Well-acclaimed journalist Kelly E. Carter is writing National Geographic Books’ first dog travel guide book, featuring 75 of the best places to vacation in the U.S. and Canada with a dog. Carter chose Coeur d’Alene as one of those destinations. The book, “Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel,” will be published May 2014.
By Shane Richard Bell
How did you fall in love with the craft of writing?
I grew up reading everything! I know I drove my mother crazy because as soon as I learned how to read, I would read aloud billboards when she drove along the streets of Los Angeles. Every morning before I went to school, I read the Los Angeles Times. I lived in my local public library on the weekends. In addition, I used to buy as many books as my allowance allowed when I was in grade school. It was such a thrill when the books were delivered to the classroom every month. I couldn’t wait to get home to read by books about Harriet the Spy, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, Judy Blume’s Deenie and Beverly Cleary’s tales from Klickitat Street. It was just natural that my love for reading turned into a love for writing.
What’s one of the first stories you wrote?
In the early 70s, when I was in the fourth grade, I wrote a story about the elaborate Christmas decorations on the house across the street from ours. I showed my story to the owners, an elderly couple. They were so overjoyed by my little story that they gave me $5, which back then meant something to a kid. The money is gone but I still have the story, written in block letters on a yellow legal pad. That was also the time I decided to become a journalist. I told my mother, who challenged me to spell “journalist.” I spelled it correctly and she believed me from that day on. By the sixth grade I knew I wanted to write about sports. Although my father died of emphysema when I was in the first grade, I still remember him taking me to Dodgers games. My only brother Kevin, who is 15 months older than me, played every sport imaginable and I always went to his games and cheered him on when we were kids. In high school, I worked as a statistician for the boys’ basketball team. I played sports too but wasn’t much of an athlete. When it came to sports, I was more interested in writing than sweating. And after I went to modeling school in high school, I gave up sports and didn’t play competitively as a senior. I was happy to write about sports.
How did you land the opportunity to write the “Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel” for National Geographic Books? How does it feel to work for an internationally renowned publisher?
I’ve been a journalist for nearly 30 years. I paid my dues, willingly leaving L.A. after college at USC to work my way up from the tiny Iowa City Press Citizen to the Pittsburgh Press to the Dallas Morning News to the Orange County Register to USA Today to on air for CNN to People magazine. In 2010, I co-authored a New York Times bestseller with tennis star Venus Williams called Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession. Amistad, an imprint of Harper Collins, published that book. National Geographic Books continues the pattern I started many years ago and I feel very fortunate to have been asked to write “Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel.”
Everyone knows the quality of writing and photography in National Geographic. Who hasn’t seen the photo of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl with the haunting green eyes? Many years ago I heard that National Geographic magazines were the thing that people stored the most in storage units. And I believe it because they are worth keeping! But in addition to putting out that amazing publication as well as National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Society also publishes phenomenal travel guides and books that have hit the New York Times bestseller list.
This is National Geographic Books’ first guide book geared toward dog-friendly travel and the brainchild of Keith Bellows, the editor-in-chief of Traveler and a VP of the National Geographic Society. I credit him for coming up with the idea for this book and taking the recommendation of his associate editor Susan O’Keefe, whom I met at a travel writer’s conference in Scottsdale last November.
As usual, I had my well-traveled pooch Lucy with me at the conference. Susan found out that I not only have my own pet travel site, TheJetSetPets.com, but that I’m the pet travel expert for AOL’s Paw Nation and Elite Traveler and, at the time, my dog Lucy blogged for Paw Nation about her life as jet set pet. She thought “we” would be perfect to write Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel and recommended me for the project. I can’t thank Susan enough. I’ll be so proud to see my name as an author on a National Geographic book, though Lucy should receive an author’s credit as well. We’re entering our 12th year traveling together and without her, I wouldn’t be doing this interview.
How and why was Coeur d’Alene chosen as one of the 75 best places to vacation with your dog in the world for your book?
While researching the best places for dogs, I came across Coeur d’Alene being named Dog Fancy’s DogTown USA winner a couple of years ago. Then I spoke to someone in the state’s tourism office and she offered a few suggestions, with one being CdA. I researched CdA further and voila! My decision was made. This book showcases the best places in the United States and Canada to vacation with a dog. There are some pet-friendly cities out there but do you want to go there for vacation? Maybe not. There are some gorgeous destinations out there, but do they truly welcome four-legged visitors? Maybe not. Coeur d’Alene is perfect on both counts.
I’ve heard about how beautiful CdA and seen photos. Of course, the city offers a multitude of year-round activities for both pets and their people from hiking to boating to simply strolling along Centennial Trail. I’m really impressed how much CdA has done for our furry friends in a relatively short amount of time. Your third dog park is under construction. Dog d’Alene has grown tremendously. Tails at Twilight is a major hit every year. You have a no-kill shelter. You have a resident hotel dog, Dodger, with more Facebook friends than me. CdA continues to demonstrate its love for canines and I’m thrilled to feature Coeur d’Alene in Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel. I just hope CdA is prepared for the influx of four-legged visitors this book will bring.
When are you coming to Coeur d’Alene? Are you looking forward to coming to the area?
I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting CdA yet but I hope to soon as everything I’ve researched and heard makes it sound pet-tastic. Plus, I want to personally give Dodger a belly rub and feed him a banana. A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful vacation in Sun Valley and even took part in the Hikin’ Buddies program at Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley in Hailey. I can’t wait to visit the northern part of Idaho next and experience what Barbara Walters calls a little slice of heaven. My Lucy is more of a lap dog so she won’t go on Tubbs Hill with me. But maybe I can rent a bike with a basket and we can check out Centennial Trail. I’d love to borrow Dodger for a few hours or find a shelter dog to take on a hike. I’ve heard how nice the people are there and look forward to experiencing that hospitality first hand.
Part of the joy of doing this book is traveling to parts of the U.S. and Canada that I otherwise might not visit and seeing how well dogs are treated around North America. I live in San Francisco, where there are more dogs than children so it’s natural that dogs rule. It’s heartwarming to see the status dogs have reached elsewhere. Pets are family and deserve to be treated as such, which CdA obviously realizes.
What makes this a special book to you personally?
I can’t think of a better way to mix my three passions: writing, traveling and dogs. It’s the reason I launched my luxury pet travel site, TheJetSetPets.com, last year. My goal is to show people how easy it is to travel with pets and how welcoming many businesses and tourist attractions are to well-behaved pets. The more people travel with their well-behaved pets, the more accepting others will become of well-behaved dogs in public places. I can’t stress the word “well-behaved” enough because that is so key in changing people’s attitudes toward seeing dogs in public places. I lived in Italy from 2003 to 2005 with my dog and we’ve traveled extensively throughout Europe for a decade.
The U.S. health codes prevent this country from being as tolerant of dogs as the French are, but I do hope that some of the rules pertaining to dogs in this country become more lax as time goes on. We’re seeing it happen every month. Just last week the city of Arlington reversed an earlier decision about allowing pet-friendly dining on restaurant patios. When people read Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, they’ll learn about so many activities they can do with their furry companions while on vacation, restaurants that have menus just for pets, and destinations that cater to four-legged travelers because they know it makes good business sense.
Most airlines make it easy to travel with pawsengers, or at least those small enough to travel in the cabin. (I’m against treating dogs like baggage and putting them in the cargo hold. It’s inhumane!) Hotels across all price ranges love four-legged guests these days with the more expensive hotels lavishing pets with swank amenities and services, including massages, turndown service and in-room, gourmet dining menus. A dog’s life isn’t too shabby these days!
To view the original article in the Coeur d’Alene Press