.
Three Dog Winery, a dog-friendly winery with outdoor patio, wine flights, cheese plates and pizza. 1920 Fish Lake Road, Picton, Ontario.
Dog-friendly stops I’ll be making soon: Sandbanks Provincial Park, Picton, Ontario, is home to the world’s largest bay-mouth barrier dune formation. Two beaches – Lakeshore Beach and Outlet Beach – permit dogs. Unfortunately, there’s no pet-friendly yurt here, but there is in other provincial parks. See list here.