There are family pets, and then there are pets who are simply part of the family.
No need for a dog sitter, because they go everywhere together — a trend in traveling and living some communities and businesses are accommodating.
Rent.com ranks Tyler fifth in its list of top pet-friendly communities in the nation because 85.2% of apartments listed in its database allow dogs or cats. Its study also revealed Tyler has 15.1 pet-related businesses per capita.
For visitors and residents, Tyler offers more than veterinarians, kennels and groomers for pet support. The city also offers pet-friendly hotels, Airbnbs, dog yards, store and restaurant pet patios and dog parks — including some equipped with dog dock diving and public dog baths. To boot, there’s a local gourmet pet bakery.
Members of the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or SPCA often sponsor pet-friendly events at Tyler restaurants and stores to encourage people to get out with their dogs and to help promote and socialize foster animals.
Melissa Arciniega, a vet tech and medical liaison for SPCA, said these events keep her and others connected to Tyler’s “dog scene.”
“We’re trying to get people out with their dogs and also promote the foster dogs and socialize them more,” she said. “We’ll all sit out on the patio and enjoy getting together with other people, and all the dogs intermingle, too. We play some games, have good food, drinks and all of that.”
Customers and canine companions frequent both Andy’s Frozen Custard locations in Tyler for the free pup cones with a dollop of vanilla custard.
“Andy’s is a great place we go a lot because they give out free pup cones,” said Hayley Cox, a Tyler resident who owns three dogs.
Assistant manager Jessica Espinola said the practice is popular at their South Broadway Ave. and downtown square locations.
People bring pets for their birthdays, after trips from the veterinarian or any number of little special occasions, including puppy play dates. Sometimes doggies even come dressed up.
“It’s just really cute. I like it when they come up with their little friends,” Espinola said. “It’s really cool to see dogs know where they’re at; their noses start going and they get a little fussy, because they know where they are. In the same way the owner is ready for their treat, their dog is ready too.”
She also said employees are quick to provide small bowls of water whenever any of the dogs seem overheated.
Arciniega said she finds Tyler generally very dog friendly and with the SPCA, they see a lot of local restaurants and bars encouraging people to bring their dogs along.
Fresh by Brookshires in Tyler also sponsors a Pooches on the Patio event and sometimes provides music and food for those who enjoy sitting outside with furry friends.
Arciniega and her husband Adam have two Golden mixes, Ginny and Nora, and an assortment of foster dogs.
“We don’t always go places with them, but do more often when the weather is good and it’s not too hot out,” she said. “Ginny is more the patio-type dog, but Nora prefers running, playing and jumping in the water.
It’s not for everybody to bring their dog out,” she added. “You really do have to put the effort into training them and get them used to the social interactions and appropriate reactions to other dogs and people.”
Another popular pet place is ETX Brewery. Located on the downtown square, the brewery conducts the Pints and Pups event monthly and has a small table set up just for dogs.
“You do occasionally get some people who don’t pay attention to where their dogs are at, and not every dog is going to like each other, but generally, they’re good in public,” Arciniega said.
“It happens on occasion that maybe somebody doesn’t bring a leash, or they are not really good with it, like those retractable leashes. We really discourage those, because it doesn’t allow for dogs to meet properly and the owner has like zero control – especially with large breeds.”
Angel Sonnentag, general manager for ETX Brewery, said dogs are just a part of the culture for their employees.
“Everybody who works here has had a fur baby at one time or another; our brewer has six himself. Our ownership has always had dogs. I have two myself, a chocolate lab named Louie and a German Shepherd named Age,” she said.
Head bartender Scott Stoltzfus said the business has a pet patio, along with dog treats and bowls available at the downstairs bar, and they play host for the Pints & Pups event regularly.
“I’m just amazed at how few issues we’ve had with the dogs,” said Sonnentag. “We have pets here all the time, and I’m just amazed at how well behaved they all are.”
The pub also provides a memorial wall where regular customers can bring photos of pets who have passed. Additionally, Pineywood Pets sells homemade gourmet dog treats at a table.
“I absolutely love ETX Brewing Co. as a fun spot to bring my three dogs,” Cox said.
Brendan and Whitney Johnson, who own and operate Pineywood Pets from their home, said they are looking for the right place to expand their bakery and retail business in hopes of also implementing dog training and grooming.
“We’ve got all kinds of stuff,” Brendan Johnson said. “We also market it at farmer’s markets.”
Tyler appears to be a city on the cutting edge for their lucky canine population, but there is still plenty of room to expand this growing interest.
Cox said she enjoys getting out with her dogs and meeting up with other dog owners frequently, and she would love to see more local restaurants with sponsored patio events that include pets, creating more socializing opportunities.
“I’ve never had a negative experience bringing my dogs anywhere in town. It’s such a great community,” Cox said.
“I think there are so many great restaurants here with patios that I frequent a lot that also could accommodate dogs – even if it was only once or twice a month when they held special events. It would give us more options.”
Pamela Stokes is a freelance writer and tutor for Lufkin Independent School District. Born in Canada, Stokes moved to Texas for high school and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University. She has worked for the Tyler Morning Telegraph Courier Times and Henderson Daily News. Stokes resides in Lufkin with her two Border Collie mixes.
Zachary Correa is a photographer from Dallas, Texas, now living in Winona. He considers himself a humanist and naturalist, inspired by John Goodall and Dylan Thomas. Correa appreciates his loving family and his two furry companions, Walker and Molly.
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