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SNIFFING AROUND SARATOGA Most mornings, nose prints on the glass tell Marianne Bark- er that her regulars tried to visit her shop after hours—and probably left with tails drooping in disappointment. As any- one who walks dogs downtown can tell you, Impressions of Saratoga is a first stop on the canine shopping list. “We’ve always welcomed dogs,” says Barker [sic], whose

entryway features a bin of free biscuits and a photo collage of scores of her four-legged visitors. A sign outside says “Dogs and their owners welcome,” and while the former soak up the love and cookies, the latter can browse for dog- and Saratoga- themed gifts like the kerchiefs proclaiming “I’d rather be sniff- ing around Saratoga.”

If Fido sports such a scarf in other parts of the country, it only adds to the woof—er, word—that’s going around: “This is one dog-friendly town!” That’s what www.welcome blogged, adding, “If you haven’t been to Saratoga Springs yet, put this town on your vacation list!” And deems this “one of the most pet friendly cities we’ve had the good fortune to visit.”

Saratoga supports not one but two dog boutiques on Broad-

way. Sara Ellis, of Dawgdom, says there’s probably room for a third. Her shop emphasizes good nutrition, local connec- tions—ComfortFlex collars made in Saratoga, Bread Basket dog cookies, Lazy Dog treats from nearby Ballston Spa—and dog adoption programs. “The store is almost an excuse for the philanthropic side,” she says, but “business is fantastic.” She reports the pet industry keeps growing despite the recession. Noticing trade shows giving more and more space to pet products, Melanie Dallas opened Sloppy Kisses in 2006, selling costumes and outfits, plus fun and healthy treats (anyone for a “pupcake”?), some of which she bakes herself. She soon got the idea that “this big family-oriented community would sup-


port businesses opening their doors to dogs,” so she started the Dog-Friendly Downtown campaign. Nearly 40 businesses now participate, proudly displaying the program’s decals. With your dog in tow—on a leash and well behaved—you can shop for clothing or gifts, browse an art gallery, get a facial, do your banking, even enjoy patio dining at certain restaurants. Many businesses offer water bowls right outside their doors. It’s fun for locals and also draws dog-loving out-of-towners. Pets are welcome at the Holiday Inn, Saratoga Hilton, Resi- dence Inn, and Comfort Inn. The Union Gables Bed and Breakfast (Skidmore’s former Furness House) welcomes dogs of all sizes—“we don’t discriminate,” says innkeeper Ardie Pierce—to snooze in guest rooms and hang out on its wrap- around porch.

Saratoga hosts dog events year-round, and dogs go along on all manner of charity walks and runs. Summer “yappy hours” at the Gideon Putnam Hotel are well attended, as is the July Fourth “patriotic pooch” parade. The popular midwinter Chowderfest often includes a canine division. This fall marked Sloppy Kisses’ sixth annual Canine Howl-O-Ween Costume Contest, with proceeds benefitting the local Humane Society’s extra pet care in the wake of hurricane flooding. Dawgdom hosts puppy social hours and collaborates with a photographer on projects such as a rescue-dog calendar and a photobooth benefitting the Saratoga Dog Park Fence Fund. Ellis heads up that fundraising effort, to fence in what is now an informally sanctioned off-leash gathering spot on state land across from the National Museum of Dance.

Dogs would sit up and beg for such a safe place to run free. For now most canines content themselves with nosing around Saratoga’s sidewalks while tethered to their humans. And no- body’s whining about that. —KG


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