Gravy Train

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2006

Patti Lawson: Dogs…Diets…Dating

EVER since our book’s release in April, Sadie and I have gotten quite used to traveling in style on the “gravy train” provided by our publisher. Yep, it didn’t take much to get used to five-star hotels, room service, gift baskets and first-class travel arrangements.

But like every other train on the track, the gravy train stops and you have to get off. In our case, this stop was just a few weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio.

I had to attend a class, so this trip was on my own dime. We tried our usual first choice of hotel chains that love dogs, and were dismayed to find out they had no vacancy. Other hotels we were used to staying at were either too expensive or unavailable. So the Internet search began for a bargain hotel that allows dogs. It’s difficult to pick a hotel you’re unfamiliar with, but we booked a room at a major hotel chain that sounded fine even though the price was less than our dinner budget has been. We were about to learn that luxury for less is a myth.

We left very early on the first morning and went straight to the class. After a long day, we were eager to check into our hotel and navigated unfamiliar interstates through the rainy, dark night via the Mapquest directions, anticipating a nice bubble bath and room service.

I knew we were in trouble when we arrived at the hotel finding it plastered with neon signs advertising every beer brand on the planet. You couldn’t tell the difference from the sidewalk to the filthy indoor/outdoor carpet that led to the front desk. I sensed a serious dilemma here as the desk clerk opened a bulletproof glass window to talk to us.

Because the reservation required payment in advance and the chance of a refund seemed slim, I took the key card and Sadie and I went off to see the room. The dark hallway was littered with leaves and debris, and we had to climb a flight of metal stairs to get to the room.

I opened the door and went inside; Sadie, however, did not. She dug all four paws into the carpet and refused to budge. Fearful of entering the room alone, I dragged her in with me, propping the door open with my purse. It was worse than I care to describe. I will tell you that the carpet in front of the heating/air conditioning unit was soaking wet and the entire time I stood looking around, Sadie was tugging on her leash toward the door.

Back at the front desk, I asked for a clean room. After looking me over and staring at Sadie, who as usual was standing on her hind legs with paws on the counter, the clerk surprisingly just gave me my money back.

Once in the sanctuary of the car, I started crying. Tired, cold and hungry, in a strange city with a dog and no place to stay is enough to make anyone weep, but I had to get a grip on things. After examining the room of a nearby motel, which was only slightly better, I forked over an additional $5 for Sadie and asked for an extra blanket. They didn’t have any so we went to Dollar General for a blanket, picked up water at the grocery store, got some takeout and went back to make the best of it.

Sadie didn’t refuse to go in this place, although she did step lightly, and once the lights were on, I realized this was not a floor I’d want my bare feet on either. The “amenities” consisted of one small bar of soap, one ice bucket, one set of very thin towels and two plastic cups. Where was the body lotion, the coffee maker, the plush robes, the down comforter?

After feeding Sadie, whose spirits picked up considerably when she saw chicken in her bowl, I approached the dark bathroom and bravely endured a trickling shower of lukewarm water. I called the front desk to tell them this room didn’t have a hair dryer. Seems they don’t have hair dryers at this motel either, so I dried my hair over the heating unit, and armed the security system — a chair wedged under the doorknob.

Later, my sister called to see how we were doing. I told her I felt like our great-aunt Dell who used to wear shoes and white socks with everything. There I was in my nightgown with shoes and socks on, sipping Perrier out of my motel plastic cup as my sweet little dog tried to sleep on the lumpy bed. We were used to sleeping on sheets with 400 threads per square inch, not in the entire bed.

I used my one free local call from this joint to call our favorite hotel chain and beg for a room. We both felt like we were in heaven as we entered the lovely lobby that evening. Sadie sighed as she settled on the splendid king-size bed while I enjoyed a bubble bath.

One night at the no-star motel made us resolve to keep our seats on the gravy train for as long as possible.

E-mail Patti Lawson at thedogdiet@aol.com.

COME MEET PATTI AND SAID THIS SATURDAY…DECEMBER AT THE KANAWHA PUBLIC LIBRARY
CAPITOL STREET, CHARLESTON. CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE. THEIR BOOK THE DOG DIET: A MEMOIR, WHAT MY DOG TAUGHT ME ABOUT SHEDDING POUNDS, LICKING STRESS, AND GETTING A NEW LEASH ON LIFE IS THE PERFECT GIFT FOR THE ANIMAL LOVER ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST.

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