Travels with Valentino

Valentino Checking in to the Sonnenalp

Valentino Checking into the Ritz

Anyone that knows me or reads this blog, likely knows that I’m a cat person. I’m a writer and a single woman, so of course I have two cats, Leo and Clara. I love all animals actually. I’d like to adopt a dog someday, but that will come the day I move out of my one-bedroom apartment. Plus there’s so much to know about taking care of a dog—they’re a whole different animal from cats!

I became a doggie-mom in training of sorts this past spring when I did a road trip to Denver (a six to seven-hour drive from Telluride) with my friend Mary Dawn. In the eight years I’ve known MD, she’s always had two Bernese Mountain dogs, gorgeous animals that have since become my breed of choice. I wanted to see the Yves Saint Laurent show in Denver and MD was headed to check out some puppies at Wagontale Bernese, breeders just outside of Fort Collins. (Her noble Smokie Bear had passed away just a few months prior and she was ready to adopt a new baby.) So we thought it made sense to combine our interests and make a trip out of it. Valentino, her handsome Berner, was to escort us throughout our travels. (How appropriate that a dashing fella by the name of Valentino accompany us to the YSL doings.)

“Sorry I’m late,” Mary Dawn said in a fluster. “The cooler spilled over on the way here and I had to clean up the chicken necks.” OK, I thought. Wow, chicken necks.

“No problem,” I always have stuff to do. Is everything OK?” I asked tentatively, imagining that we’d be driving around several days in a smelly SUV.

“It’s fine—I cleaned it up just fine. You know it’s the raw diet. Have to travel with fresh food.”

Valentino Receiving Treats at the Ritz

Valentino greeted me with all the exuberance of an eager suitor. I hugged him and caressed his glossy coat and we were off, chicken necks and all. He traveled happily on the back seat most of the way throughout our long drive. Occasionally he’d come forward and hang in between Mary Dawn and me, watching the road and taking in the scene, an active participant in our trip.

When we arrived at Sonnenalp, a lovely resort in Vail, the valet said hello to him before welcoming us. Tino trotted out and entered the lobby as though he was a regular guest. Up, he went—front paws extended—whoop, right up onto the front desk.

“Whoa, I guess he knows check in procedure,” I said.

Mary Dawn and I laughed and then she said, “He knows there are treats.”

After a quick potty break around the side of the hotel, all three of us settled in nicely to our lovely accommodations, cooler and all. A fridge was delivered and the food was properly stowed. MD served up a huge bowl of chicken necks (what a sight) to Tino and the two of us ambled out for our own dinner.

Next morning, MD was up bright and early, dressed in her sweatsuit and headed out the door to walk Valentino. That’s a plus about having a dog, I thought, as I rolled over in my downy bed. At least it forces you to get up and get going.

In for the Night at Hotel Denver

We stopped outside of Denver so that Tino could be poofed and pampered at a PetCo grooming facility. Next stop: the Ritz. Of course he had to look gorgeous checking into the Ritz. I was already feeling like I was traveling with a celebrity the way everyone was fawning over him. He sashayed into the Ritz with all the confidence of a star walking the red carpet, cooler and chicken necks in tow. A special doggie bed and bowl were offered; MD declined since she covers all bases when it comes to her dogs. We did, however, make good use of the in-room fridge. (Still a lot of chicken necks left.)

Here I swear the staff was fighting over who would walk him. MD and I had a late night, doing up Denver, which I believe made the folks back at the Ritz very happy. Tino really is the sweetest dog you could imagine, very well behaved and genuinely kind. He has so many endearing qualities and when he carries his own little canvas bag filled with his necessities, you just melt. (It was hard getting a picture of that one.)

My love for him grew with each day that passed. I got him to the point where he’d spend a little time on my bed, however, it was hard to keep him away from his mommy. I loved his sense of wonder and curiosity; he seemed interested in all of our activities. His outgoing personality had me—and all those he encountered—practically swooning.

Me Beaming Over the Berner Puppies

After Denver, we headed to Wagontale breeders in Fort Collins. Wow, what an adventure! I’d never been to a dog breeder’s before. So many dogs and puppies of all ages, all wonderfully nurtured under the loving care of Stacy Temples, a Berner breeder for the past twenty-five years. After an abundance of exuberant wuffs, Valentino settled down to meet the pack (except for the real little puppies). MD and Stacy launched into lengthy conversations about the dogs, many of whom were related to Valentino. My eyes glazed over with all the talk of bloodlines, grandmothers, mothers, you name it. But I perked up—even blossomed—when I finally was able to meet the litter of ten pups.

Mary Dawn glowed radiantly as two little fellas in particular showered her with love. This dog thing is pretty cool, I thought. “Maribeth’s thinking about getting a Berner some day,” MD told Stacy.

MD and I chatted about the whole experience on our way to Glenwood Springs. Indeed, I felt like I was embracing the Berner world. And now that I had traveled with Valentino, I was becoming more familiar with the whole dog thing. I was so enthusiastic about MD’s future adoption (she’d have to wait another five weeks) that I put my thinking cap on and came up with a name for him. “How about DaVinci?” I asked. “It begins with a “d” and it also goes well with Valentino.” (The new little guy needed to have a name beginning with “d” since he was from the “d” litter, just as Valentino was from the “v” litter.)

Mary Dawn Glowing Over the Berner Babes

“Oh, that’s wonderful, Maribeth. And you can be the Auntie.” The two of us couldn’t have been happier. Even Tino seemed to rejoice in the news by sticking his head in between us up front.

We checked into The Hotel Denver in Glenwood Springs where we all received a warm welcome. Here it was almost like coming home since the décor is warm and cozy—Valentino fit right in. He looked a little forlorn as Mary Dawn and I headed out for dinner but we knew he’d be fine. Thankfully he was not the kind of dog to bark or cause any kind of disturbance. His belly was full of chicken necks (still a fair amount left) and other healthy foods including raw veggies and ground meat, the daily menu of this well cared for dog. And after some initial sadness, we imagined he’d just nod off to sleep.

We drove back the next day feeling as though we had had a great adventure. We had even had the time to stop and see my brother, David, and his wife, Geri, in Redstone. The highlight of the visit was Tino’s meeting with Little Chief, my four-legged nephew.

Valentino and Little Chief

How wonderful this was for Tino, I thought. Dogs need vacations, too. Then I thought about Leo and Clara. Hmmmm, I know cats aren’t big travelers but I’d like to take them some place special, too. Maybe somewhere they could just roam about on a soft, grassy lawn without the danger of a predator snatching them up. Tino looked up at me and leaned over and nuzzled my neck. He understood. Animals are so intuitive. Maybe he’ll come up with an idea for me. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll all go on a trip together. Mary Dawn also has two cats and I just might get a Berner of my own someday

Keep in Mind

Pet-friendly properties are more the rule than the exception these days. Always ask ahead about their policies. Some places charge big fees, others nothing at all. Do be considerate of others and have a plan in case your dog barks back at the room when you’re out. Not all pups are as sweet as Tino.

Read The Authenticity of Vail and Its Signature Resort:  Sonnenalp for more on the Sonnenalp.

Read Denver à la Française:  A French Whirlwind in the Mile-High City for more on the Ritz-Carlton Denver.

Read The Hotel Denver in Glenwood Springs:  Where Casual Elegance Meets Western Charm for more on Hotel Denver.

Clara Ready for Vacation

Leo, too

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