Dogs welcome aren’t always dogs wanted

May 28, 2006

By Patti Lawson
For Sunday Gazette-Mail

Ever since I’ve started traveling with Sadie, the icons denoting hotel amenities have changed in importance. Now instead of looking for the tiny person getting a massage, which indicates spa services available, I look first for the dog profile icon. That icon is supposed to mean your dog is welcome, but Sadie and I have discovered all dog icons are not equal.

You’d think that if a dog was welcome at a hotel, you and your dog could count on certain things. For example, barring the obvious restrictions in food service areas that are imposed by state laws, your dog should be able to accompany you just about anywhere on the hotel property. We made a reservation at a hotel in Raleigh, N.C., where we were met with a surly clerk who shoved an agreement of PET RULES in front of us and demanded a signature before I could even read it.

Turns out dogs were not welcome in the elevators in this hotel. Their reasoning was that some people are allergic to dogs, therefore only service dogs were allowed in the elevator. When I asked how this worked being that service dogs were after all, dogs, I received a blank stare. Dogs were welcome to pay a hefty fee, and remain out of sight while on the property. We left and went next door to a wonderful Laquinta Inn, a chain that doesn’t even impose weight restrictions on their canine guests and didn’t charge Sadie to share my room.
Another hotel chain in Philadelphia, a city whose reputation for brotherly love doesn’t seem to extend to dogs, had only certain rooms they allowed dogs to stay in. However, they don’t tell you this when you make your reservation. And the rooms were limited to lower floors complete with street construction noise. Oh yes, they also wanted to charge a large “special cleaning” fee and had a lengthy set of rules.

Without hesitation we do, however, recommend the Omni Hotel chain and at the Pittsburgh location, the Omni William Penn, they couldn’t have been nicer to Sadie. This hotel not only knows how to put on the dog, they know how to treat one. And the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. couldn’t be nicer to dogs — or people for that matter. Add the Wyndham hotel in Peachtree City, Ga., and perhaps the most liberal dog domain of all, the Loews Hotel chain, and you are set for a great trip with your dog.

Traveling with Sadie despite the hotel snafus is a joyful experience, sort of like traveling with your best girlfriend, sharing the good and the bad, using each other’s perfume and borrowing clothes. While Sadie never borrows my clothes, I do enjoy a squirt or two of her Mango Tango perfume. However, I would not recommend sharing your dog’s toothpaste. I had to borrow Sadie’s recently when I forgot mine. Chicken-flavored toothpaste isn’t something I suggest trying.

Here are five useful things when traveling with a dog.
1. Ask and tell: Do ask if your dog is welcome and what, if any, restrictions there will be. And don’t even think of keeping your dog a secret. You’re not ashamed of her, so don’t hide her. Take her only where she is as welcome as you are.
2. Ask the hotel what type of property they have and where the nearest park is for exercise and other reasons. Make sure you have a tag on her collar with your cell phone number on it. Things happen, and it is imperative that you can be reached in the event your dog gets lost.
3. Do comply with hotel rules for you and your pet. Omni has a doorknob hanger that says “Pet In Room” if you leave your pet in the room to avoid surprises for the housekeeping staff. Most food areas are off limits to pets, so don’t insist on a waiver for your dog. Plan ahead. Room service or take out works nicely. And take your dog’s normal food to avoid any stomach upsets while away.
4. Remember a well-behaved dog is always welcome. Sadie has shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue with me and eaten in the special “Dog Section” at a Wyndham hotel. Your dog can too with a little training.
5. Take breaks when driving and make sure your dog gets enough to drink. Consult your vet for advice if your dog doesn’t travel well in the car.