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Tag: guests

Who needs Disney World when 900 dogs are staying at your hotel?

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If you passed through the lobby of Orlando’s Hyatt Regency a week ago, you might have thought the Westminster Dog Show had a new home.

The hotel estimates it had between 800 and 900 canine guests over the weekend — the vast majority of them belonging to families that were fleeing Hurricane Irma.

irmaAs the hurricane struck Florida’s southern tip, and then its western shores, many residents headed north or east to Orlando for safety and sought refuge in the dog-friendly hotel.
The hotel wasn’t doing anything as noble as offering free shelter, though.

To say it “opened its heart” to evacuees and their dogs — as some reports have put it — is a bit of a leap.

But it did offer paying guests with dogs a break on its normal $150 cleaning fee, dropping it to (an almost reasonable) $50.

irma2Judging from photos of guests and their dogs that were posted on Instagram, the hotel maybe also have relaxed its 50-pound weight limit.

Most of the dogs belonged to families fleeing the hurricane, the Orlando Sentinel reported. But others belonged to families on vacation who either planned to bring their dogs along or brought them along at the last minute, not wanting to leave them behind in kennels when a hurricane was approaching.

The hotel also designated a few areas closer to the hotel entrance where dogs could relieve themselves that were partially sheltered from the wind and rain.

(Photos: Instagram)

Three puppies lift spirits of rescuers

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The rescue of three puppies who’d been buried for five days under a deadly avalanche provided a glimmer of comfort during the continuing rescue effort in central Italy.

Firefighters on Monday pulled the white Maremma sheepdogs from the wreckage of Hotel Rigopiano in the Pescara province, where 23 people have been found dead.

Nine survivors have been found and six people remain missing.

The puppies had been born in December to the hotel’s resident dogs, Lupo and Nuvola (Wolf and Cloud), who had escaped the quake and found shelter in the nearby village of Farindola, according to a report in The Local.

The births had been prominently featured on the resort’s website.

The discovery lifted spirits of the rescue teams as they searched for more survivors.

The one-month-old pups were found in an isolated part of the resort, which was slammed by a series of powerful earthquakes and avalanche Jan. 18.

“They just started barking very softly,” said Sonia Marini, a member of the Forestry Corps. “In fact, it was hard to find them right away because they were hidden. Then we heard this very tiny bark and we saw them from a little hole the firefighters had opened in the wall. Then we expanded the hole and we pulled them out.”

After their rescue and medical checks, the puppies were reunited with their parents in Farindola, where one of the hotel employees had taken them in.

(Photo by Marisa Basilavecchia / AP)

Maniacs, monkeys and the Motel 6

 

In a way, this might not be the best time to sing the praises of Motel 6 — it being in the news now for leaving the light on for one Jared Lee Loughner.

Authorities say the Tucson man rented a room from America’s most affordable motel chain to plot the final steps of the horrific shooting spree that left six dead and 14 wounded, including U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords.

In another way, though, there’s probably no better time to stand up for a dependable, if imperfect, friend than when that friend is being tarnished with the broad brush of guilt by association.

A recent Washington Post story started out this way: “Room 411, a king-bed single in a dark and grimy Motel 6 near the railroad tracks on the western edge of Tucson, served as the staging ground for Jared Loughner’s series of pre-dawn errands before last Saturday’s shooting spree outside a suburban supermarket here.”

Pretty good writing, and — assuming it was really “dark and grimy” — nothing wrong with it, unless you’re Motel 6, in which case you find yourself, through no fault of your own, in the thick of a dark and grimy story you’d rather have no part of.

So I’m here — even though it has always been Tom Bodett’s job — to speak up for Motel 6, a topic on which I consider myself an authority. What makes me such an expert?

In the last eight months, my dog and I have stayed in Motel 6’s in Biloxi, Mississippi; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana;  Flagstaff, Holbrook, Yuma and Tucson, Arizona; Tucumcari and Albuquerque, New Mexico;  Oklahoma City and Midwest City, Oklahoma; Lewisville, Dallas, Hunstville and Houston, Texas; Greensboro, Statesville and Raleigh, North Carolina; Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia.; New Cumberland, Pennsylvania; Niantic, Connecticut; Portland and Bangor, Maine; Syracuse, New York; Brattleboro, Vermont; Fargo, North Dakota; Billings and Butte, Montana; Spokane and Kirkland, Washington; Coos Bay, Oregon; Ukiah, Monterey, San Bernadino and Bakersfield, California; and Russellville, Arkansas.

Seventy nights in all.

Crime struck only twice, and only in the most minor of ways, both times in Texas when ohmidog! door magnets were removed from my Jeep — one in Lewisville, one in Huntsville. Then again, with a 130-pound dog at your side, folks tend to not mess with you.

During our 22,000 miles of travels, I poked a lot of fun at the chain, with its bare bones ambience, and near total lack of amentities. They’re not always in the greatest of neighborhoods. Their pools aren’t always pristine, or even open, or even there anymore. There are no “continental” breakfasts, or in-room coffee makers at the Motel 6. You can walk to the lobby and serve yourself some, but it’s in tiny Sytrofoam cups that are empty by the time you get back to your room.

The quality varies widely from motel to motel, and the only consistency, chain-wide, is in the spartan furnishings and the tacky polyester bedspread. You get a small bar of Motel 6 soap, a couple of plastic disposable cups and, if you’re lucky, an ice bucket. I’ve gotten rooms without chairs, without hot water and, several times, with remote controls from which the batteries had been removed.

If there is a step that can be taken to conserve costs, Motel 6 has taken it.

And yet, as basic and humdrum as staying at the Motel 6 became for me (and maybe Ace, too), while there were nights I thought checking into another of its lookalike rooms would send me over the brink, I love Motel 6 — for two reasons.

It is consistently dog friendly, with no fees for pets and no restrictions on size or breeds. Most of the motel staff we encountered — with the exception of one employee who shrieked and ran away when encountering Ace — seem to like dogs. There were so many times that desk clerks passed him treats over the counter that Ace now jumps up and puts his front paws on any counter he encounters.

And it is consistently cheap — almost always under $50, often under $40, sometimes under $30.

On our trip, Motel 6 served as a huge comfort to me. Not the rooms, necessarily, but knowing it was there, in most towns, to take me in when others would turn me away because of my dog, or charge pet fees that nearly doubled the cost of a room, or just plain charge too much for our budget.

More important, it’s there for the growing masses who — foreclosed upon, laid off, or otherwise caught up in some bad luck — can get out of the cold for less than the cost of a tank of gasoline.

In a way, by not catering to the more upscale crowd, Motel 6 provides a public service — especially during the down economy. We met more than a few people who, with nowhere else to go, were calling their motel room home for now.

That Motel 6’s are more likely to be the scene of crime or other malfeasance is to be expected — in the same way poor neighborhoods have more problems than rich ones. People with criminal records and drug histories, people who are economically desperate or just plain desperate, end up there more often than, say, the Hilton.

Motel 6 deserves no blame or ridicule in connection with the shooting spree in Tucson. (Let’s save that for Sportsman’s Warehouse, where Loughner bought his Glock, and the Arizona lawmakers who have worked to make gunslinging so easy achievable in that state.)

I did a Google news search on Motel 6 earlier this week, and found most of the stories that popped up were, as I expected, about crimes: a man found bound and gagged inside a Motel 6 in Utah, an attempted robbery at a Motel 6 in Kansas, a man and woman arrested for using their Motel 6 room to print counterfeit money with an inkjet printer, a couple arrested with  2,000 illegally obtained pain and anti-anxiety pills at a Motel 6 in Alabama, a woman arrested on a prostitution charge after allegedly propositioning a plainclothes officer to join her in her Motel 6 room in Iowa.

One of the few non-crime stories that mentioned Motel 6 was about a colony of wild vervet monkeys, some of whom have chosen to live behind a Motel 6 in Dania Beach, Florida.

Nobody’s sure how the monkeys ended up in South Florida. Some say they are descendants of those used in a Tarzan episode once filmed there; some believe they are descendants of monkeys bred for research that helped lead to a cure for polio.

In any case, at least two of the monkeys live behind the Dania Beach Motel 6, where motel visitors look forward to watching them come out each afternoon. I’m guessing the monkeys find the Motel 6 guests equally entertaining.

What’s great about Motel 6 is its total lack of snobbiness. Desk clerks don’t look down their noses at you, or crinkle it up when you have a dog along. If you have credit card or cash, you’re in, which is as it should be.

It’s not a motel’s job — at least one at the bargain basement level — to monitor or screen its customers.

For business that are selling guns, as opposed to a night on a mattress, there is more of an obligation to screen customers, or at least there should be, in my view.

Motels 6’s don’t kill people. Guns do. Any monkey knows that.

(Vervet photo by Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald)

Company for Christmas: Resolved

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It’s 2010 and I’m down to one dog.

The last of my holiday guests has been returned to her owners, leaving Ace and me on our own again. However tested we might have felt at times, I think we both agree it’s way too quiet now.

DSC07586I’d like to think that Ace and my guests gained something from the experience — that Darcy will remember to relieve herself outdoors; that Cheyenne will remember how Ace helped guide her to the park; that Lucas will never forget that I can bark louder — though not for as long — as him.

Maybe I taught them a thing or two, but they — as often happens when humans and dogs connect —  have taught me much more.

Hence, my New Year’s resolutions:

DSC07662Be more like Ace: Share. Allow new beings, after a good sniffing out, into my life. When others get on my nerves, just walk away. Don’t whine. Don’t get cranky. Take things in stride. Adjust.

Be more like Lucas: Speak up when circumstances so dictate, or maybe sometimes even when they don’t. Keep plodding along, despite any aches, pains or inconveniences. And, if there’s a particularly attractive mud puddle, do not hesitate, even if wearing white, to jump on in and splash around. Get dirty once in a while.

Be more like Cheyenne: When I bump my head, keep going — with quiet grace. Persevere. Don’t whine about the obstacles; find a way around them. Step lightly, but keep moving forward.

Be more like Darcy: Seize the day. Live in the moment (even though, at the moment, I’m quite sick of that phrase). Grab the bone. Fart loud and often. Explore. Stay excited — maybe not to the extent she does — but stay excited by life.

DSC07575Be more like Ace and Cheyenne: Be willing to help and be helped, to guide and be guided.

When you can cushion the blows somebody is taking, cushion them.

Don’t hesitate to hold somebody’s hand. Let others lean on me. Allow myself to lean on others. 

Be willing to adjust my gait, my habits and my routines for good purposes.

Trust.

Share the couch.

Share the bowl.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: Down to Darcy

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The saint is gone. The sinner remains.

After a four-dog Christmas, I’m down to two — my dog Ace, and the visiting Boston terrier, Darcy.

Cheyenne, the blind Lab, went home today, and with not a single demerit on her record.

Darcy notched up a few, resulting in her serving some time (above) during her stay with me. But she spent most of her days playing with Ace, in my lap, or on the couch with a marrow bone (which would keep her occupied for hours).

She was the pup of my pack — not yet two, and not entirely aware, it seemed, that she’s a dog. She was sort of the opposite of Lucas, the big yellow Lab whose personality seems to shout, “I’m a dog, dammit.”

I tried to convince Darcy that she too was of the canine species, but I don’t think she bought it.

DSC07736As the youngster of the group, she was everywhere — and she never walked to get there. Instead, she’s always in a speedy little trot, which makes it appear she needs to go to the bathroom, which was sometimes the case. Trouble was, it was impossible to distinguish betweeen her hurry-hurry-gotta-pee-now trot, and her usual trot.

So I’d open the door to let her out and she’d stand there with a look on her face that said “what are you kidding? It’s 20 degrees out there.”

When one dog got attention, Darcy would inevitably run over and demand some as well. And whenever I left my TV-watching chair, she’d hop right into it, refusing to leave when I came back.

Darcy slept in the crate at night. The first night she cried for a minute, and Ace, who normally beds down with me, stayed downstairs with her. Other than bedtime, she only did a couple of other short stretches in the crate — either for disciplinary infractions or during visits from my landlord, who chose this week of all weeks to repair my leaky ceilings.

Darcy, I found out, enjoyed drywall almost as much as the marrow bone, gobbling up the crumbs the landlord left behind.

I yelled at her for that, and for a few other things, but all in all she was a joy to have around. Despite her dribbles and dumps, mostly remedied after the first couple of days, her lack of any visible off-switch and her tendency to enthusiastically explore everything, she brought me more smiles than anything else.

She’s full of personality, a master of the “who-me?” look, and far too cute, with those big bulging eyes, to stay mad at for more than 15 seconds …

OK, maybe 30.

(To read all of the Company for Christmas series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: The pack breaks up

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I’m thankful for my Christmas packages, but I’m more grateful yet for my Christmas pack.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I volunteered to take in three canine guests over the holidays — all dogs of friends who were leaving town.

There was Darcy, the high-energy Boston terrier; Cheyenne, the blind Labrador who, ironically, was bred to be a seeing eye dog; and, just for Christmas day, Lucas, a big plodding, vocal, yellow Lab who, I guess because of the combination of his gruff exterior and his underlying sweetness, always reminds me of Lou Grant in the old TV show.

They all joined my dog Ace and I over the holidays. After the first chaotic day, I questioned my sanity. On the second day, things calmed down. By day three we’d become a well-oiled machine, having learned each others’ ways. We became synchronized, as pet and person do over time.

Perhaps the best example was on our walks to the park. The first trip resulted in a tangle of leashes, with one dog — the smallest one, of course — tugging me all the way, resulting in me not paying enough attention to the blind one so she could avoid bumping into trash cans, all while my own dog Ace added to the tangle by veering off to pee on every tree.

Once at the park, Darcy, the Boston terrier, not liking the cold and the snow so much, would hop up on every park bench and sit down, as if to say, “You guys go ahead, I’ll just wait here.”

Sensing she wasn’t the rugged outdoors type, I started taking Darcy along only on about every third park trip, leaving Ace and Cheyenne to work things out between them. It was an amazing thing to watch.  After a few trips Cheyenne took to walking directly alongside Ace, using him as a guide and buffer. By listening to the click clack of his claws on the cement, she was able to trot alongside, correcting herself when she would gently veer into him.

Ace seemed to realize he had a new job — instead of peeing on every tree, it was to serve as Cheyenne’s assistant, as a guide dog to the dog who was supposed to be a guide dog. And Cheyenne seemed to trust him fully, or at least more than she did me after I —  not paying attention — allowed her to walk into a stair rail. When that happened, though, she’d just back up, adjust and carry on.

Feeding time, complicated at first, became a breeze as well. Darcy would eat in the crate, and Ace and Cheyenne seemed content to stick with their own bowls. Since Cheyenne only eats once a day, she generally got a carrot — her favorite treat — in the evening.

DSC07751Cheyenne, noting I spend entirely too much time at the computer, took to curling up between my feet at the base of my desk, allowing her to keep track of me and get some rest and me to keep my feet warm.

Darcy, who kept things lively, underwent a vast improvement in her toileting habits after the first two days  — partly due, I think, to my sphincter-sealing yell, partly because I insisted she go outside frequently — and we mostly avoided further accidents. Darcy and Ace continued to play the paw in mouth game — until Ace would get bored and go upstairs to be alone.

I’d try to give them each 30 minutes of individual attention a day, be it snuggling or wrestling. When I’d go upstairs to give Ace his time, and find him in the bed, I’d join him, and we’d generally fall asleep.

It was inspiring to me how well Ace handled the visitors — not a snarl or whine the whole week. To me, that’s the most impressive thing about dogs — how well they adjust, Cheyenne being a prime example of that. We adjust, too; we’re just not as good at it as dogs.

Now I need to adjust to my pack leaving. Today it shrinks to two dogs, with Cheyenne’s return home. And tomorrow Darcy will depart.

I expect, once we’re alone, Ace and I will both heave a big sigh — and it will only partly be one of relief.

(To read all of the Company for Christmas series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: The Dog Shouter

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I am not a professional dog trainer; nor do I play one on TV. But this week — with my cast of visiting holiday dogs — I’ve been forced to call upon the techniques of Cesar Millan, Victoria Stilwell and all the other dog trainers whose books I have read and whose television programs I have viewed.

I have employed their methods, and experimented with a few of my own. (Don’t worry, friends who have left their dogs with me — none of those involve electrical shocks.)

While I am a strong proponent of quietly and patiently addressing bad canine habits, of redirecting a misbehaving dog’s energies elsewhere, I’m also trying to get some work done during the holidays. So I can’t devote full time to the task. Also, I’m just providing room and board, and — even if some of my wards may be exhibiting behavior in need of correcting — it would be presumptuous of me to take on the role of dog trainer.

satire sigNevertheless, to avoid total chaos, I have had to enforce some discipline, and being as I’m often in the next room, there are times a simple “tsssst” just won’t cut it.

Instead, after four days working with my visiting dogs, I have become … (insert theme song here) …

“The Dog Shouter.”

It will probably be a few months before my Dog Shouter* (trademark pending) books, videos and magazine hit the market, but for now I will share with you what I have found to be the singlemost effective tool in my dog training arsenal: yelling at the top of my lungs.

My most miraculous results — and I regret that I didn’t videotape this — came with Lucas, the barker.

DSC07717Lucas goes into barking sprees for no apparent reason. Sometimes, he will stare at me and bark for three minutes or more, not stopping when I pet him, or talk to him, or try and soothe him, or even when I shout No!” But when I screamed no, as loud as I could, I mean really, really loud, he immediately went silent, and stayed that way. I don’t know if my scream established my dominance, or just scared him. But it worked.

My techniques also met with astonishing success in dealing with Darcy, the visiting Boston terrier who has taken to leaving reminders of herself about the house. She knows better, and I’m pretty sure she’s doing it to assert herself amid all the larger dogs. Twice, she has pooped within minutes of coming back in the house from outside.

DSC07664Yesterday, though, I was watching her — again just a minute after coming back in — as she squatted down, looked at me defiantly, and, pardon my vividness, began to open the gate to drop her load. Immediately, I screamed a really deafening “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!.” Amazingly, the package that visibly was on its way out reversed direction, returning home for delivery at a later date.

Apparently my sphincter-sealing roar had lasting effects. Normally, she won’t go outside on her own, only on a leash. But this morning when I saw her trot into the next room, I inquired — not in a shout — what she was doing. She trotted back in, ran to the door, actually stepped outside when I opened it, and pooped in the yard.

Yet more proof that my Dog Shouter* techniques really, really work.

There is a downside to using the Dog Shouter* techniques with multiple dogs. While it manages to correct, or at least forestall, bad behavior in the dog being shouted at, the other dogs all end up feeling wrongly accused. When you shout at one — say the one chewing into tiny bits the hard rubber things the sofa wheels sit on — the others all  assume “hey what’d I do?” looks and start sulking. My own highly sensitive dog Ace heads upstairs and climbs in the futon. It has to be even more confusing to Cheyenne, my blind guest, who has no way of knowing who my mouth is pointed at when I shout a blood curdling “NOOOOOO!!!!!”

Thus, employing Dog Shouter* techniques when there are multiple dogs in the household requires one to spend a lot of time comforting and reassuring the dogs to whom the screams were not directed.

I tried to specify the dog I was shouting at, saying their name before roaring, but I’d get their names confused in the heat of the moment — much like my mother used to when scolding me and my two siblings.

To be a proper Dog Shouter* — especially if one’s full attention is being devoted to their writing or, say,  watching a Scrubs marathon —  one must learn to identify suspicious sounds from the next room, perhaps a blanket being shredded, correctly assume who the perpetrator is, and tailor the shout to that dog: “DARCY! NOOOOOOO!

Similarly, when things get too quiet in the next room, a good Dog Shouter* — much like a good parent — will assume something is up and issue a precautionary shout: “Hey! What’s going on in there!” Or perhaps, even something more specific, even if it’s just a guess: “Darcy, you better not be humping my pillow!”  The Dog Shouter* knows that, while it’s best to shout during the actual misbehavior, an out-of-the-blue shout — even if all three are  peacefully resting — will serve to bring a quick halt to the hijinks and indiscretions they are  most assuredly quietly planning.

I’m sure you want to know more about by Dog Shouter* techniques, but you’ll just have to wait until the books, magazine, infomercials and DVDs come out. I figure the best way of establishing my Dog Shouter* empire is to send out an audition tape of me, The Dog Shouter*, in action:

“WHAT IN GOD’S NAME ARE YOU DOING? DROP THAT, DROP IT AT ONCE!! BAD DOG. SHAME ON YOU! WHO SAID YOU COULD PLAY WITH THAT? NO NO NO! STOP CHEWING ON THAT, WHATEVER IT IS!!! DON”T EVER TOUCH THAT AGAIN!!! DON”T MAKE ME COME IN THAT ROOM!!! I MEAN IT!!! OK, HERE I COME!!! YOU’RE IN TROUBLE NOW!!! Oh … It’s just your bone … never mind.”

Who wouldn’t want to watch 30 minutes of that? Granted, it could get a little repetitious, but then so do all those other doggie discipline shows.

Animal Planet, my lines are open.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)