OUR BEST FRIENDS

whs-logo

The Sergei Foundation

shelterpet_logo

The Animal Rescue Site

B-more Dog

aldflogo

Pinups for Pitbulls

philadoptables

TFPF_Logo

Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue

Our Pack, Inc.

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Saving Shelter Pets, Inc.

mabb

LD Logo Color

Tag: hotels

Best Western could do better


You’d think a big hotel-motel chain would know and share the rules when it comes to service dogs — even one whose inns are “individually owned and operated.”

By federal law, service dogs are allowed. No ifs, ands or buts.

But a Best Western in Baton Rouge, citing its policy prohibiting dogs, recently denied reservations to a North Carolina family whose golden retriever serves as an epilepsy alert dog to their 13-year-old son, Beau.

Chip goes everywhere with Beau, who has a rare type of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. “Chip alerts us to when Beau is having a seizure,” Beau’s mother, Karen Vaughn, told KPLC.

But after Vaughn made an online reservation at a Best Western in Baton Rouge, pointing out that service dog Chip would be among their party, the motel notified her that the reservation was being refused because the inn doesn’t allow dogs.

Vaughn, who is an attorney specializing in the rights of children with special needs, said that after she raised a stink the corporate office called back, a week later, saying they would honor the reservation. She said no thanks.

Normally, we would say sue the pants off the motel’s individual owner, and sue the pants off Best Western corporate honchos, too.

But Best Western has an unusual corporate structure — one they’ve argued doesn’t comprise a profit-making corporation, but is more of a cooperative. All hotels are individually owned and operated, and Best Western, from its headquarters in Phoenix, provides only reservations, marketing, brand identity and support services.

Individual owners of Best Western inns are allowed to make their own rules — but not rules that violate federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Best Western spokesman told ohmidog! that the Baton Rouge motel has been temporarily banned from representing itself as a Best Western hotel.

“Best Western International has restricted the hotel on our reservations systems and we have required the hotel to stop representing itself as a Best Western branded hotel (cover or remove all Best Western signs and logos) until its representatives attend a hearing at our corporate headquarters at which their future association with Best Western will be decided,” he said.

“Best Western International requires each independently owned and operated hotel to comply with all federal, state and local laws and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We provide extensive training to ensure our hotels understand and address the needs of guests with special needs. When this matter came to our attention, we immediately provided direction to the hotel and a reservation was offered to the family.

“We deeply regret the matter and we will continue to proactively communicate ADA requirements and training to Best Western branded hotels to ensure all guests are treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

Best Western’s website boasts about their 1,600 pet-friendly locations.

Struggling to survive in Sochi

sochitrash

Surely by now you’ve heard about all the inconveniences visiting journalists from the west are facing in Sochi — a town that in its rush to get ready for the Olympics didn’t quite get ready for the Olympics.

As a member of that breed, or at least a former journalist, I can’t help but have empathy for their plight.

They have an important job to do, and how can we expect them to do it when they are facing obstacles like hotel rooms with no Internet,  fallen drapery rods, faulty doorknobs, or tap water so discolored one journalist reported she had to resort to washing her face with Evian?

Life can be so cruel sometimes.

sochipuddle

Sochi’s shortcomings are being blasted all over the Internet — by journalists, by Tweeters, and by tweeting journalists.

Arriving early, and finding the amenities weren’t all they could be, journalists got the ball rolling, bellyaching about conditions and posting their complaints and photos online. Olympics guests picked up the ball, voicing their discontent; and even a few athletes — though they’re less likely than journalists to whine, or so we’d hope — have broadcast the problems they’ve encountered, including one who was forced to punch his way out of the hotel room bathroom he was locked in.

Others arrived to find that their rooms, despite being reserved and paid for, weren’t ready, or weren’t even there, forcing them to wait, bunk with someone else, or seek shelter elsewhere.

sochirescue

Fortunately, no journalists (to our knowledge) were forced to sleep in stairwells or alleyways.

sleepingdogs


Others tweeting their discontent have complained of unappealing food, and menus whose Russian to English translations are sometimes laughably off the mark, which leads us to worry whether journalists are getting the all-important nourishment they need to do their jobs.

sochiribs

I’m sure there will be much inspiration ahead in the 2014 Olympics, and perhaps even a few things to love about them. For the first few days though, it has been an embarrassment — for Sochi, for Russia, for Putin, and for all those journalists who came across as spoiled Westerners, partly because they are spoiled Westerners, partly because they have the modern-day need to self-broadcast every little bump in the road they encounter.

While most reporters are there to cover the sporting side of it all, and while many have been preoccupied by their lack of creature comforts, some have gotten around to writing about what we think is probably the most shameful Olympic-related story of all. In case you haven’t yet gotten our drift, it’s what the city is doing to stray dogs.

The city of Sochi has hired a pest control company to rid the streets of dogs, another piece in its failed plan to look good for the Olympics. Capturing and killing strays, as if that’s not bad enough, seems all the more cruel when you consider that many of the dogs are homeless because of all the new construction for the Olympics, some of which sent dog-owning families into apartments where dogs aren’t allowed.

Sochi promised it wouldn’t conduct the cull, then it did. The extermination was well underway by the time the media caught on, but eventually it was reported by, among others, the Boston Globe, Radio Free Europe, and, eventually, the New York Times. It took awhile, but the public outrage is, appropriately enough, snowballing now.

When that happens, the silly and tired old question always pops up, “Does the world care more about dogs than it does humans?” That was pretty much the headline on an op-ed piece in The Guardian about Sochi’s strays this week — silly because  it implies people can’t care, get outraged and fight for both species.

But, to answer it only for myself , yes, I sometimes care more about dogs than humans, depending on the circumstances, depending on the dogs, and the humans, and depending on the hardships at issue. Yes, I care more about a dog being exterminated for no good reason than I do about a TV reporter who has temporarily lost his or her access to hair conditioner.

The inconveniences reporters, guests and athletes might face in Sochi aren’t enough to cast a pall over the entire Olympics.

What’s happening to the dogs is.

(Photos: A dog checks out a trash can across from the Olympic stadium / Twitter; a dog drinks from an icy puddle outside of Sochi / Reuters; dogs and volunteers at a makeshift shelter / The New York Times; dogs napping on the street / Twitter; a starving street dog in Sochi / Getty Images/iStockphoto )

Privileged Pooch: Going pupscale in SoCal

After perusing “The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet in Southern California,” I’ve decided if Ace and I ever run into author Maggie Espinosa and her dog, Marcel, on the road … they’re buying.

Unlike my Travels with Ace project, “The Privileged Pooch” – not to be confused with the fine pet boutique in Baltimore of the same name – is a guidebook that focuses on high end luxury travel with your pet.

“Now you can share Southern California’s celebrity lifestyle with your furry friend,” reads the summary on the back of the book. “The days of staying at substandard hotels and dining at drive-thru’s when traveling with the family pet are over.”

Not for me, they ain’t. But that’s not the point.

Espinosa’s point is that bringing a dog along on your trip no longer automatically relegates you to economy-level accommodations. And her book, provides plenty of examples, in highly readable form, of where you can stay, play and eat with your pet — in Palm Springs, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara and greater Los Angeles.

High-end establishments are starting to wise up to the fact that about 10 million pets each year vacation with their owners — and that many of those owners are from the demographic at which tourism-related businesses commonly take aim.

“The Privileged Pooch” lists 69 hotels (not a Motel 6 among them),  55 restaurants, 56 dog-friendly activities and 38 “trendy shops” where you and your dog are welcome.

Espinosa has done some culling, weeding out those establishments that have too many restrictions or silly and unrealistic weight limits. (For the dogs, I mean. Southern California doesn’t have weight limits for people. Yet.)

She uses a rating system of one wag to four wags for pet friendliness — one being “pooches permitted,” four being “pooches paradise.”

Maggie and Marcel

At the latter, you might find such features as special puppy menus, a “togetherness massage” for you and your dog (at Casa Laguna Inn & Spa) or “blueberry and plum pet facials” at a dog-friendly spa called The Healthy Spot.

Espinosa and her bichon frise, Marcel, tested all 69 hotels, and each section of the book, region by region, includes recommendations for everything from dog-friendly beaches to emergency veterinary care.

Our favorite example was the Doggie Bus in Tustin, which totes dogs and their humans to the beach at no charge. An Orange County man started providing the service not to get rich, but simply because he enjoyed doing it.

Now that’s dog-friendly.

Ace Hotel: Shaggy dogs and shabby chic

Here’s the good news: There’s a chain of hipster, dog-friendly hotels bearing the same name as my dog.

Here’s the bad: Much as we’d have liked to stay in one of them, much as we are — in our own view — “hipsters,” Ace and I can’t even afford “Bohemian.”

“Minimalist,” it seems, is beyond our means.

We dropped in at the Ace Hotel in Seattle, where the chain got started, and checked out the one in Portland, where it’s now headquartered, but — even with the sliding scale it offers, with lower prices if you share a bathroom — it was out of our league.

So here, I’ve decided, is what America needs — a level of lodging slightly below Bohemian, but slightly above the YMCA, a motel chain that’s dog friendly and mostly free of germs, crawling bugs and psychos. Motel 6  probably comes closest — hopelessly unhip as it is.

The Ace Hotels, from what I saw of them, do minimalist much better, except for the price part. All four are in old buildings with rich histories, and the furnishings– from hotel to hotel and from room to room — are varied and eclectic, as opposed to going the cheap motel route of putting the same cookie-cutter formica furniture in every room across the  nation.

Therein lies the difference between Bohemian and Institutional, and who wouldn’t rather spend the night in a place that makes you feel like a beatnik, as opposed to an inmate.

Depending on your own personal economic condition, Ace Hotels are worth checking into if you’re traveling to New York, Palm Springs, Portland or Seattle, because, on top of their dog friendliness, they have some character, which the big chains always lack.

There is another solution to this issue — this issue being getting accurate information on lodging that has character, and is both dog and wallet friendly — and it doesn’t involve chains at all. Instead it involves looking at the world through something other than a corporate lens.

There are some otherwise fine guide books and websites out there that can help one find dog-friendly hotels and motels. The problem is, most of them don’t make much effort to include the non-chains, the mom-and-pop, small independent motels — many of them dog friendly — that don’t charge exorbitant prices for a room. And still have character.

Perhaps it would be too much work for the guidemakers. Perhaps mom and pop aren’t Internet-savvy enough to get their establishments listed. In any case, the result is, from AAA to bringfido.com, the options presented are almost always the big boys — Motel 6, Super 8, Best Western, La Quinta, Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt and on up the ladder of chains.

As a result, pup-friendly mom and pop — who are probably much more in need of the boost in business that comes with being known as dog-friendly — are ignored, because they own one motel instead of 500 of them.

Ranting aside, we stopped by the Ace Hotel in Seattle to take a look, and considered staying at the one in Portland. Both, in the parlance of the trade, are considered “boutique” hotels — which is basically a term meaning it hasn’t grown into full chainhood yet and is still small enough to be charming

While both qualified for our hipster seal of approval, both were beyond our budget, even if we shared a bathroom.

The desk clerk at the Ace in Seattle explained that the name was chosen because aces can be both high and low, and the hotel strives to provide lodgings at both ends of the spectrum, as well as provide high quality at low price.

The hotel in Seattle is in a former Salvation Army halfway house located in the Belltown neighborhood. In Portland, the Ace moved into what was the Clyde Hotel, the lobby of which served as a setting for scene in the movie, “Drugstore Cowboy.” The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Palm Springs, the Ace Hotel is in a converted Howard Johnson’s; and in New York it occupies the Breslin, a former single-room-occupancy hotel at the corner of 29th Street and Broadway. Transforming it meant displacing some longtime residents.

A New York Times review of the hotel called it “shabby chic” before snottily adding, “a bit too redolent of the past.”

Ace Hotels got their start when Seattle native Alex Calderwood and some friends decided to create a hip yet minimalist hotel. The Ace Hotel in Seattle opened in 1999; and in 2007 they opened one in Portland.

Calderwood’s hipsterness went back even further than that. He used to throw warehouse parties for the grunge set, later moving up to hosting events for Microsoft. Today, he holds four Aces, and, at last report, had his sights set on a fifth.

Given that growth, I think it’s time the chain start considering some advertising, and perhaps a spokesdog. I have one in particular in mind, whose services can be obtained for a reasonable fee — a sliding scale even. I’ve got some other promotional ideas, too, such as complimentary slightly used flannel pajamas for all guests, and even a slogan to help get across the message that the hotels are dog friendly:

“We’ll leave the bowl out for you.”

The ghost signs of Butte

Here’s my theory: The more ghost signs a town has, the more ghosts it probably has, too.

Butte, Montana, it should come as no surprise, has plenty. Of both.

Here are some of the ones that, during just 30 minutes of driving around town one day this week, we came across  — touting  cigars, beer and hotels that have all been long outlived by their hand-painted advertisements.

Flor de Baltimore was a cigar brand that appears to go back at least a century or so. I’m not sure if its named after Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland, or the city. I’m guessing Flor means flower, which isn’t the first thing that Baltimore brings to my mind, but maybe the imagery the city evoked was different back then.

Most of the signs are for hotels — long since gone, but luxurious in their day, and even fireproof, which was a good thing considering all the mining executives who were probably lighting up Flor de Baltimores in their beds.

Those were the glory days, though — back when the copper mines were thriving and Butte was a rollicking city of 100,000.

Now, only about a third as many people live here. Mining, though it still goes on, is nowhere near what it once was. You can’t find a good whorehouse when you need one (and they say the defunct one is haunted). And nobody’s drinking Butte Special Beer. It was brewed by a company that, more than 100 years old, closed in 1963.

There’s a big difference between what was in Butte and what is in Butte. Some look at Butte and see a depressing town; some see a fight-hardened survivor, a town that’s testament to man’s resiliency. Some see only its rough edges; some see its rich and colorful history, faded over time.

The New Tait hotel is not only not new anymore; it’s non-existent, but the old sign remains, as does the building, since converted into apartments.

Butte is the hometown of Evel Knievel. One of its tops tourist draws is a huge mine pit, part of a Superfund site that encompasses the historic district as well. If towns can be eccentric, Butte is — and quite proudly so.

But it’s also haunting — a place where the sun and clouds cast shadows that crawl, tarantula like, up and down its high hills; where mining has left poisons lurking, zombie like, beneath the surface.

Today, Butte is equal parts defunct and funky; gritty and, if you look hard, graceful. The ghost signs bring back memories of the freewheeling greatness that was; but they also are reminders to Butte that, in some ways, it’s a has-been.

But has-beens — and I know some, personally — seem to love regressing to the glory days, recalling better times. When the present’s not so great, the past seems more worth revisiting.

The trick is to not get stuck there — to appreciate what was, but keep looking at what could be … all, of course, while not forgetting to appreciate what is.

Before it fades away.

Waldorf offers room service — for dogs

The Waldorf-Astoria has kicked dog-friendliness up a notch, offering, for a limited time, room service to dogs as part of a new “Fido-Friendly” package at the Waldorf Towers.

“Recognizing the growing trend of canine traveling companions,” the New York hotel has debuted a “Canine Culinary” room service menu and “Fido-Friendly” package to welcome dogs to The Waldorf Towers.

“We have seen an increasing number of distinguished guests checking in with canine companions at their side,” stated Matt Zolbe, director of sales and marketing. “Recognizing that travel with pets is essential for many pet owners, we were inspired to launch a program catering to these guests’ unique needs.”

The Waldorf cited figures from the Travel Industry Association of America that show half of “adult leisure travelers” consider their pet to be part of the family, and nearly one in five take their pets with them when they travel.

Three cheers for the Waldorf — or maybe just two, because of that “distinguished guest” part. Shouldn’t every guest be distinguished? And shouldn’t every dog? And what — given the ongoing need they are boasting about filling — is with making the offer available only for a limited time? Is it a commitment or a gimmick? 

The Waldorf’s doggie room service menu features: “German shepherd’s pie,” “Dachshund’s delights,” which it describes as “miniature hot dogs with Fifi’s choice of sauces,” and “Great Dane’s danish.”

Also available: “Mastiff’s munchies” (toasted peanut butter sandwiches) “Pekingese’s duck,” and “Pomeranian’s pasta.”

How cute is that? A little too, in my opinion. 

The hotel’s “Fido-Friendly” package includes a luxury pet bed, two silver bowls, a special pet “amenity” a large bottle of water, and one complimentary dog walking during the stay. Dog Concierge services are also available to assist with travelers’ pet needs — from suggesting groomers to recommending Manhattan dog parks.

Nightly rates start at $569. Let’s repeat that: $569.

This offer is valid now through Dec. 31, 2010. For reservations or additional information,visit www.waldorfnewyork.com or call 800-925-3673.

(Photo: Provided by Waldorf-Astoria)

Alien-ated in New Mexico

If you’re guessing Roswell, New Mexico, you’re absolutely right.

Ace and I finally made it out of Texas yesterday, and as far as Roswell, that land of UFO myths — or covered-up alien visits, if you prefer.

It’s a town of many motels, only a handful of bars and numerous aliens — from statues like this one in our motel lobby to inflatable models that blow in the breeze in front of downtown storefronts.

It’s also a growingly popular retirement spot and, if the waitress at the bar and grill I visited knows what she’s talking about, a town with only one vagabond (not counting me).

After telling me, with emphasis, that Roswell is a friendly town, she filled me in on the only resident who appears homeless. He’s an older gent, who spends his days pushing a shopping cart through town, digging through people’s trash in search of treasure.

Curious, she followed him home one day — only to find he lived in a house nicer than her’s. Turns out he takes all his gathered goods to the Salvation Army — or maybe it was Goodwill, I don’t remember — and donates it.

Roswell is also home to a UFO museum, which is soon to start building new quarters, and a McDonald’s shaped like an UFO.

Space aliens are to Roswell what crabs are to Baltimore.

It was our first stop in which we didn’t check for dog friendly motels first. Instead, we pulled into town and walked into the Frontier Motel, which for a $10 non-refundable deposit, declared Ace welcome.

We chose it because it was a good old fashioned motor court, where you can pull your car right up to the door of your room, allowing us to do some much needed reorganization.

Perhaps they weren’t the classiest accomodations in town — upholstered furniture on the front porch was a clue it might not be a five-star facility — but, despite its rough edges, it was fine.

And while I think there might have been some aliens lurking in the room, there were no bugs.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” click here.)