For the past 2 1/2 years, we've tried to help Dizzy forget his past.
The 50-pound, black-and-tan mutt survived Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast in 2005 and was brought to Baltimore by the Maryland SPCA. He has mainly become a fit and friendly pooch since landing in our living room as a foster dog and later being adopted by us, but the city's noises and crowds still seem to gnaw at his fragile psyche.
We decided he needed a vacation.
One late April weekend, my husband, Doug, and I packed up and headed to the small and historic resort town of Lewes, Del., which is about five miles north of Rehoboth Beach and about 15 miles north of Ocean City.
We wanted someplace not too far a drive, since we only had a weekend. With Lewes only about 110 miles away, the round-trip in my compact car didn't even use up a tank of gas.
The travel industry has become more accommodating of the two-legged who insist on bringing along their four-legged family members. But we've endeavored to take Dizzy along on holiday before and have struggled to find reasonable accommodations for a couple of days at the beach.
But for this trip, we searched online and found a little bed-and-breakfast called the Lazy L at Willow Creek, just outside of downtown Lewes. Since it was early in the season, a room with a queen bed was a bargain at $150 a night, plus tax and pet fee.
As Joanne Cassidy, one of the innkeepers, noted, there is a difference between "pet tolerant" and "pet friendly." And this place was certainly the friendly sort, provided so is your dog.
There was a large dog run for ball chasing, cookie treats for snacking on, and ear scratching for pleasure. To our surprise, the tidy, fur-free B&B even allows its canine guests on the furniture. Even my mother isn't so sure she wants Dizzy's paws on her sofa.
"We're on a first-name basis with Stanley Steamer," Cassidy said.
The B&B is set back on a lot of land next to a creek that's suitable for bird-watching and kayaking. There are five rooms and a small cottage off the dog run, plus a community kitchen and a couple of community rooms with TVs, DVD players and games. Baby gates keep your dog in or out of the rooms. In your room, an extra sheet is provided for cover because the savvy innkeepers know guests are going to let their dogs sleep in the bed.
Cassidy and Debbie Estes, the other innkeeper, seem to know dog people - and dogs. Dizzy ate up their attention like it was liver snaps.
We arrived late afternoon, and after a quick round of fetch, we headed into Rehoboth to pick up dinner. We were armed by the Lazy L with a list of places dogs are welcome, such as restaurants, beaches and shops. Some places weren't open yet for the season.
We've been to Rehoboth many times, preferring the Delaware beaches that have kept the mass, commercial development to Route 1 outside of the town centers. That development does include a large collection of outlet stores for a pre- or post-beach spree, if your dog is willing to wait outside.
There are a couple of other B&Bs and rental houses in town that allow dogs, as well as some campsites and hotels on the fringes, but the choices are not vast.
On our drive to Rehoboth, we were hampered a bit by some road construction. We headed right for Nicola Pizza for one of the essential beach food groups. Dizzy waited outside while we ordered takeout. The family-owned business makes its own dough and sauce, which it advertises as fat free. Not fat-free is the cheese, plentiful on the pizza, in the stromboli that's called Nic-O-Boli and on the salad.
Our vacation bellies stuffed with shredded mozzarella, we went to sleep early. We were able to leave the room's windows open for a nice breeze. You can't hear the ocean at the Lazy L, but you can't hear traffic or drunken beachgoers either.
Breakfast the next morning was a warm muffin, fruit and a homemade waffle. We missed the other guests even though our dog woke up at 4:30 a.m., excited to start his day despite the dark.
The other dogs were hard to avoid later on. There was a beautiful golden retriever named Heather, a set of happy-go-lucky black and yellow labs named Mya and Porsha, an extra-furry border collie mix named Ralphie and a pair of standard poodles. Somehow, we didn't get many human names.
Of the five sets of guests this weekend - some from as far away as North Carolina and Pennsylvania - only one didn't bring along a dog. It's not a requirement, though not minding dogs and not being deathly allergic to them seem necessary.
Kirk and Paige Kerstetter, owners of the labs, said they have no dog parks in their neighborhood in Winfield, Pa. They had looked for a place where they could meander about without repercussion and swim without an appointment. "We did a Google search to find this place," Paige Kerstetter said.