Why must you BUY the boat in CT? Newport has far more for sale and is reasonably close. For a couple with dogs a year is a long time. I'd go for the most interior room possible with the most live aboard amenities within your budget as seaworthiness is not a particular concern given your plans. I'd be looking at entry level production boats in good shape rather than more upscale brands. A good engine is a MUST for the ICW so be sure to get a separate engine survey or have a good diesel mechanic ride along on the sea trial and put her to the test.
No longer posting. Reach me by PM!