Columbia County, Florida
A Dog’s Best Vacation in Lake City, Florida

A Dog’s Best Vacation in Lake City, Florida

Columbia County, Florida offers plenty of pet-friendly options for a vacation with your best four-legged friend

By Romeo Walls

As soon as I spot Katy hitching up the travel trailer, I know she is going someplace fun. I start my paw-bounce to show her I want to go along. Since I'm a 65-pound rescue lab/golden retriever mix, I'm kind of hard to miss. I include a few woofs to make sure she knows I want in. “Yes, Romeo, you’re coming. We’re going camping and to Colombia County's Wuffstock Festival.” Wuff-derful! I love camping, and anything with “Wuff” in the title sounds like a good time to me.

“We head down the shady Trestle Point Trail, which runs alongside the sparkling crystal blue water of the Ichetucknee River.”

A Romp in the Woods

Katy tells Google map “Ichetucknee Springs Campground,” and we’re off. Head out the window, tongue out, ears flapping in the wind, this trip is off to a good start. After we arrive and get unhitched, Katy attaches my leash and I hop back in the car and we head to Ichetucknee Springs State Park, half a mile down the road. I love this place! There’s so much to sniff here! We head down the shady Trestle Point Trail, which runs alongside the sparkling crystal blue water of the Ichetucknee River. I see something moving on a big log  out in the water and lift my nose. Turtles! I want to get closer to them and sniff them but Katy stops me. Kids and their families are floating on tubes and rafts down the river. They are all laughing and seem to be having so much fun. I want to jump in and splash around but wait….what’s that? A huge squirrel darts out from behind a tree. My four paws automatically start a-running after him but my leash stops me. Dang squirrel. Oh, hey, what’s this? A mud puddle. Just as good. I flop down in it, to Katy’s squeals of protest.

People enjoy the crystal clear water of Ichetucknee Springs in Ichetucknee State Park, south of Lake City in Columbia County, Florida.
“Kids and their families are floating on tubes and rafts down the river. They are all laughing and seem to be having so much fun. I want to jump in and splash around...”

Sweet Rewards

After shaking off, I jump in the car. Where to next? I look at my human. When we pull into the parking lot of Pet Supermarket I let out a woof of excitement. Treats! Inside, my tail goes into auto-wag. My puppy-browns see rows and rows of bones, rawhide chews, pig’s ears. I start drooling.

Katy tells the nice lady at the register that we’re going to Wuffstock and I need to have a clean, golden coat. She looks at the mud now drying on my fur and laughs. She leads us to a raised washtub where there are soft towels with paw print motifs, yummy smelling shampoo and conditioner, and a dryer to blow out my gorgeous golden coat. The water is nice and warm. I’m dreaming of all those rows of treats while Katy massages my belly and washes the mud out of my fur. After a few minutes under the dryer, my coat is now fresh and clean.

“Here, Romeo,” the lady holds out a giant bone-shaped frosted cookie! I look at Katy. “Yes, Romeo, you can have it. You’ve been a good boy.” Yum, crunchy. Woof! I tell her. Thanks!

A glass case with rows of colorful frosted dog treats at Pet Supermarket in Lake City, Florida.

Dogs welcome

When we pull up to Gondolier Italian Restaurant, I think I will have to wait in the car but Katy attaches my leash. “Table for two?” The waiter asks and walks us to the patio. I could get used to this. I get my very own take-out box filled with fresh water. When Katy’s pizza arrives, she drops pieces of pepperoni and some crust into the other side of my take-out box. Yum, yum. Cronchy, spicy! I love pizza! I sit patiently and wait for more. What a great vacation so far and we haven’t even gotten to Wuffstock yet.

The next morning, Katy puts on my most colorful bandana. On our way to Wuffstock, we stop at Starbucks and I again think I’ll have to wait for her but she opens the door and calls me to join her. “Come on, Romeo, you can come!” I love going places with her. This is fun. I curl up under the table on the patio while Katy sips her coffee. She breaks off a piece of her breakfast sandwich and holds it out for me. Sausage and cheddar! My favorite! But what’s that I smell? Pizza? The smell wafting over from 1000 Degree Neapolitan Pizzeria is unmistakable. My nose knows. I’m hoping we come back here for lunch. I love that so many restaurants in Lake City are dog-friendly. And, this dog loves peetza!

“Treats! Inside, my tail goes into auto-wag.”

A barking good time

At Wuffstock, I run around and sniff some butts. I get into a barking match with a German Shepherd named Buddy about which one of us is going to win our class, the big dog race. I’ll show him. I’m fast! Buddy, a boxer named Chief who kept running in circles, and I, all start woofing along when they play our favorite song, “Who Let the Dogs Out?" We woof with laughter at the puppy derby. Some of those little squirts just wanted to play around on the track. Then they had the race for us. That crazy Chief took first, I took second, and Buddy took third. After we got our ribbons, we stood by and watched the highlight of the day, the Doxie Derby. Hysterical! My new friend Tilly Grace took first, with her friends Coco and Lilli, right behind. They had all known each other from the dachshund rescue group they were in. A handicapped little Doxie named Maggie took first in the costume contest, with her glittery pink jacket and bedazzled wheelchair complete with name license plate. I was yipping for her.

“I love that so many restaurants in Lake City are dog-friendly. And, this dog loves peetza!”

Nearly 50 tents were set up with venders and their pups selling treats and other fun doggy-inspired things, from personalized bowls — Tilly’s mom got her one to celebrate her first place win — to bone-print bandannas.

Then I saw something that really hit home. Pups from Getalong Dachshund Rescue, Lake City Humane Society, and SOCKS (Save Our Cocker Spaniels) were looking for a good human to take them home. Bodie, a senior blind Cocker who took 2nd in the Best Nose contest told me he was really sniffing around for a fur-ever home.  It made me grateful to have my human, Katy.

Two small beagles hover over a child’s blue plastic pool filled with yellow rubber duckies floating in water at Woofstock in Lake City, Florida.
Winners of the Doxie Derby pose with their trophies at Woofstock, in Lake City, Florida.
Bronze Dachshund trophies for winners of the Doxie Derby at Woofstock, in Lake City, Florida.
A tiny tan Chihuahua in pink tutu with a diamond-like collar at Woofstock in Lake City, Florida.
An owner helps lead her beagle through an obstacle course at Woofstock in Lake City, Florida.

It’s a dog’s life

After the festival, it was time to head back to our camper, but first dinner. At Marion Street Bistro, the waiter escorted us to a table on the patio and patted my head. Katy ordered meatloaf, which I thought she would share with me, but the waiter suggested a doggie burger just for me! Wow! My very own burger! Katy broke it into pieces for me so I wouldn’t wolf it all down in one bite!

Next time, Katy says, we'll camp at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park on the banks of the Suwanee River and visit Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park. My nose twitches thinking about all those new scents. I can’t wait for our next trip to Columbia County and Lake City. It's paws-itively wonderful!

The outside of Marion Street Bistro and Brewhouse in Lake City, Florida.
Plan your getaway with a four-legged friend to Lake City and Columbia County now

Wuffstock is sponsored by Covenant Pet Trust whose mission is to provide education and resources for pet parents to plan for their pets and to prevent neglect, abuse and euthanasia of pets due to the death of their people.