NOT A RUFF-RUFF DAY

Checking out some dog-friendly patios in Houston

Photo by Clare O'Brien

I could talk about my dog, Marvin (who I consider my son), all day long. Literally. I love being a (hypothetical) mom, but, I feel guilty leaving him home alone all day. So, I decided to find the best places in Houston to go to that he can tag along to with me.

We started the day getting some brunch at Barnaby's in River Oak. Overall, the food was fantastic, although, we had some small issues. I think there was a total of six spots in their parking lot, after all, it is Houston. The patio was pretty small for being such a "dog-friendly" restaurant, but since it was so shady it made up for it. Since the food was so good and there are multiple locations, I would definitely come back to Barnaby's and bring Marvin.

After hanging out at the TERRIBLY small, Discovery Dog Park, we had some lunch at Good Dog in the Heights. I can't say enough about how amazing this place is! The people were so nice and seemed genuinely happy to be serving us. When we walked in, they immediately gave Marvin his own personal water bowl, which is super rare for Houston. They had games available like Corn Hole and Jenga, on their shady patio (which has a nice sized fan too). It's a very cute concept to eat hot dogs on picnic tables like you're at a B-B-Q, but with topping that you wouldn't normally expect.

For dinner, we went to Onion Creek, just down the street from Good Dog, and I loved their menu! They had a good range of appetizers and everything came out in a timely manner. They had a great big patio and tons of shade and fans! With Marvin being a black lab, I'm always concerned about the amount of shade for him. We went there to watch the Astros game and I don't think there was a bad view for anyone. They also had very clean bathrooms which is hard to find when you're doing casual dining.

We rapped things up at Nett Bar in Washington Ave area. It had decent shading, but the environment was so fun I didn't mind the fact that I was sweating buckets. They had a ping pong table, Corn Hole, Connect 4, and a bunch of other games. Parking was easy which is always a plus.

Overall, Marvin and I had a great day exploring Houston, eating a bunch of food (because of course I shared with him), meeting new people and going to new places. It's hard to find dog-friendly places that are truly dog-friendly, so, I am glad I found: Barnaby's, Good Dog, Onion Creek, and Nett Bar, for the next time I want to spend a day with my dog... which will probably be tomorrow.

Patriot Paws/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It's that time of year: Houston Ballet's packed and popular Nutcracker Market will be held Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, at NRG Center with more than 100,000 shoppers expected to scoop up everything "Christmasy" that can fit under a tree, down a chimney, on a dinner table or you can put a bow on it.

About 260 merchants, including 23 rookie booths, will kick back 11 percent of their sales toward the Houston Ballet Foundation. When you add in all the admission money, thousands of Houston area students will get a valuable lesson in the arts.

As always, all roads will lead to booth 920, to the back and to the right in NRG Center, where the Donne Di Domani ladies will be selling their legendary marinara sauce for the 28th year. Donne Di Domani means "Women of Tomorrow" in Italian, or "Spaghetti Sauce Ladies" in plain English.

The sauce is still $10 a bottle, credit cards accepted. If you buy a 12-bottle case for $120, they'll throw in a dozen recipe cards guaranteed to please the family, including your uncle who comes to your house each Christmas and does nothing but complain about your cooking.

Here's why I love writing about these ladies. Sure their sauce is amazing. Consider this a warning: If you wait till Sunday to buy the sauce, you'll be the little piggy who had none. But the real story is what Donne Di Domani does with their profits — we're talking millions here. Yeah, they sell a lot of sauce.

Each year, after the market closes and they total up the profits, the ladies decide which charities they'll support. It's a long list of organizations such as Shelter for Cancer Families, Casa Juan Diego, Triumph Over Kid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Carmelite Nuns of New Caney, and many more.

One year, when I was in the hospital getting my X-rays touched up, I heard that Sister Angel and the Carmelite Nuns said a prayer for me. Wrong church, wrong pew, but I'll take it.

Pawsing for our heroes
The charities may change, but the ladies will always support an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. Last year the charity was Folded Flag, which lends a hand to widows and children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In recent years, Donne Di Domani sponsored service dogs trained by Patriot Paws in Rockwell, Texas. I've been to Rockwell and seen how these remarkable dogs help wounded veterans get through their day. It costs $30,000 to train a dog, and the dogs are given free to vets who need them. Donne Di Domani so far has sponsored four Patriot Paws dogs:

"Hoffy," who was named after me (best honor I ever received), didn't make the grade. His mind wandered and he didn't concentrate on his studies. (The acorn sure didn't fall far from the tree.)

Continue on CultureMap to find out what happened to "Hoffy."

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