It started with a comment toward my dog – “She’s so cute!” – that led to an inquiry as to who we are.

“I’m Mark and this is Tina Louise,” I say, gesturing toward the surprisingly well-behaved pug perched on a metal chair next to me.

In turn, the other diners seated on the front porch of Old Stone Station – a converted gas station in west Cambria that is popular with locals – introduced themselves.

And just like that, five new friends are made: Todd from Santa Barbara, who’s in town visiting his mom, Susan, who lives in Cambria; Casey, Todd’s Yorkshire terrier; and Patty and Loui, who are up for the weekend from Chatsworth, coincidentally staying at same resort as me.

The conversations that interrupted the sleepy silence of a beach community in the midst of winter was reminiscent of exchanges that take place between longtime friends, and it was all made possible because of a dog.

It’s not uncommon for tourist destinations and its establishments to tout themselves as pet-friendly as the importance and role that our furry companions play in our lives continue to increase, but those found in Cambria, on the northwest corner of San Luis Obispo County, take canine courtesy to a whole new level.

Checking in at Cambria Shores Inn, the front desk clerk addressed my dog first, showering her with head scratches and compliments long before turning his attention to other, less important, matters like collecting payment for our weekend stay.

Cambria Shores Inn boasts a “Very Important Pooch” program that sees every canine guest receive a welcome basket containing food and water bowls, towel, doggy treats, doggy bags, a copy of Fido Friendly magazine and a surprisingly powerful keychain flashlight, which is perfect for late-night walks along the beachside trail. Remembering that it’s the human who pays the bill, the resort also greets them with a plate of fresh-baked brownies.

With only 25 rooms on the grounds, Cambria Shores Inn is an intimate establishment featuring many of the amenities of home – fridge, fireplace, microwave, flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, etc. – along with a clubhouse-like common area and plenty of outdoor lounge space overlooking the Pacific Ocean for two- and four-legged guests.

The resort is across from Moonstone Beach, which is part of the Monterey Marine Sanctuary and, therefore, not dog friendly. However, the boardwalk that runs alongside it is and limits traffic to walkers and joggers so there’s no need to worry about cyclists whizzing by. A nighttime stroll down the path is a must with the waves crashing against the shore, the whitewater the only visible elements of an ocean swallowed up in the endless black of night.

It’s highly recommended to rise early as well to see the sun slowly illuminate the water, a perfect companion to a little beachside reading to start the day along with the complimentary breakfast basket the resort drops off at each room around 8 a.m. containing fresh-squeezed orange juice, bagel and cream cheese, grapes, muffin, apples and bananas – enough to get you going without weighing you down so you can dine at the numerous restaurants around town throughout the day.

There’s something rejuvenating about visiting a beach town in the winter. With its reduced traffic and slower pace, it’s a great way to unwind and renew your spirit in a quiet and friendly atmosphere where pets are greeted first. 

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