A Dalmatian named Jazz poses on a sandy North Carolina beach. Behind her is green sea grass, blue sky and the iconic striped lighthouse on Hatteras Island. The family photo taken by Jim and Lisa Ann Bauer of Hampton won a national contest and landed their dog on the cover of the 16th edition of "Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook," which goes on sale in May.
The picture was taken last May when the Bauer family made their sixth annual trip to the Outer Banks. They wouldn't think about vacationing without their Dalmatians -- Jazz, 6, Tess, 9, and Indy, 2.
They always vacation with friends who regularly compete with their dogs in agility. The vacation group has eight adults, two children and 12 dogs, including five Border collies and two Labradoodles. Each family gets its own pet-friendly rental in close proximity to each other.
"It's fabulous," Mrs. Bauer said. "We always go the first week in May because the temperatures are milder and better for the dogs. About the time we get to Norfolk, Va., the dogs pick up that we are going to the beach" and get very excited.
Though Dalmatians were not bred to love water, the Bauer dogs "like to go into the water as long as their feet stay on the floor" of the ocean, she said.
Mrs. Bauer said they use the AAA guide to find pet-friendly hotels and campgrounds because they travel frequently to canine competitions. Her husband does most of the agility competitions, and she puts the Dals through their paces in obedience and AKC Rally. Jazz, Tess and Indy are also therapy dogs. Jazz has 30 titles, including a Road Dog title, which he earned running with Mrs. Bauer and Rocky, 15, which Mrs. Bauer describes as "a gaited trail horse."
Dalmatians were originally bred to run alongside horse-drawn carriages for miles on end. That's why the breed is high-energy and are happiest in families where they get a lot of exercise, including running agility courses. Dalmatians also get along well with horses, and that can't be said for all breeds. Herding dogs often chase horses as they try to herd them. Horses hate that, and many will try to kick or bite dogs that do that.
The Bauers do most of their training with Splash 'n Dash K9 Sports in Plum, but they train with other groups, including Keystone Canine Training Club in Baldwin Borough.
For those who have never seen agility competitions, they're fun to watch, as dogs run rapidly through a course, going up ramps, over jumps, through tunnels and weaving around poles.
In addition to cover-girl bragging rights, Jazz won cash, pet treats, copies of the book, a Best Western Travel Card and a Petco gift card.
"Jazz went shopping and picked out treats and toys, which she shared with Tess and Indy," Mrs. Bauer said.
The AAA PetBook is $18.95 at AAA offices and some bookstores. A digital edition is $9.95, available through online booksellers.
The book has listings for nearly 15,000 pet-friendly places in the U.S. and Canada. That includes thousands of AAA-approved, diamond-rated hotels, 800 campgrounds and hundreds of AAA-approved and diamond-rated restaurants that allow pets in outside dining areas.
The hotel listings include fees, permitted pet sizes and conditions of stay. Lodgings range from "clean and simple motels to family oriented properties to luxurious resorts," says the AAA news release.
Go to www.AAA.com/PetBook for pet travel tips and photos of winners and finalists in the cover dog contest. The photo contest for the 2015 book starts in May, and contest rules and entry forms will be available on this site.
Dogs can't run in the Pittsburgh Marathon, but there is a special place for them Downtown the day before the big race.
Next Saturday marks the second annual Purina Pro Plan Pittsburgh Pet Walk. It starts at noon in Point State Park and covers the perimeter of the park. You have until Sunday to go to pittsburghmarathon.com for registration, which is $20 for the first participant and $5 for each additional pet. Or you can register in person at the GNC Live Well Pittsburgh Health and Fitness Expo in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, from 11 a.m. Friday until the start of the Pet Walk.
Pets must be up to date on vaccinations and on leash at all times. Owners must clean up after their pets. Each walker gets a T-shirt and goody bag with pet treats.
Bark for Life
The American Cancer Society Bark for Life of South Hills is a noncompetitive walking event for dogs and owners to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer.
The walk is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the South Park Fairgrounds on Corrigan Drive. Suggested donation is $25, and you can register at the event. There will also be demonstrations, contests and games.
Wildlife rehabbers cited
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is recognizing the wildlife rehabilitation efforts of the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center in Verona.
On Thursday, center director Jill Argall and the staff were presented with a print of a songbird "for their dedication to and caring for Pennsylvania's wildlife resources."
Last year, the center cared for more than 3,000 wild animals that were injured, orphaned or ill. "Patients" included 109 species native to the commonwealth. Last year, 67 percent of those animals were released back into the wild. The national average release rate is 33 percent.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064.