Bow Wow for Bellevue

Bellevue is booming and boy, do we have a lot to bark about. Follow dachshunds Winston and Sawyer as they explore this dynamic and dog-friendly city, located just minutes from downtown Seattle.
Written by Beth Henkes | Photography by Jen Flynn
In the not-too-distant past, downtown Bellevue was a sleepy Seattle suburb with a number of small independent businesses in one-story buildings. Many long-time shop owners remember when their stores were surrounded by nothing other than grassy fields, even as recently as the late 1980s. Our new century brought with it a lot of change for Bellevue, and it’s harder to find those one-story mom-and-pop stores anymore.

I must admit, I’ve never really thought of Bellevue as an overly “dog friendly” town, what with its mini-skyscrapers and corporate stores lining the downtown streets. But I knew there must be dog lovers in this booming, techie city, so I set out after work one day with my dachshunds, Winston and Sawyer, to see what we could discover.

Our first stop is one we frequently make, since the Mud Bay store in Overlake is right across the street from my place of work. It’s a playground for Sawyer and Winston, who love nosing around the tubs of bones and other delectable treats. Toys are wonderfully displayed by one of the glass windows, so it’s simple to see what the newest choices are; there are even some baskets of toys on the floor for easy rummaging by canine noses. If you’re looking for healthy, holistic food for your dog, Mud Bay is an excellent place to go. The knowledgeable staff can help you choose from a myriad of food samples to take home so that you can make the best choice possible for your pup.

Mud Bay doesn’t stop with dogs. They’ve also got a host of kitty treats, toys and food, as well as a few supplies for small animals, so you can shop for all your pets in one place! We’ve gotten lucky today; we escape with only the gifts we came for: ‘Cuz toys for our dachshund friends who are having a birthday.

Out the door and off to University Book Store, where the boys stop to take a drink in the bowl of fresh water just inside the door. The staff here is always attentive to those of the canine persuasion, and everyone stops to say hello as we head over to the fiction section to pick up a novel I’ve been on the hunt for. One of the best things about University Book Store, besides being one of only a few independent bookstores still left on the Eastside, is their versatility. Not only do they have a large selection of trade books (that you can ship for free!), they also have wonderful gift items, an extensive fine pen selection, office supplies and even art materials. It’s truly one-stop shopping! When we get to the register to buy our book, the cashier stops to give the boys each a treat and a scratch behind the ears. This branch of University Book Store has been around since 1987 and I’m glad to see they’ve made it through the boom.

Since we’re so close, I can’t resist a stop at Urban Dogs in Bellevue Square. If you’re in the habit of spoiling your pooches (and who isn’t?!), you must have a look inside this doggie delight. Stocking the latest in fashions, toys and treats (and even breed-specific topiaries) you can find the perfect leash, carrier, outfit, or just enjoy talking with the friendly staff.

It’s getting late, and I need to get the boys home for dinner, but I’m comforted to know that if I didn’t live here, I could stay at the Westin, just across the street at Lincoln Square, and the boys would be welcomed with open paws. The staff at the Westin will provide your pup with their very own bed and bowls, and the great part for mom and dad is that there’s no pesky pet deposit to worry about. For any pet owner who has slept in a Heavenly Bed, it’s an extra bonus knowing that your dog can too. If your budget can’t stretch for the Westin, check out Starwood’s other properties in town, like the Sheraton, as many of them are dog friendly also.

After a good night’s sleep, we drive back to Bellevue to continue our quest. We start the day with a quick errand to Wells-Medina Nursery on the edge of town. A garden lover’s dream, this incredible nursery stocks difficult-to-find plants of all kinds, in addition to those that grow well in our own climate. Lucky for us, they also welcome dogs, so long as they are on a leash. There are water bowls available, and treats behind the counter too. It’s tough not to spend everything in my bank account, but we depart with our coveted epimedium and head down the road to one of our favorite parks in the area.

Medina Park is small enough to be peaceful, but large enough for a good walk. Even better is the off-leash area that’s open from May 1 through September 30 and includes a small pond for canine swimmers. The nicely groomed paths border a pond filled with waterfowl of all kinds. This park has its regulars, and everyone is very friendly. It’s a great place to have a picnic lunch, on the grass in the shade of the trees while you watch the blue herons roost nearby.

After our walk, we get back in the car and head to Old Bellevue, on Main Street. The day is turning hot and I know I won’t have much time to explore before my little guys overheat. As we wander down the street, I notice a scant few merchants with dog bowls out front, but we hit the dog-loving mother lode when we stop at Gilbert’s Bagel and Deli on Main for one of the best deli lunches I’ve ever had.

Of course the boys weren’t able to enter the restaurant itself (due to expected health codes), but Steve Gilbert, deli owner, came bounding out the front door to greet us, Milkbones in hand, announcing his abiding love for all things canine. “We love dogs!” he says with feeling, before telepathically offering up a salad with pears, toasted Stilton, a little lemon zest and a champagne vinaigrette. (The matzoball soup and traditional corned beef on rye are sure bets too.) Sawyer and Winston make themselves at home in one of the cozy white Adirondack chairs out front, watching me closely to see if I might be inclined to share. On any given day, the deli is packed at lunchtime, so bring your pooch in “non-peak” hours to claim your very own Adirondack chair, or snag one of the cute café tables out front.

After lunch, we continue our saunter down the street and discover The Pet Stops Here. We take a little break from the heat to peruse the diverse wares packed into this small shop and receive a few inquisitive sniffs from Domino, one of several store dogs. The shop is largely a grooming facility, and we learn about the myriad of grooming services available.

Engulfed by the heat when we walk out the door, we decide it’s time for a trip to Bellevue Downtown Park, just a short walk away. This 20 acre park has been beautifully kept up, and a number of dog groups meet here on the expansive lawn each day. Like most parks in Bellevue, dogs must be on leash, but there’s lots of room to run and play on extendable lines. Shade is abundant, and the dog watching is great from a bench by the infinity pool and waterfall.

After relaxing for a while, we muster the energy to get up and continue our walk through downtown. We exit the park on the 102nd Avenue side, and are stunned to see a party in progress. It’s the opening for Bellevue’s newest Salon and Spa, Ambiente, and they’ve pulled out all the stops to celebrate. The entire group (which includes the girls from the neighboring spa, Namaste) is so friendly; even Master of Ceremonies Gary Mason is so boisterous as he offers us wine and snacks that I mistake him for a co-owner. The crew at Ambiente hasn’t forgotten the dogs; just as we’re arriving, they bring out a huge bowl of ice water for Sawyer and Winston, who must look as if they’re in need of a little salon of their own at this point. As they partake of this cool treat, I notice they are being advanced on by a tiny dachshund named Buster, who at 10 weeks is so energetic he even scares my little dynamos. This clinches it. Dachshund lovers who offer ice water on hot days and a stellar line up of salon services in an adorable little house to boot. You can’t go wrong here.

Worn out from our little gathering, we decide to wander over to Meydenbauer Beach Park for a peaceful end to our day. Though the boys aren’t allowed in the swimming area here, we are all afforded a gorgeous view of the bay from our shady spot on the grass. This park is undergoing a renovation and the city has done a nice job. There are Mutt Mitts available in case you forget yours, and nice green grass to roll around in. Even though we’re there in the late afternoon, it’s not terribly crowded (despite the small and nearly full parking lot), and I feel sure we will keep this park on our “fun to visit” list.

Sawyer and Winston can barely wag their tiny dachshund tails back to the car, but as we bring our day to a close, I am both surprised and satisfied to know there is just a little bit of dog friendliness in Bellevue after all.

More Information

Outdoor cafes are generally friendly to well-behaved dogs.  Look for places with dogs already outside, and check with management first before you get comfortable.

Gilberts Bagel and Deli
10024 Main St., 425.455.5650
Breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks until 5pm. Sidewalk seating.

Bellevue has over 100 parks to enjoy, though all require your dogs to be leashed (see exception below).

Bellevue Downtown Park
10201 NE 4th St.

Meydenbauer Beach Park
419 98th Ave. NE
425.452.7158 for picnic reservations

Medina Park
NE 12th Street and 82nd Avenue NE

Robinswood Community Park
2430 148th Ave. SE
This park has an off-leash area for large dogs near the Day Camp Barn; small dog off-leash area is in the old horse corral behind the tennis courts.

The Pet Stops Here

10129 Main St., Suite 107A, 425.637.0188
Grooming services and dog supplies.

Mud Bay Overlake
13407 NE 20th St., 425.641.0815
Dog and cat pet food and supplies, small animal supply selection.

Urban Dogs
2036 Bellevue Square, 425.456.0009
Supplies and gifts.

The Westin Bellevue

600 Bellevue Way NE, 425.638.1000

Sheraton Bellevue
100-112th Ave. SE, 425.455.3330

Check out the PAWS web site for a starter list of pet-friendly housing in Bellevue.

University Book Store

990 102nd Ave. NE, 425.462.4500
Books, gifts, office and art supplies.

Wells-Medina Nursery
8300 NE 24th St. (Medina), 425.454.1853
Unique garden plants.

Ambiente Salon and Spa
17 102nd Ave. NE, 425.455.7254
Full service salon, nail, and related spa services.

Namaste Healing Spa
13 102nd Ave. NE, 425.455.1222

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