Vacation extra: Adopt a dog!

(CBS News) It's no surprise to learn that there are untold numbers of stray dogs around the world, or dogs seeking homes in shelters. But what might surprise you is to learn that, the next time you take a vacation, it can be incredibly easy to rescue one of those dogs and bring it back home with you.

In Puerto Rico, the local mixed-breed strays are affectionately known as the Sato. While considered feral, years of interbreeding have produced friendly, intelligent and loyal dogs that need homes. The no-kill sanctuary Save a Sato was founded in 1996 by Gloria Marti. Every month, they send about 50 dogs to the U.S., either to homes or to stateside shelters. To adopt one of these pups while you're in Puerto Rico, all you have to do is fill out an adoption form and pay a $150 fee.

Not ready to bring home your own dog? Save a Sato welcomes volunteers to escort dogs on American Airlines from San Juan to airports in Hartford, Boston, New York, Newark, Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale. Why? Because it saves them significantly: An escorted dog costs $175 to fly, while unescorted fly as cargo for about $400.

Also in Puerto Rico is The Sato Project, run by former boxing champion Christina Beckles. For the past six years, she has been rescuing dogs from the southeast coast of Puerto Rico from a beach known locally as "Dead Dog Beach." Beckles gets the dogs spayed or neutered and vaccinated with a local vet, and pays to transport them back to the U.S. To adopt one of her dogs, it costs $200 for a puppy and $250 for an adult.

While in Rincon, you can stop by the Mango Beach Shop, where owner Milena Massey has been rescuing dogs for years. You can easily adopt one of their stray dogs, and they'll point you to a reputable vet to get the appropriate health certificate to fly the dog home.

St. Thomas is another place where stray dogs -- known colloquially as coconut retrievers -- are all over the island. Because it's part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, no special paperwork is needed to adopt from the Humane Society of St. Thomas -- just a health certificate clearing the dog to fly and a $105 fee for vaccinations. As an added incentive, the Bolongo Bay Resort offers adoptive pet owners a 30 percent discount on ocean-view and ocean-front rooms on stays of five nights or longer, and they'll provide free transportation to the shelter! As in Puerto Rico, you can also volunteer to be an escort for a dog and fly it in the cabin with you, at no cost to you.

In Turks and Caicos, the local strays are known as - potcakes! Why? Because the islanders are so used to having them around that they'll scrape the bottom of their pots of food, form a patty, and feed it to the strays in their yards. The Potcake Place adopts 500-600 dogs off the island each year. The sanctuary will also set up an adoption area in the main strip of Providenciales, where you're welcome to "borrow" a dog for the day and take it to the beach. And, like other islands, volunteers are always needed to escort dogs on flights to the U.S. You could also check out Grace Bay Resorts.

Curious about borrowing a dog? Then go to the Aspen Animal Shelter in Colorado. Visitors are always welcome to hang out with the dogs, take them on a hike, and even bring them back to the hotel for a night or two. Most of the hotels in Aspen aren't just pet-friendly -- they roll out the red carpet for pets! And you know what happens next: Most people fall in love with their borrowed dog and bring it home. The adoption process is very straightforward and runs $100 to cover the cost of neutering, vaccine and microchips. You could also look into special programs at the St. Regis Aspen and The Little Nell.

And speaking of a dog or cat sleepover, don't miss a chance to visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Kanab, Utah, the largest companion animal sanctuary in the country. You can share your cabin, cottage at the sanctuary or hotel room for a night with a cat, dog, potbellied pig, or even a bunny before making a final decision on whether you want to adopt.

Last, but certainly not least -- planning to travel to New York? The ASPCA New York and New York Humane Society have dogs galore, and best of all, Le Parker Meridien will offer up to 20 percent off if you adopt a pet during your stay. And Kimpton's 70 Park Avenue Hotel will book a complimentary visit to the groomer for a tip-to-tail transformation of your new friend, including a bath, trim and mini-massage!

For much more on this, go to my website, PeterGreenberg.com.

  • Peter Greenberg

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