Families with autism may choose to never take a proper vacation because of the daunting task of getting ready and finding services at their chosen location. If they also have to bring a service dog it can be even harder. One of the beautiful things about visiting Myrtle Beach is that not only is it an autism friendly town, but they also make traveling with a service dog so easy!
Of course, all restaurants, resorts and hotels must allow service dogs to accompany a family but some are easier to use than others. Bluegreen Resorts already have autism supportive and trained staff which makes them very attractive to autism families. Another option is to rent a home right on the beach. This gives your family privacy, more room to spread out, you can cook your own meals and the familiar setting might be less stressful for your dog. Many of the rental homes have fenced yards and private pools as well. Dogs are welcome on the beaches on a leash and no matter where you walk, you must pick up after them. Surfside Beach and Garden City have lovely sidewalks for walking and Surfside Beach has a dog park for when your friend is off duty. To avoid extra cleaning fees, bring a large blanket to cover white bed linens or furniture that your dog may jump on. Bring your own water and food bowls too.
One of my favorite places that caters to all of your pup’s needs is Market Common. A short drive from downtown Myrtle Beach or Surfside Beach, Market Common is full of restaurants and shops you won’t find anywhere else. As you walk through the village you will see numerous bowls of fresh water out for the pups. If you prefer a quieter place, take a walk around the beautiful lake and make a stop at the wonderful playground for the youngsters. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating and will bring doggy water bowls to your table. The Tidal Creek Brewhouse even has it’s very own dog park so your pooch can get a little time off while you eat dinner. They even provide a dog friendly menu so your dog doesn’t go hungry. Should you need medical attention for your dog, Meadowlawn Animal Services is right in Market Common. My personal favorite shop is Pink Sheep which caters to sophisticated dog owners who are looking for a special and unique way to spoil their dogs. Just a few blocks away on Mallard Lake Drive you will find the Barc Parc South. It is divided into three sections- Big dogs, little dogs and mixed dogs. The mixed dog portion trail surrounds a lake, popular for dog swimming. Myrtle Beach also has a dog park and walking trails near 62nd Ave North. If you are all craving ice cream, try Bruster’s Real Ice Cream in Myrtle Beach for yourself and get a free pup sundae made with ice cream and crumbled dog bones. Head out across the intracoastal to the Sneaky Beagle which has its own doggy menu of doggy donuts, pupcakes, and jerky along with human selections like mac and cheese, tacos, burgers and paninis.
And finally a few notes about visiting the beach with your canine helper- our beaches are famous for fine, sugar sand that makes for beautiful beaches. However on windy days the fine sand can abrade your dog’s eyes. Consider goggles or walk on the beach early morning or evening when the winds are calmer. Summer days will make the sand, concrete and asphalt extremely hot for your dog’s feet. Booties can come handy in this situation. And if your dog loves to dig, be sure to fill the hole back in for the safety of humans and sea turtles.
So come play at the beach and enjoy family time! Your most important service dog will feel welcome too!
Rebecca Jeffreys works at Champion Autism Network and is the author of “You Were Made for This- Finding Courage and Intuition for Raising a Child with Autism.” She lives in Surfside Beach with her adult son who has autism. www.championautismnetwork.com