Animal Ambassadors


Do you miss the comforting companionship of your dog or cat when you’re away on vacation or business? Although a lot of hotels, inns and resorts now allow you to bring your animal with you when you’re staying, what if he finds travel too stressful and is better off staying behind in familiar surroundings? Consider looking into accommodations that have their own animal ambassador in residence.

It’s not unusual for a hotel or resort to add an animal to its hospitality staff roster. Many accommodation businesses, from small family-owned B&Bs to big international chains, understand that a home away from home is that much more welcoming, relaxing and enjoyable when there’s a furry friend on hand anxious for a belly rub.

• Among the hotel brands that cater to animal lovers is Kimpton. Located throughout the United States, the chain’s “hosPETality” program includes “Directors of Pet Relations” at several of their properties. These furry four-legged staff members “help” the concierge recommend great spots for guests to take their dogs, and even have their own email addresses for visitor questions about local animal-friendly activities. Treated just like the celebrities they know they are, these Directors of Pet Relations each have their own websites displaying their likes, dislikes, favorite foods and humorous guest stories. They also preside over the hotel’s nightly wine hour, reveling in scratches behind the ears while sipping their own animal-friendly libation.

• Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in the U.S. and Canada have a similar program. Several of their properties have “Canine Ambassadors” who live at the hotel and are eager to interact or go for walks with guests. Several of these Canine Ambassadors were originally trained as guide dogs for the blind, but were found to be better suited for the hospitality industry. In addition to being walking companions for guests, Fairmont’s Canine Ambassadors can be scheduled to socialize with corporate clients during meeting breaks.
A few of Fairmont’s Canine Ambassadors have become stars in their own right. Catie, a black Labrador at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, has featured in two children’s books and is a community ambassador, doing outreach programs such as reading with kids at the Boston Public Library. Santol, a dog at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, also stars in a book and is involved in reading programs. He was trained by the Mira Foundation to be a guide dog, and along with his hotel duties, Santol is often involved in Mira’s fundraising events, thanks to a partnership between the foundation and the hotel.

• Many animal ambassadors have inspirational stories of how they were rescued from a Humane Society or an abusive situation and given new lives as pampered pooches at posh hotels. At the Harvest Inn in St. Helena, California, in the heart of the Napa Valley, a small dog named Peanut didn’t exactly have a happy start to life, and was malnourished and filthy when he was found. All that changed when the inn’s general manager took him in. Now Peanut is well fed and has plenty of guests to dote on him. He spends his days wandering the vineyards, frolicking in the gardens, and getting a few table scraps from the chef.

• At the Algonquin Hotel in the heart of Manhattan, animal ambassadors have been a fixture in the front lobby since the 1930s, when a stray cat wandered in looking for food. The hotel took him in, named him Hamlet, and began a tradition. For the past 80 years, a succession of cats has been welcoming guests to the property. The first seven were all named Hamlet, and the last three have been called Matilda. In January 2011, after Matilda II decided to retire, a new search for Matilda III began through North Shore Animal League America, a no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. In August, Matilda III hosted a birthday party with proceeds going to the rescue. She can often be found napping on her chaise longue in the lobby.

• Sofia came to L’Auberge Del Mar in Del Mar, California after the staff found her mother, Buttercup, wandering lost through the grounds. Buttercup was eventually reunited with her family, but when she had puppies, one was given to the hotel staff who helped her out. Sofie is now the face behind the hotel’s L’Petit Pooch Package, and even has her own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

• The Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club and Spa in Kirkland, Washington, is home to a Labradoodle named Woody who scored the coveted title of “Woodmark Hotel Director of Guest Satisfaction”. In addition to his blog, Woody hosts a Yappier Hour for his four-legged guests and friends.

These are just a few of the hotels, inns and resorts that have animal ambassadors on staff. If you miss your dog or cat while away from home, staying at a location with a friendly resident animal can ease your loneliness while adding an extra dimension of comfort and pleasure to your stay.

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