Dogs are welcome everywhere at The Stanford Inn, except for the pool at the pet-friendly eco-resort in Mendocino, California. To get a water-related fix, pups can check out the nearby Big River Estuary with their owners through the Canine Cruiser series that’s part of the Stanford’s Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too service.
According to co-owner Jeff Stanford, the seven Canine Cruiser canoes have been in operation at the Stanford for about six years. They were created by Rick Hemmings, the Catch a Canoe manager, and boat builder Bob Cummings of Secret Harbor Boatworks in nearby Potter Valley.
“Standard canoes can be unstable for larger dogs,” said Stanford. “Our redwood outrigger canoes are stable, [and dogs] can sit on the supports for the floats. Rick designed inserts (platforms) that sit just under the gunnels to provide a proper place for dogs to sit, lay or stand.”
At 24 feet, the series’ namesake canoe has a maximum dog cargo weight of 500 pounds. The other six are a minimum of 20 feet, and in terms of weight capacity, the next biggest are the two 22-foot Raven canoes that can handle up to 300 pounds of dog weight. The Canine Cruiser canoes are available throughout the year from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m. PST each day. Rental prices for up to three hours are $35 per adult and $15 per child ages six through 17 (children younger than six are free).
Stanford says Big River offers plenty for all to enjoy.
“It is a protected waterway with a variety of wildlife,” he said. “Harbor seals often follow a canoe and pop up around the craft. Fish jump; river otters frolic. Ducks and other birds live along the estuary. There are remnants of logging operations — primarily dams that once held logs that were released on a high tide to float to the mill, which was on the beach at the mouth of the river.”
Before exploration begins, Stanford says guests are provided with a quick lesson on how to paddle the canoe and the best way to navigate Big River.
“An estuary has a current that runs up the river during an incoming tide and down river during an outgoing tide,” said Stanford. “Afternoons are often when paddlers return to the boathouse. This means they have to paddle against an incoming wind and possible incoming tide. The design of the redwood outrigger canoes provides a low profile on the water, a sharp entry to ensure tracking, outriggers for stability and a rudder to reduce exertion to maintain direction.”
The Stanford Inn epitomizes a pet-friendly property in that it has also counted cats, iguanas, parrots and a tortoise among its animal guests. It charges $45 per stay for the first pet and $22.50 for each additional pet. For dogs, the Canine Cruiser series isn’t the only notable amenity. There are water and food bowls, beds, blankets and towels, as well as complimentary treats from the inn’s Ravens Restaurant.