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Travelling with the Pet Road Show

The look on our six-year-old son’s face was incredulous. “You mean we’re not bringing the animals with us on holiday?” Perhaps this naive expectation was his parents’ fault. Occasionally, we had loaded up the family van with two dogs, two cats, one white guinea pig, and as many hamsters as had been born that month, to drive three hours north to a summer cottage. All thrived in the more natural habitat of fresh air, very alive mice, green alfalfa and space to roam.

But this was different. We were driving to Washington, D.C., a big American city. Who knew if we could find suitable pet-friendly accommodations along the way? Or a front desk clerk who would welcome our family menagerie with treats and smiles? Besides, who ever heard of traveling like a pet store circus?

Fast forward more than one decade later, and it’s easier than ever to drive across provinces and borders while hugging the family pets. Guidebooks such as AAA Traveling with Your Pet or Fodor’s Road Guide USA: Where to Stay with Your Pet list thousands of hotel choices, details of leash-free parks and “petiquette” suggestions for canine and feline guests. This summer, we would certainly find tail-wagging downtown lodging in Washington, deemed Purina Pet Healthiest City last year, and undoubtedly be greeted by staff wielding biscuits and tuna bites and a concierge eager to stroll our hound past George’s front gates.

Some dogless families might even say that North American highways and byways have gone to the dogs. At a family road stop in Ontario last weekend, the roadside grill resembled a puppy parking lot. Our seven-year-old Molly barked along happily with other dogs waiting for bits of sausage and foot-long dogs to drop from kids’ fingers.

It’s no longer just the odd rural countryside motel putting up the welcome mat for Fido or Fluffy. Hotel chains such as Choice Hotels, Sheraton, Westin, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Metropolitan Hotels and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts are rolling out the red carpet for their four-footed guests. You might have to pay extra for a pet-friendly room set aside for special cleaning and airing. But at many properties today, well-behaved pets are welcomed—even spoiled.

Families may not be able to attend gourmet doggie lunches on the lawn overseen by a master chef (as I once encountered in France). But at the upscale W New York Union Square in New York City, doggies are given bags with toys, a “Wildlife Habitat” door sign and a chance for pet spa appointments, all part of their VIP (Very Important Pet) program. At the Seattle W, the family pooch receives doggy turndown truffles, a special in-room dining menu and a feather-bed pet bed. The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto is about to launch its own pet program. Many properties offer maps indicating nearby green space, stoop-and-scoop bags and bone-shaped cookies.

Why this sudden enthusiasm for pet guests? As Daniel Blachut, General Manager of Crowne Plaza Toronto Centre wrote to a prospective guest who wanted to bring her prize-winning Muscovy duck for a sleepover, “In all my years in the industry, I have never heard of a duck getting obnoxious, drunk, disorderly, or mistreating property. This, I cannot say is the case with all human guests we accommodate! Your duck is welcome!” The same could be said for our own travelling Noah’s Ark.
And if you’re out West on the road this summer and the kids are missing romps with the family dog? The Fairmont Waterfront hotel in Vancouver, has initiated a unique dog-friendly program with its own canine resident—Morgan, a black lab who sits with the bell captain at the front of the hotel, acting as tail-wagging greeter and general bon vivant. He’s available for room visits and walks in nearby Stanley Park. “People have a pet grin on their faces afterward,” says Jill Killeen, Director of Public Relations, who helped to spearhead this unique “Pupsicle” service. “It brings out the best in them.”

For more information on traveling with the family pet, consult www.pettravel.com, listing over 11,000 pet-friendly overnight accommodations worldwide or www.doggonefun.com. Families can subscribe to their bimonthly newsletter offering cool places to go and fun stuff to do with your dog around the world ($38 U.S. money order for a yearly subscription). To stay at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel with Morgan, call 1-800-441-1414 or 604-691-1991 or visit www.fairmont.com,

Note: If you’re travelling across the U.S. border, carry your’s pet’s vaccination and health papers, as well as current licences and rabies tags.





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