Co-founders of GoPetFriendly.com, Amy and Rod Burkert travel full-time with their two dogs, Buster and Ty, in their motorhome and write a blog about their adventures. In 2008 they already had Ty, their Shar-Pei, but found a stray German Shepherd, whom they named Buster. They wanted to travel around with their dogs but couldn’t find a suitable guidebook, so they created their own. Their mission is to make pet travel easy and fun – because pets deserve vacations, too!
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Amy Burkart is the author of the book The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip that contains hundreds of fabulous photos and gives insights into the 49 best places to visit with your pet. She also runs the website Go pet friendly dot com to encourage pet owners to travel to or dream about destinations to explore with their furry companions. She and her husband, Rod, share their adventures on the take. Pause blogged. You can connect with them on the go pet friendly blawg and on Twitter, Facebook, instagram and Pinterest. Hey, Amy, welcome to the program. Thanks so much for having me. So tell us a little bit about you and kind of how you got into go pet friendly. Well, it’s a kind of a long story, but basically In 2008 my husband and I were out walking our Sharpay. Um, we came back home and we found a stray German shepherd hiding behind the construction dumpster in front of our house. Um, and he was We looked first people we couldn’t find his people. And so we decided to adopt him. And Rod and I are big fans of road trips. So it wasn’t very long after Buster joined the family that we started planning our family vacation, and I discovered how hard it was to travel with a great big hug. Yeah, he weighed about £70 at the time. And, um so he was breaking the weight restrictions at a lot of hotels, and we didn’t have an RV back then. So, um, and then there were breed restrictions as well that we needed to be concerned about, So some campgrounds were discriminating based on breed. So on that road trip, we decided that we would try to build something that would make it easier for people to plan trips with their pets, because at that time that the information was kind of out there, but it was sort of scattered all over, like you go to one side and find some pet friendly hotels, and then maybe you go to a city’s website and find if they had off pet friendly restaurant. Or maybe there was another website that might have a listing of of dog parks or, you know, But it was kind of like all over the place. And we thought, Well, if we could, you know, bring it all together and really make it easy for people to find the information that they need to travel with their pets Then then more people would take their pets with them when they go, so it wouldn’t be so daunting and overwhelming to try to plan a trip. So that’s how go pet friendly got started and then about Ah, let’s see, 2010. So, um, a little bit more than eight years ago now we bought and sold our house, bought an RV and started traveling the country looking for more pet friendly places. More pet friendly destinations toe add to the database, but also to blawg about are what we do with our dogs because we wanted people, um, toe understand that you don’t have to have perfect dogs to be able to travel with a perfect pets to be able to travel with them. You know, if we can do it with our knuckleheads, anybody can do it. So So that was sort of the reason that that we started the block and we we thought we were on safari for a new place to live. But it turns out we love living in an R. V s. So we we have no intention of looks like you love being nomads. We really do. It’s kind of surprising to both of us because we started out life a c p A. So we’re not like people who do wild and crazy kinds of things. But we moved into the RV, and we adore it. We have a blast with our dogs, being able to take them and see different things with them. So it’s something that really has grown on us. Yeah, we’ve got no intention of selling the RV by the house again any time soon. Sam must have been a lot of fun then, getting to tour the country and check out all these different things. And so that’s really what helped you to build your database. Yeah, that And then it’s also community effort, right? So it’s not possible for two people to find everything that’s pet friendly in this country. So, sure, we asked people when they find places that aren’t listed on go pet friendly to go to the website and click add a listing at the top of the page and we can kind of crowdsource this information so it’s good for everybody to be ableto find more pet friendly things to do. Yeah, no, that’s really cool. Now, I’m curious. Since you’ve gotten to travel a lot more of the US than I have, What are the what are your top places, or what? Your favorite places to go to with your pets? Oh, it’s such a hard questions, one that people ask, Ask us a lot, but it really depends on the time of the year, Right? So, um, you know, in the wintertime, we’ve got favorite places that we like to be in the south, and, uh, in the summertime, we tend to move the RV in a more northerly direction. But some of our favorite cities places to be, I guess, not necessarily cities, but, um Carmel, California is one of our most the most pet friendly places that you’ll find in the country. It’s just a fantastic place. They’ve got a beautiful beach that’s completely pet, friendly and entirely off leash. Oh yeah, they’ve really taken a step. Thio go out of their way to make people traveling with their pets feel very, very welcome there and then around town as well. They’ve got a great pet supply store. They’ve got a museum you can visit with your dogs. They’ve got tons of restaurants where the outside seating areas air pet friendly? Um, there’s hiking trails. There’s a state park there with a beach where the dogs could be but must be on leash. So that’s actually better from my dogs because they don’t like to interact with other dogs, especially don’t they don’t know. Okay, so taking for my dog’s going to the State Park Beach. It’s much better because everybody’s on leash in. We can moderate. You know the interactions. Very cool. Now I know. I mean, you’ve gotten any idea how many things you got now in your database in terms of hotels and restaurants and parks, and there are about 65,000 OK, amazing. Across the U. S and Canada. Okay, so from starting this back and 22,000 and eight, you said, um and then it’s really just kind of grown from there. Exactly. Exactly. And then, you know, on top about we’ve got destination guides for over 200 places. So Pete places that Rod and I have visited and actually written a block post about two people an idea of what they might do when they get there. Yeah, and one of things I thought was really cool is that you’ve got, like, a destination planner. So you can kind of say, Where are we going from In two. And you help them to see all these places that you’ve got in your database, right? They can type in where they’re starting from where they’re going to and it’ll the system maps there route, and then they can click off if they want to find campgrounds or they want to find hotels. Or they want to find restaurants where they can stop and eat with their pattern and outside patio. Or they want to find activities if they want to find dog parks or an outdoor mall or a winery that they won’t stop at, or if there’s a pet friendly beach that they’re driving right by, we want. We wanted to make it easy so people could see what was along the way that they might be able to stop and enjoy on their trip. Yeah, no, and I thought that’s a really great idea. And I saw one of the things you lead people to do is sign up is a member. So then they can post pictures and kind of give reviews. And as you said, kind of crowd sourced this because things change, as we know in the places that were available back in 2010 or 15 aren’t the same as they are today. Exactly exactly, and staying on top of all that is a, you know, big job. So if we can crowdsource it and and the community can help put the information together, that really that really makes the website a lot more effective for everybody, Um, the other reason that people sign up the website, it’s completely free to use. I guess we should have mentioned that and you don’t have to sign up to be a user of the website. But if you want to save your road trip, for example, if you’re building road trip, you are halfway through. And you’re like, Oh, I’m tired. I’m gonna go to bed. I’ll finish it tomorrow. We have to have a way to locate you, know you and assign the road trip to you. So you have to sign up to be a user if you want to save a road trip. But otherwise you don’t even have to sign up to be a user. Yeah. No, I find this. It’s a really great website. Very easy to use and to navigate. And it’s got a lot of great information. So good job. Thank you. So now one of the interesting things I found is that you guys have now produced a book. So tell me a little bit about this. It’s only been out for about a month now. Yeah. So, last year, Rod and I decided that we were gonna take things up a notch. So we’ve been on the road for, like, seven years. Now we decide it was time for a new challenge. So we determined that we were going to, um, visit the number one pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states and Washington D. C. So we loaded up the dogs and took off on a 15,000 mile road trip. Wow, It took us 10 months to visit all these places. But But that’s exactly what we did. And then when we got when we finished up the road trip, um, I decided that we really had to make it into a book. That it was It was too good. It was such a fantastic. We had such a fantastic time. There were so many great memories that I really wanted be to be able to put it in people’s hands and say, Here’s your roadmap. These are the things that if you’re going to do one thing in each state with your pet, this is the thing to Dio and so go out D’oh! Yeah, no, I don’t want one of things I thought was really close. You’ve actually got that on the site as well as you’ve got all the places you went. Like you said it was 10 months and 48 states, so you didn’t make it to Alaska or Hawaii yet. But that’s probably gonna get invented at some point, right? Well, Alaska, for sure, but it’s gonna be really hard to get the RV civilized. Threw me a little bit a little bit more challenging said right, but yeah, no, I thought that was really cool. And you you listed all these things all these different places. And like you said, a lot of I’m sure a lot of great memories and a lot of things now that people could say, Well, look, we may not be able to take 10 months, but, you know, we’re taking a month or a couple of weeks or something like that. Well, yeah. In fact, I don’t recommend people do it the way we did it. It was it was a little bit overwhelming. We were all we were on the run for 10 months trying to get all these places in time. Well, the weather was nice, right? Because we wanted to do it all within a year or so. Um, trying to line it all up so that you were in places when you could actually get out and enjoy the weather was was a bit of a challenge. So I reckon I actually in the book layout. Nine. Break the entire road trip down into nine segments to give people an idea of, like, nine Minie or they’re not really many. They’re still pretty long, but nice order road trips that you could do over your dog’s lifetime over your pets. Lifetime, Um, so that, you know, you get to see all these places, but you talked to it quite as in quite a harried fashion as we did. Yeah, Yeah. And I can imagine that’d be quite a bit to ah, undertake 15,000 miles. And in 10 months, that’s a That’s a lot of driving a lot to take in. And sometimes you just need to build the Children, Relax of it. Well, yeah, there. I’m sure that there are places that we were where there were other things in the area that would have been fun to see, but we just didn’t have time to do it. So if you planned it, you know, if you plan to take, um, a longer period of time at each one of those in each one of those areas, there will be other things to do. That would be fantastic. But we We just didn’t have time to take it all in. Yeah, yeah. No, that makes sense. So one of the things I want to ask you about is obviously you guys travel with dogs. But you also had a lot of information about traveling with other animals out there. Yeah, so it’s Ah, you know, a lot of people travel with their cats. People who are traveling with birds, you know, reptiles sometimes. Um, but I recently started following a person on Instagram. They’re traveling in a travel trailer with their dog and their gold. It’s the first traveling goat that I’ve become aware of. But I do know people travel with their rabbits and also, it’s, um, dogs are still the most popular travel companions, but it is we are seeing things shift a little bit more, especially in this adventure cat area. So we have one of the members of our block team has two cats, their names or fish and chips, and they are adventure cats. So these cats go camping, backpacking, um, canoeing. They’re you know, they’re cats out there doing snowshoeing. There are cats that heir to a going paddleboarding there, you know, people are kind of looking at cats a little bit differently, and I think a lot of there’s a kind of a stereotype that we think cats don’t like to travel. Well, just like people just like dogs can’t will have different personalities. And so to put them all in a box and say they don’t like to travel eyes oversimplifying things. So if you find a cat, if you have a cat who is adventuresome, maybe they would like to travel. Maybe you just haven’t given him the opportunity or the right training. So yeah, it can all be good travel companions. I think that’s a really good point, because you’re right. I mean, there are. I know we’ve got four cats and, um, certainly a couple of our cats would be all over this and the other ones to be like, really you want me to get up to coach? So I think it is definitely right that the, you know, certain personalities they’re gonna want to travel and be a little bit more adventurous than others are right? Exactly. No, no. One of events I saw that was coming up was wag walk. So tell me a little bit about that. So, yeah, we’re actually on our way right now, Um, to Iowa, to the Winnebago Grand National Rally. So they bring in about 1000 coaches onto the rally grounds at the Winnebago RV plant in was in Iowa, and, um, they have seminars right during the day. So people from the tire companies will be there, and the chassis companies will be there And all the different things that you need to learn about your RV, I’ll be there speaking about pet travel. And then one of the fun things that we do is we get everybody who wants to participate, brings their pet. You can put him in costume if you’d like. There’s a little competition for the best costume, and, um and we do a little parade around the rally ground. So we’re doing that on Friday the 26th I think. OK, it’s on my website, but yeah, we’re going to do that at the at the Winnebago rally in a couple of weeks, and then in conjunction with that we’re doing, um, the ah ah book signing. So we’ll be there. We’ll be selling some books, hopefully and ah, be signing him for for the folks that are there in person. Wow. Sounds like you guys have got a lot going on. What is the typical week look like for you? Well, yeah. I mean, a typical week is a little bit hard to describe. There really isn’t. Ah, typical week. We could be kind of anything. So last week we were in the Black Hills and we spent to several days out exploring and visiting some of our favorite spots in the Black Hills. Ah, Custer State Park is one of my favorite places in the country, and it’s extremely pet friendly, so pets are allowed on all the trails, and there’s just a lot to do and see in the area. So last week we probably spent three or four days outside the RV just out doing things, and it was really helpful that the weather was great. Now we’re moving towards Iowa for the Winnebago rally, and so we’re in a campground right now on the Missouri River, which is a beautiful campground. But it’s been so hot here that we really haven’t been able to take the dogs out and do anything with him. So this week has been pretty much every day inside the RV air conditioning egg. That’s what the dog’s said, you know, they’re like, you know, we know what it’s like out there. We’re gonna We’re gonna stay in here, Yeah, we’ll hang out with you. Mind where it’s nice and cool and we’ll go when it’s Ah, it’s a little bit more dollar, right? Exactly. So ah, week really can be anything in this lifestyle. I mean, Rod and I both run their own businesses. I’m running, go pet friendly. He’s running his own business as well. So we work just like other people have to get their projects at work done. We have our projects that we have to get done. We have more flexibility in the timing that we do them. You know, if we want to work from six till no line and then go do stuff for a while and then come back home and work from, you know, seven till or five till 10 or 11 or whatever, we could do it that way, but yeah, so like I said it, there really is not a lot of consistency from day to day. It’s always it’s always up in the air. Yeah. So what’s next for Go pet friendly. It sounds like you’ve relieve all things over the years. And and Adam or features What do you see coming down the road? Well, there’s some you know, there’s always improvements to make and things to change. We like to see the community continue to grow. Uhm, you know, add more information in the database, make things easier for people to plan trips with their pets. I think that’s sort of that sort of kind of got its legs underneath it, and it’s that’s building. Um, I think now it’s more of a brand awareness building brand awareness. So getting the word out to people that were here that we’re here to help you, um, we can help make traveling with your pets easier. And there are so many amazing things to do that I think people don’t realize, um, you know, they kind of imagine they’re gonna go on vacation with their pets, and that means they’re gonna find a pet friendly hotel. They’re gonna eat takeout. They might visit a dog park, but they don’t know that there are, um, scenic train rides, for example, where you can take your pet on a ferry boat, right? Or you know you can, Um one of the things we did last year was we canoed the Buffalo National River, rented canoes and took our dogs canoeing for the first time in their lives. So I think that that’s that’s the next step is really to expand the awareness. That’s that’s where I’ve got my focus on right now. Great. Well, it sounds exciting, and I’m sure that they’ll be lots more planing and road trips and things that are going to take place. So, um, it’ll be an exciting time for you. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, one of the other things that we’re gonna focus, I guess on it just occurred to me. Is that time Buster getting older? So Ty will be 14 in the September, and Buster turned 11. So we’re traveling with senior dogs. And so that’s another focus that I think I’m gonna probably be just because of my life. Circumstances I’ll be sharing more about, You know, the things that we do when we travel with senior dogs, how we can work on making it more comfortable for them or pick activities there more are more appropriate for them. Things that you know, we used to be able to D’oh. We’re finding that it’s, You know, the boys just aren’t interested. Anything. They’re like moving into semi retirement. Like they got an air conditioner. These That’s right. They’re getting more particular about when they go and for how far they go. So we gotta we gotta, you know, find some things that entice thumb. Still good. Well, I look forward to seeing how that comes out. Well, thanks for coming on the program today. Is there anything else you wanted to share before we wrap things up? No, I mean, just, you know, come on. You know, find the website. Follow us on countries, follow us on Facebook. Share your experiences. We love seeing pictures of pets that are out having fun. So, yeah, Please come on, huh? And get to know it’s a little bit. Well, thank you, Amy, for building this amazing resource. And thanks for coming on the program today. Thank you so much for having me. It was my pleasure. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, joined the air p a to take advantage of all the resources we have to offer and don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.