Gunny, a devoted Peninsula Beverly Hills guest, often visits the posh hotel, and the staff joyously greets him as he strides along the lobby's marble floor. Retiring to his room, Gunny finds a specially monogrammed towel beside his bed and sits down to a grilled New York sirloin and scrambled eggs with aged Tillamook cheddar on bone china. And when he needs styling, the hotel's Rolls Royce shuttles him to the salon.
All pretty normal for a 5-star hotel -- except Gunny is a golden retriever. "Like their owners, pets should have a chance to get away from their normal routine," said the hotel's head concierge, James Little.
It's not uncommon for a hotel to be pet-friendly these days. "America is more pet obsessed than ever," said Andrea Arden, pet expert for the Today Show. "We see them as part as part of the family." But some luxury properties go to such extremes to cater to pets that the line between man and man's best friend is a bit, well, fuzzy.
Pet bathrobes, pet massages, and pet treadmills are becoming practically de rigueur at five-star hotels these days. Vermont's Spa at Topnotch, for example, has doggy Reiki. Hotels are also competing for Fido's affection with food. The Mandarin Oriental, Miami offers grilled beef tenderloin, while Los Cabos' Las Ventanas al Paraíso features made-to-order dishes for pets with special dietary needs.
The list of extras doesn't stop with food, especially for chains like Loews, which has taken pet pleasing to new heights. When the surf's up at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, in California, pups can join Su'ruff Camp, where poodles and bulldogs alike can take a shot at catching a wave. And if you've dreamed of your pup becoming the next Britney Spears, the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville offers voice-coaching lessons and the chance to cut a CD.
So what gives? Aren't we recovering from a recession? "With the economy in bad shape, people cut back on their own luxuries, but not on their pets," explains Arden. "For many, indulging their pet is more rewarding than indulging themselves."
But some of these programs are focused on giving back as well. The Hotel Indigo Atlanta-Midtown donated $1 from each signature drink ordered during its "Canine Cocktail Hours" this spring to help a local dog park. The hotel even invited the Atlanta Humane Society to bring four-legged friends to the event to encourage adoptions.
Some of these pets may even become hotel guests. "There's nothing like when you've had a bad day and you come home to your dog smiling and beaming unconditional love," says Peninsula Beverly Hills concierge James Little. "Why shouldn't you have that when you're in a hotel?"
Before arrival, the staff contacts all guests to see if they have special needs or requests -- of course, this includes four-legged visitors as well. But there's plenty that comes with the Pampered Pooch package, too, like wrought-iron pet beds, 22-karat gold plated ID tags, and home-baked dog treats. And when water is pouring down from the sky, both pet and owner can borrow Burberry raincoats.
A stress-reducing neck massage is the perfect antidote to a long flight, no matter whether that neck is human or canine. And at this Mexican resort, pets can also enjoy the beach or pool in a portable pet cabana. When it's time to dine, the Canine Delights menu (served in metallic bowls with faux gem stones) features items like Rin Tin Tin (shredded braised beef and steamed rice) or made-to-order dishes for pets with special dietary needs.
Sure, there's gourmet room service and luxurious bedding at Nashville's Vanderbilt Hotel, but you can also have your pup cut a CD in a professional recording session. After being shuttled to a recording studio in a limo, dogs work with a voice coach (!) and howl along with a musician or bark to their favorite karaoke tune. It's part of the chain's Vacation for Pets learning camps, which includes Su'ruff Camp at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa in San Diego where pups can learn to catch a wave.
Humans have ergonomic chairs, so why shouldn't pets have the same for their bowls? That's just one of the perks at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, where they also receive monogrammed paw-printed towels and scented poop bags. At the Peninsula Chicago, treats include special room-service dishes like the Spaniel Spinach Salad with corn and chopped beef or Tabby Tuna Tartare. And the Peninsula New York offers a personalized menu option with the pet's preferred brand of food.
Side-by-side massages are usually meant for two humans, but at New York's Muse Hotel, the "Hers and Furs Pet-icure" the second creature should be canine. Kimpton properties have always featured a special devotion to animals, and that dedication has only grown; today, each property welcomes the pet on the lobby activities board, and many have a resident pup. At the Denver's Hotel Monaco it's Tulo -- a cocker spaniel "Canine Concierge" named after Troy Tulowitski, shortstop for the Colorado Rockies.
Your pet may not need a passport to travel to Mexico, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want one. Hotel staff will take your pup's photo for a "Dog Passport" (written in, um, "Paw-lish") and marked with a One&Only Palmilla passport stamp. Once you both make it through immigration, Fido will find gourmet menu offerings like organic roasted chicken, beef tenderloin, and steamed Pacific salmon. Pets can even relax in poolside doggie cabanas.
There are no toga-clad waiters serving your dog grapes, but the hotel does offer four-course pet meals of fish, game, or vegetable soup in Gucci dog bowls (and on golden trays to boot). When it's a little chilly in the Eternal City, order an Odilia Prisco Dog Haute Couture cashmere sweater with your pup's name written in rhinestones. But Fido may not want to wear it during his visit to La Domus Aventina, a nearby dog spa, for his green-clay and aloe vera skin-and-hair-revitalizing massage.
Even pets have stressful days and (like their owners) need a happy hour. So every Thursday night this spring, this hotel obliged, serving chicken, steak, or vegan options for pups. Humans joined in, of course, and when they ordered one of the Hotel Indigo's signature drinks (a Greyhound, Salty Dog, or Yellow Lab), $1 was donated to the local Piedmont Park Dog Park.
Four-legged guests receive a luxurious plush bed, a golden Mandarin Oriental collar tag, treats, bottled water, and a bone-shaped place mat. But so they don't go hungry, culinary choices include grilled beef tenderloin, organic chicken breast, and gourmet desserts. Afterward, pups can work out with a certified trainer at the hotel's Doggie Boot Camp and focus on issues like excessive barking, jumping, or housebreaking. And for the stylish dog, there are bathrobes with the Mandarin Oriental logo emblazoned in blue or pink Swarovski crystals.
Who doesn't like welcome gifts -- especially if they include a cookie, commemorative bowl, and placemat? The Biltmore also features a special room-service menu with Zen Yo, a hearty vegetable stir-fry with poached eggs, steamed brown rice, and salmon, which is perfect fuel for taking your pet on a walk around the property's 39 landscaped acres (the hotel provides a map of the trails).
Reiki isn't just for humans. Here, pups can get a "Rover Reiki" massage on a magnetic dog bed. "Usually dogs are excited but calm down quickly as the therapist starts to work on them," says Alexandra Sharpe, the resort's spa director. "At the end of the treatment the dogs are usually relaxed and sleepy." Fortunately, they can then retire to an "Aero Paws" inflatable dog bed wrapped in soft fleece covers, with Mini-Bone cookies at turndown.