Leash-free: Lakedale made my senior shepherd feel young again

By Kari Neumeyer

A fellow passenger on the ferry to San Juan Island admired my 10-year-old German shepherd, Mia.

“Your dog has the best face,” he said. “I could stare at that face for a long time.”

Mia’s face has gotten gradually grayer since we adopted her almost four years ago, but she doesn’t act like a senior dog. After we arrived on the island, I set her loose at Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes where she romped like a puppy, tongue hanging sideways out of her mouth.

I parked beside Log Cabin No. 6, the southernmost lodging at the 82-acre resort, adjacent to the aptly named U-shaped Fish Hook Lake. I handed Mia a rubber ball that she likes to carry around like a security blanket, chomping on it possessively with no intention of dropping it for someone to throw to her.

Shepherd ProfileTogether we walked past our cabin’s private fire pit to the edge of Fish Hook Lake. Distracted by something in the woods, Mia dropped the ball in the lake, where it bobbed, then sank to the bottom.

Fish Hook is not particularly deep at the edge; if Mia were a Labrador, this would be no problem. But Mia was not about to actually go in the lake, and I couldn’t quite reach the ball, so after several minutes of trying, we gave it up for dead.

Maybe the lost ball will provide some entertainment for one of Fish Hook Lake’s bass or trout, or maybe another canine guest will dare to dunk its head underwater to retrieve it. All three of Lakedale’s lakes are stocked for guests to fish year round. The resort provides the poles, as well as rowboats, kayaks, canoes and paddle boats.

The six dog-friendly log cabins have a bed and bath on the ground floor, along with a full kitchen, sofa bed and fireplace, with a second bed and bath in a loft upstairs. The cabins sleep up to six, plus two dogs for a pet fee of $35 per dog. There are no size restrictions for dogs. Log cabins are $269 a night with a two-night minimum. A similarly equipped Lake House has a third bedroom and sleeps 10 for $469 a night.

Lots of hotels in the Pacific Northwest call themselves dog friendly. Usually, a pet deposit will get you a bag of dog biscuits and maybe a water bowl. In Lakedale’s log cabin, we were provided homemade dog treats, a cushy dog bed, two bowls and extra towels.

What sets the resort apart, though, is Leash-free Lakedale. Through May 21, dogs are not required to be on leash, and the pet fee is waived. For $279 a night, with a two-night stay, pups get all the amenities above in the log cabin, plus a Lakedale leash to take home, and the freedom to chase birds through the grassy grounds. Don’t get their hopes up about squirrels. Reportedly, there are none on San Juan Island.

Mia reveled in her freedom with a wilder frolic than she’s shown during recent off-leash opportunities closer to home. After racing up to the door of every cabin we passed, she paused with me on the back deck of the lodge to watch another guest row onto Neva Lake to cast a line.

For anyone considering bringing a dog to Leash-free Lakedale, please recognize your dog’s limits. If your pooches can’t be trusted not to challenge other dogs or intimidate humans, don’t set them loose.

Dock-diving dogs will appreciate the short piers on both Neva and Dream lakes, and swimmers will enjoy the small sandy beach on the shores of Dream Lake.

The few places dogs aren’t allowed at Lakedale are inside the main lodge, the “glamping” tents and the Airstream trailer.

The 16 “glampsites” are available starting April 1 this year, because spring arrived early. Regular campsites go for as little as $47 a night, but glamping starts at $189. For that, you get a 225-square-foot canvas cabin with queen-size pillowtop bed, a futon that sleeps two, and fleece-covered hot water bottles for your feet.

The child- and dog-free can book rooms inside the lodge for $179 a night with lake or woodland views, and complimentary breakfast. Guests must be 16 years (and human) or older.

In June, July and August, Lakedale brings in award-winning Northwest chefs and winemakers for a Gourmet Glamping experience that includes an outdoor cooking demonstration and dinner plus wine and beer. Gourmet Glamping is available to any resort guest for $65 each.

Book before you go: Reservations are recommended on the Washington State Ferries to San Juan Island from either Sidney, B.C., or Anacortes.