Hotels around the country are providing a different sort of amenity — ones with four legs — to help you feel right at home.
STORY: Patti Nickell
Writer Patti Nickell. Photo by Jenn Nelson.
I am not the kind of travel writer who routinely gets involved with a handsome male while on a trip. I mean, what’s in it for me? A quick flirtation and it’s over. Or worse, I give my heart and then we go our separate ways. Nope, just not worth it.
This time, however, it was different. When I gazed into his warm brown eyes, I was hooked. I wasn’t even offended when he nuzzled my neck at our first meeting, despite him being accompanied by a female companion, who clearly seemed to adore him. Just what kind of man was he? What kind of man-stealing woman was I?
Before you judge me too harshly, I should reveal that my crush is of the canine variety. Beau, a 9-year-old Labrador retriever, and his “companion” Mavis, a 12-year-old Golden/Lab cross, are stellar members of the Fairmont Hotel Corporation’s Canine Ambassadors Program.
The program began in 2001 at the Vancouver Waterfront Hotel and moved the following year to the Hotel Vancouver. Today, ambassadors brighten up hotel life at 10 Fairmont properties worldwide. From Boston’s Copley Plaza, where Catie, a Black Lab, is in charge, to the Mount Kenya Safari Club, where Labrador/Ridgeback sisters Tusker and Grammy oversee operations, the pooches are the Fairmont’s most popular employees.
At the Hotel Vancouver, Beau and Mavis roam the halls and corridors, accepting dog biscuits and ear rubs from guests and employees alike. Darren Klingbeil, the Fairmont Gold concierge and pet parent to Mavis, says she loves to hang out in the lobby and greet guests.
“Mavis eases the loneliness of those traveling without their own pets,” says Klingbeil.
Beau, on the other hand, prefers a bit more action, according to his owner and hotel concierge Debbie Wild. He accompanies guests on walks around the waterfront and to Stanley Park.
“Beau has learned which hotels and shops stock dog cookies, and he will drag guests there,” says Wild, adding that he also loves the Gucci and Louis Vuitton shops in the hotel lobby as they always have cookies on hand.
To be selected as a Canine Ambassador, dogs must have some sort of service training — most are recruited from the Guide Dogs for the Blind program.
“We need to be sure they will be comfortable interacting with our guests,” says Wild, “because they pretty much have free rein of the hotel with the exception of guest rooms and of course, the restaurants.”
Once a dog has been vetted — such as the newest ambassador Stanley at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge — he or she becomes something of a celebrity. The dogs have email addresses and Facebook pages and frequently receive gifts from departing guests who have come to know and love them.
Mavis and Beau have more than their share of perks. How many of their canine brethren have posed in the Olympic bobsled, hung out with Celine Dion’s son while she rehearsed for a concert, or can claim to be BFFs with Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan’s pup Junior?
They have even discovered that politicians sometimes prefer kissing dogs to babies.
“When Joe Biden was here for the Olympics, he wouldn’t go to his room until he gave Beau and Mavis their evening pat and cookie,” says Wild.
In true ambassadorial fashion, the dogs remain bipartisan. They’ll take the affection (and the cookies) from whomever gives it.
Seeing Vancouver from a Dog’s View
If you are looking for something to do in Vancouver, Mavis and Beau suggest the following:
Take the Food Truck Tour. Until recently, Vancouver food cart vendors were limited to selling popcorn, hot dogs, and chestnuts. Times have changed, and now the colorful carts offer everything from fresh seafood to chocolate chili cookies. A great way to sample the fare is to take a two-hour Vancouver Foodie Tour ($49; foodietours.ca) that stops at five different carts. From Taco Fino to Soho Road Naan Kebab to Mom’s Grilled Cheese, take a bite out of Vancouver.
Walk Stanley Park. This one gets five Dog Biscuits from Beau. A day exploring the park — one of North America’s largest urban green spaces — can include everything from old growth forest and the welcoming sands of Third Beach to decorated totem poles, as well as Prospect Point Lighthouse and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Explore one of Vancouver’s colorful neighborhoods. Gastown, with its streetlights and brick-paved streets, is the city’s oldest (1867) and now one of its hippest ‘hoods. Heritage buildings house designer stores, cool bars, and hot restaurants. Granville Island buzzes with activity from dawn to dusk. Select produce at the Public Market, sample house-made beer at Granville Island Brewing Company, or take in a performance at the Arts Club Theater. Chinatown, the oldest and one of the largest Chinese neighborhoods in North America, is a colorful mélange of sights, sounds, and smells. You can do everything from indulging in traditional dim sum to wandering through Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Garden, the first of its kind outside China.
For more information, visit tourismvancouver.com.
TIP: Pet Travel
If you are thinking about traveling to Canada with your own dog, there is no quarantine, although you will need to bring along his/her vaccination papers. For $50 a day at the Hotel Vancouver, your dog will be provided with a bed, two bowls, a map of dog-friendly parks, and a bag of treats, personally approved by Beau and Mavis. The hotel recommends that you not leave your dog unattended.