Some people may wonder why this even happens. Let’s just say that those who wonder why are not the ones who bring their pet(s) with them.



In this article, I am referring to pets in general as dogs since I have yet to meet a “snowcat” on the walking path. I do, however, constantly make both human and canine acquaintances while I am out and about on my walk between Bad Ass Coffee and the Crab Trap in Destin, and these contacts serve to form the basis of this article.



I am such a sucker for dogs.



I have learned to smile, to ask permission from the owner and THEN put my hand out in order to meet a dog for the first time — but I just can’t pass one on the path without acknowledging it/him/her. It is unusual for a dog not to be friendly.



In fact, many times the dogs are much friendlier than their owners. As a member of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the American Humane Association, I advocate for animals and their rights to life and humane treatment. It warms my heart, then, to see so many very happy SNOWDOGS here in Destin for the winter months.



How did they come to be here?



In talking to people at random, I have found some very heartwarming stories. One dog is here because its owner’s husband passed away last year and now the focus is entirely on this “canine companion.” She told me, “If my dog can’t come, I won’t come either!”



So listen up, homeowners.



I met another person who told me that the house where they are staying is not able to be rented next year, so the search is now on again for a pet-friendly place to rent in the Destin area. That can be a challenge, but there are many places out there that are clean, stylish and pet-friendly; you just have to find them. Keep looking and TGFT (Thank Goodness for Technology).



Another pet owner stated that even though their dog has numerous health challenges and can’t be left alone for even short periods of time, they wouldn’t even think of not bringing him with them to Destin. “Whatever it takes, we will gladly do to have our dog with us.”



There are dogs of all sizes: big ones (a 200-pound St. Bernard who walks to Winn-Dixie with its owner to get supplies), little ones (a 13-year-old little Yorkie named Shadow who hangs out at the Crab Trap every morning the past seven years to watch the birds), and many sizes in between. Some people bring more than one companion with them.



Personally, I have two golden retrievers that are “veteran snowdogs” and make the trip with us each year. Major, our 12 ½ year old, has been coming to Destin for 11 winters; this is Ginger’s ninth year. In many ways, I think spending winters on the Emerald Coast has extended their lives or at the very least improved the quality of life for them.



After all, who doesn’t feel better while spending the winter in Destin?



Take Luigi … a local dog who loves the sun: He already knows how good he has it and he proves it every chance he gets. Kudos to those homeowners who rent to pet owners. And snowbirds, keep coming to Destin.



It’s a wonderful place to stay and spend the winter. Just ask your dog.



Sigrid J. Aeschleman, publicity director for the Destin Snowbird Club, is from Illinois and can be reached at saeschleman@gmail.com.