There are very few places more attractive to pet owners than Rancho Mirage’s sprawling The River—a perfect place where man and beast can meet.  On any given day while stopping off for coffee at my local Starbucks, I see dogs walking their owners around this complex, enjoying each other’s company and occasionally taking a break for a snack or a treat.

I often run into Carol Ann Zale, The River’s general manager for the last six years, as she surveys her domain.  “We’re pet-friendly because more and more people like to go places with their animals,” she says.  “Their animals aren’t just family pets, they’re family members.  A lot of people don’t like to leave them behind.”

Mornings tend to be busiest, when people take their sunrise strolls.  “Maybe they wouldn’t even take a walk if they didn’t have their dog to walk,” Carol Ann tells me.  “It’s the buddy system.  We want them here.  And we want them to know we want them here.”

Despite the early morning furry, four-legged rush, pets are present throughout the day and well into the evening.  And Zale is happy to report that there’s never been a problem with people not picking up after their pets.  “The owners take good care of their animals.”  Of course there’s a leash law—dogs must be tethered at all times—and thankfully that’s rarely an issue either.

Carol has come to care for some of her regulars, likening the pets and their owners to other families who routinely visit The River.  “There’s this one Havanese.  Her name is Molly,” says Zale with a  smile.  “She’s been coming here since she was a puppy.  Her parents are seasonal residents and I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m anxious to see her to see how she’s grown in the year.  It’s like first meeting a baby in a carriage, then witnessing their first step, then seeing them in the mall years later.”

“We live in La Quinta but we come here every day,” says Herv McGlashan, referring to himself, his Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Riley, and their quotidian hour-long visit.  “It’s so peaceful here and the people are so friendly.”