Travelling to Key West with a Small Dog
After spending a few days in Key Largos with nothing to see on land, the bipeds were itching to have a town to visit and something historical to enjoy. So we decided to get a move on and start driving/travelling to Key West with a small dog … me! So, we all woke up early one morning and got in the car and drove the spectacular route between Key Largos and Key West. For me it was a two and a half hour symphony of scents coming in from the open windows.
The bipeds were in love with the scenery, the clear blue skies and sunny day. The near lack of land, the huge expanse of ocean and all the sail boats on the water was just splendid. They found it fascinating to see King Fisher birds on the phone lines, as well as Pelicans and other ocean birds hanging out on the many “old” bridge skeletons. It seems that when the new highway and it’s new infrastructure was erected, the old ones were not demolished but simply closed off to traffic and people and left to deteriorate on their own over time. It made for a most fascinating phenomenon as you could watch sea birds nest and take over the space as safe havens from the unpredictable waves, the winds and predators.
Eventually we arrived in Key West; a small map our hotel had given us indicated the tourist office where we made our first stop. I was welcome there in the nice air-conditioning and the lady behind the desk assured us that I was allowed anywhere. That turned out to be true with some exceptions – but more on that later. Armed with a more detailed map and two tickets for the open air trolley bus tour, we went off to find parking. I assure you it’s a complicated business in Key West but the bipeds followed the directions and found the “affordable” and central parking that had been drawn on the map.
We got out, and I immediately found a tree and some grass to relieve myself. Aaaaaaah….
The day was getting warm already, but armed with poop bag, treats and a bottle of water we all marched off in search for the trolley tour. Unfortunately, the tourist office lady was wrong. I wasn’t welcome on the tour. Just a few months earlier a new by law had passed banning pets on any public transport. Even the open air tourist trolley tour would not allow me on board – much to the grief of the guy working there who thought I was the cutest thing he’d ever seen. The bipeds were upset, but did not argue and only asked that the tickets be reimbursed. That meant going back to the tourist office before we left Key West at the end of the day.
So we decided to do our tour of Key West on foot using our map.
Here are my observations supplemented by the opinions aired by the bipeds at the time. Key West, use to be really amazing and there is evidence of that all over. This town has some amazing old charm, the problem is you have to be able to see through the now heavy curtain of tourist shops and tourist trap style restaurants catering to the cruise ships to see any of it. Squished between two such places for example is the oldest house in Key West. It is not only dog friendly; it is free (The bipeds left a small donation when they signed the guest book). It’s beautiful and authentic and gives you an amazing feel for what life must have been like at the time. I absolutely loved the centuries of smells all around. You start to understand why the kitchen is a separate room outside of the home – in a time when there was no air conditioning – at around noon when the sun gets to be horribly hot. It isn’t just to keep the biggest fire hazard away from the main home, trust me!
Yet even with the midday heat, we all got hungry.
Unfortunately, at around the same time they changed the public transit bylaw, they also changed the restaurant patio by-law. They all use to allow dogs on patios and no longer do. But we did find an amazing little French baker that had the most delicious sandwiches and pastries that had no issue with my being on the patio since all the food is served “to go” thus circumventing the by-law. So you can still find those that will welcome us canines (The bipeds asked out of curiosity and we found a few more places that were more than willing later in the day – a little further away from the really busy more central part of town).
After a good rest and feeding – in my case a delicious slice of ham, baby carrot, chunk of hard cheese with a side of clean and fresh cool water… our adventure continued. We met some amazing people on our search for the authentic Key West. There was a lady on a Harley raising funds for a charity, a gentleman running a lovely cigar shop who welcomed me in to relax and cool off and have some water. We stopped in at some art galleries that were in love with me the moment I set my paw on their welcome mat. We browsed some wares at an adorable pet boutique and walked all the way to the southern most point of the continental USA. There is a small beach there that isn’t dog friendly – but the pier is and we walked all the way to the end – looking out into the horizon I swear I could almost smell the exotic scents of Cuba!Trivia Note: The monument marking the Southern Most point is NOT in fact the Southern Most point of Continental USA! That specific piece of land is on the adjacent military base and is, for obvious reasons, closed to the public. So …the monument is the next closest place for us “non military personnel”.
We circled meandered taking the back roads and discovered the old lighthouse – we had fun walking around it and again they had no issue with my presence. They just asked I remain on leash or in someone’s arms. We found many of the old homes of the richer merchants, and many a poet including Tennessee Williams and one place where the poet Ernest Hemingway use to stay. Once back where we had started our exploration, we walked around the shopping area and I was greeted with many a “oooh” and “aaawe how cute!”. One lady from a cruise ship even threatened to dognap me! Imagine! I was allowed into almost every little shopping center and store. I was always greeted with respect and sometimes even with a dog treat.
We returned to the tourist office for our refund and on our way out of Key West decided to take another road. This one passed by the Key West Off Leash Dog Park . The bipeds were curious so we stopped and we went in. It was worth it! The place is big, clean has poop bags, benches and trees for shade. It is split into a big dog section and a toy dog section. We mingled and I made some new friends. Some locals told us about the dog beach nearby and the work they are all doing to try and reverse the new “no dog” by-laws.
Near the dog park is an amazing pier. This pier has a memorial to all those that have died because of AIDS in Key West. It’s a sobering moment … names are still added every year of the black granite slabs. There is also the monument to the African Slave Cemetery there; another memorial to a slave ship that was brought ashore on the beach there. The slaves almost all died of many diseases. The few miserable souls that survived were put on a ship and brought back to Africa, with no regard from where in Africa any of them had actually came from. It is a testament to Key Wets that they honour those that died and the memorial stands as a permanent reminder of the humanitarian efforts of many and a dark moment in their history.
With a long drive back to Key Largo ahead of us, we left as the sun set most spectacularly in the rear view mirror.
In review: Travelling to Key West with a small dog was a little disappointing. It isn’t as pet friendly as it once was. But it is still very pro canine by North American standards. The new bylaws are unfortunate. The place is slowly becoming as tacky and touristy as any other Caribbean Cruise ship stop, but if you know where to look and take the time you will find the old charm of the place is still there. The people are warm and welcoming any many are not happy about the new unfriendly dog bylaws. I believe that the pro dog lovers will prevail and we will see a return to the way things were. We had an amazingly fun time and although we would likely not go back unless the bylaws change back – we are glad to have had this experience.