Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Central Coast Canines

From San Luis Obispo to San Simeon, California’s central coast is a dog-friendly destination

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Weekend getaways are more fun with a dog. Our canine buddies make sure we stop and sniff the roses (and whatever else smells interesting), introduce us to new people and get out for walks in between the wine tasting and sightseeing. I’m always seeking places that are fun to go with dogs, and one favorite is California’s central coast, roughly the area between Point Mugu and Monterey.

We’ve made a couple of trips to what could be described as the central part of the central coast in the past year, once to San Luis Obispo for a nose work trial with my dog Harper, and more recently for a visit to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, which was offering seasonal evening tours with costumed docents. When I mentioned our plans, my friend Liz Palika enthusiastically recommended a stay at Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon.

Our large room featured a fireplace and a patio where we could sit with the dogs or walk them out to the trails along the bluffs. It’s not the only dog-friendly hotel in the area. We’ve stayed previously at Cambria Pines Lodge, where dogs can accompany owners to meals in the outdoor dining area. Cambria Shores Inn is also popular with dog lovers. Cambria Chamber of Commerce volunteer Linda Haskins says the area boasts 21 inns and motels that welcome pets.

When we arrived, I called pet sitter Sharon Joy, whom we had scheduled to stay with our dogs during the tour. (Hearst Castle is many things, but dog-friendly is not one of them.) She met us at our room and instantly made friends with our dogs. We could tell they’d had a good time with her when we returned. Haskins says that Cambria Veterinary Clinic and Cambria Animal Medical Center may also be able to recommend pet sitters or provide boarding during daytime tours.

The next day we toured Paso Robles wine country, a breathtaking drive inland along Highway 46. Our first stop, appropriately enough, was Tooth and Nail Winery, where we enjoyed live music and glasses of rose on the covered patio overlooking the moat that surrounds the castlelike winery. Robert Hall Winery warmly welcomed Harper and Keeper into the tasting room. We wrapped up our wine tasting with stops at Grey Wolf and Dover Canyon wineries. Look for a winery map with dog symbols indicating pet-friendly status, or check

If you and your dogs would rather hike or beachcomb, the central coast has you covered. Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is 440 acres of ocean-view trails and boardwalks. Parking is limited, so go early or look for a spot in the adjoining neighborhood. William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach permits dogs on the sand. Haskins says Shamel Park in Cambria is popular with local and visiting dog owners. Further south in San Luis Obispo, Irish Hills Natural Reserve has eight miles of out-and-back and loop trails through chaparral, oak and grasslands. Assume leashes are required unless otherwise posted. Beware: Ticks are ubiquitous, including American dog ticks and Western black-legged ticks, which can transmit Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Check your dog thoroughly after hikes.

Food lovers don’t have to leave dogs behind either. Whether they are in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Cambria or elsewhere, plenty of restaurants in all price ranges have outdoor seating for dining with dogs. We’ve enjoyed breakfast at Lily’s Coffee House in Cambria, lunch at Orale Taqueria in Paso Robles and dinner at Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo.

Wherever you go with your dog, have fun!


Some facts about

polydactyl cats

Q: Why do some cats have extra toes?

A: Cats normally have 18 toes: five on each front paw and four on each back paw. Some cats are born with additional toes -- usually on front paws, but sometimes on rear paws as well.

Any cat with extra toes is known as a polydactyl. The word comes from the Greek polydaktylos, meaning “many toes.” The first official mention of it in scientific literature was in 1868, although it’s known to have been observed prior to that time.

Polydactyly is a dominant genetic trait. That means that even if only one parent carries the gene for extra toes, 40 to 50 percent of his or her kittens can also be polydactyl. The Maine coon is one breed in which polydactyly is commonly seen, but it can occur in any cat.

The additional toes may or may not be fully functional. In feline folklore, extra toes were thought to give cats better balance, making them popular choices as ship’s cats.

Polydactyl cats are often nicknamed "Hemingway cats" for their association with the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning author, who had a number of them at his Key West home. They may also be known as “thumb cats” or “mitten cats.”

Paws, a Minnesota cat, and Jake, a Canadian cat, are both recognized by Guinness World Records as having the most toes: 28.

While polydactyly is considered a genetic abnormality, it’s a naturally occurring variation that isn’t necessarily harmful. In a study of Maine coon cats published in 2016 in the Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery, researchers concluded that while polydactyly affected the number and shape of a cat’s toes, it had “no apparent deleterious consequence on feline welfare.”

Fun fact: Humans can experience polydactyly as well. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


Why some animals

have white legs

-- If you’ve ever wondered why some animals have white “socks,” “mittens” or “boots,” science provides the answer. It’s related to a genetic oddity called piebaldism, the result of a mutation that causes melanocytes -- the pigment cells that give color to hair, skin and eyes -- to be distributed unevenly as they spread throughout the body during fetal development. Research published in 2016 in the journal Nature Communications suggests that piebaldism occurs because the melanocytes don’t divide often enough during development. The result: Not enough pigment for the animal to be all one color. Piebald coloration occurs in animals as varied as cats, cows, dogs, ferrets, domestic goats, goldfish, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, magpies, mice, pigs, rabbits, rats and snakes.

-- When you see a Maltese, you may first be attracted by the glamorous coat, but beneath the waterfall of white hair beats the heart of a gentle, lively and fearless dog that has charmed people since the time of the ancient Greeks. Maltese love people. That focus on humans can make them easily trainable because they love attention. Maltese may look like lap dogs, but they shine in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally and tracking, and they make good therapy dogs. The silky single white coat requires daily combing and regular shampooing to look its best. Families with young children should choose a puppy who will weigh 5 to 7 pounds when grown.

-- A cat’s body hums along at a temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit -- a little higher than normal human body temperature and about the same as that of dogs. A normal range is 100 to 102.5, so call your veterinarian if your cat's temperature is higher or lower than that. If the thought of taking your cat’s temperature rectally is daunting, you can purchase a thermometer that will read the temperature inside your cat's ear. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.