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Dog days tips
Ÿ Take this day trip on a Thursday to enjoy all of its elements.
Ÿ Dogs must be well-behaved and connected to a 6-foot leash. The usual cleanup rules apply.
Ÿ For a complete list of dog-friendly stores and eateries, consult www.visitalexandriava.com.

They’re our very best friends, our walking companions and our therapists. We tuck them into beadazzled handbags, dress them in raincoats and galoshes and prune them like so much topiary at Disney World. And yet they love us. Unconditionally.

This day trip gives proper thanks to our loyal canine companions.

Grab a bench in front of The Dairy Godmother in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, where Wisconsin-style frozen custard rules. Here Puppy Pops come in two flavors — pumpkin and banana — and are made with doggie digestive systems in mind from peanut butter and plain yogurt. Best of all, ten cents from the sale of every Puppy Pop goes to a charity that benefits animal companions.

Humans enjoy dense, smooth frozen custard in chocolate and vanilla, as well as the flavor of the day. Sorbets capture the fresh tastes of the season and contain no fat, dairy products or eggs. The Godmother also is known for light and luscious homemade marshmallows — treats that will have you coming back and begging for more.

Old Town Alexandria is one of the most dog-friendly shopping districts in America, with several stores that set out bowls of water, pass out treats and even welcome Fido to step inside. Following an afternoon of hoofing it, visit The Dog Park at 705 King St. Your buddy will appreciate a break from the heat, and you’ll love the selection of collars, bowls, toys and treats. Buy a few cookies in the shape of palm trees, starfish and ice cream cones for an on-the-spot reward that celebrates summer.

Just around the corner at 139 S. Fairfax St., The Enchanted Florist offers doggie treats from a charming wooden dispenser on its stretch of sidewalk real estate. Floral arrangements and gifts for the humans in your life are found inside.

Join in the Yappy Hour at the Hotel Monaco at 480 King St. It’s a well-known fact that the folks on the opposite end of a dog leash tend to be friendly, but those who congregate in the courtyard at the Hotel Monaco every Tuesday and Thursday evening from April through October at 5 p.m. are the happiest around. Locals mingle with hotel guests while dogs perform the requisite sniff tests, and most are on their very best behavior.

If you shy away from off-leash dog parks, this is the place for you — socializing your tethered dog while sipping on beer or wine and enjoying Jackson 20’s snacks is very civilized, indeed. Tavern bites include market oysters, shrimp salad, burgers, ribs, a charcuterie board and a cheese sampler. The BBQ pork sliders, deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, J20 fries and house-made tater tots are priced at $5 per plate for Yappy Hour.

Each pup is given a bowl of water and free treats by a friendly staff that fawns over your dog as if he were royalty. A few rules apply to keep things fun for everyone; visit www.monaco-alexandria.com for details.

You’ll want to stay until the crowd disperses … but don’t. There’s still more to do during this day that’s all about dogs.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center has long been recognized as a haven for the creative, with 82 working artist studios, six galleries, the Art League School and an Archaeological Museum. But did you know the Torpedo Factory welcomes well-behaved, leashed dogs? Some artists produce pet portraits, so you can commission a lasting souvenir of this dog-friendly day trip. The Torpedo Factory stays open until 9 on Thursday nights.

The Potomac Riverboat Company’s Canine Cruise departs at 7 and 8 p.m. from the dock behind the Torpedo Factory. Every Thursday evening dozens of dogs embark — on a journey that’s remarkably free of barking — around Alexandria’s seaport. Tour guides point out important landmarks and share local lore, while humans and canines kick back and enjoy a cool breeze off the water.

The cruise lasts 40 minutes, and tickets are $15 per adult, $9 per child and free for furry friends. Since this is a popular event, advance ticket purchases are highly recommended and may be made online at www.potomacriverboatco.com. Tickets also are sold at the company’s kiosk on the waterfront.

With the dog days of summer upon us, the time is right to treat your best friend to a vacation day and thank him for all he does. After all, where would we be without our dogs? And, as comedian George Carlin once observed, it’s not right to make a dog just lie around on his day off — that’s his regular job!

Elaine Jean is a local travel writer. She and husband/photographer Paul founded roaming the planet.com in 2010, and they’re working on a book of mid-Atlantic day trips to be published in 2013.