By BEN SWAN
It’s the special touches that make a hotel not simply accepting of pets, but truly pet-friendly. Just ask Beau, the excitable Irish setter who’s just finished traveling more than 13,000 miles through 30 states, checking out 50 luxury pet-friendly hotels. Or better yet, ask his owner, Janine Franceschi, the chauffeur: “The bare minimum is a food and water bowl and a treat. It’s the first thing he looks for when he checks in.” The amenities were up to par at the Inn of the Anasazi, where Franceschi and Beau stayed for a few nights last month while on their way to Dallas and other destinations. Two bowls on a mat with a bottle of Fiji water and a couple of biscuits: the canine equivalent of paradise. But that’s not always the case, and that’s why Franceschi created PAW — Pet-friendly Accommodations Worldwide – – a Web site devoted to finding luxury hotels with the best pet amenities. “It all started because I love, love, love to travel,” Franceschi said during people and canine hors d’oeuvres on the inn’s outside patio, all the time cuddling her busy setter. “And I didn’t want to leave him — he’s such a cheeky dog.” Franceschi got the travel bug when her son went off to college. One day she woke up and decided she needed dog, and not just any dog, but an Irish setter, a breed she had when she was a child. Once Beau came into her life, Franceschi said, she had trouble locating luxury pet-friendly hotels. Web sites devoted to traveling with pets were difficult to navigate and often incomplete. Many of the sites represented low- to moderate-level hotels that offered good deals but not the best accommodations. “That’s not my idea of a vacation,” she said. “So I started looking, and there wasn’t one place where you could find luxury accommodations, so that’s how it started.” The Web site, http://www.luxurypaw.com, now features more than 1,800 hotels, where potential guests can figure out what types of pet amenities are offered along with additional fees or weight restrictions. Searches can be made by country, city, number and weight. Franceschi also writes a blog about her traveling experiences and offers other tips on traveling with pets. She eventually hopes to turn the information into a published guide. Such a book would be handy for Carol Pava, a Santa Fe resident who loves to travel with her 70-pound dog, an Akita/German shepherd/heeler mix. At that size, she’s found many hotels close the door on her companion. “A lot of places say they won’t take larger dogs,” she said. “They want dogs under 20 pounds, those yappers.” While traveling with her canine companion, Pava said, she and her husband have discovered wonderful parks in places they would least expect to find them, like Fresno, Calif. Her secret is taking a look at an area’s phone book and heading for green-shaded areas on the simple maps included in the directory. Exploring pet amenities in various cities was another aspect of Franceschi’s whirlwind tour. While it would be easy to ask the concierge to provide a pet walker or sitter, Franceschi said, she’s found great pet-walking areas in almost every hotel she’s visited. She includes them on her Web site.
“I’ve really tried hard not to leave him in the room,” she said. “I’ve traveled all over the world by myself, but it’s completely different with a dog. They are such an icebreaker; people will want to talk to you about the dog or talk to the dog or even pet him.”
Many guests are often stunned to see a dog at a hotel, she said, and tell her they’ve boarded their dog for the trip. “People just don’t know or they don’t think about it,” she said. “And they think they have to choose, and that really was my whole message: You don’t have to choose between the level of amenity, but people are conditioned that way.”
The Inn of the Anasazi anticipates having one or two canines accompanying hotel guests a week, said Anasazi Restaurant chef Oliver Ridgeway. Ridgeway and his sous chef created a special cake for Beau and his canine party guests along with the restaurant’s signature dog biscuits.
“We are a dog-friendly hotel and we offer dog amenities,” he said. “We don’t say no. If someone wants something for a dog, we organize it. We’re very open.”
Ridgeway said his sous chef came up with the idea for a canine cake that morning. The two added ground beef to a simple cake mix with no sugar and frosted it with a mixture of yogurt and chicken broth. The dogs approved.
While guests must sign a damage waiver when animals accompany them, Ridgeway said, there usually are no problems. “If a guest brings a pet, they are going to be well-behaved. I can only imagine what my dogs would do.”
Ridgeway said he recently adopted two puppies, German shepherd- heeler sisters.
Canines are increasingly accepted at many places, Franceschi said, although noting each city is different. Beau could accompany her to most stores in New York City, but not in Chicago. And dogs aren’t allowed in most restaurants, she said, but are often allowed on the dining area patio.
“Beau’s eaten in some very good places,” she said, including Bouchon in Napa Valley, Calif., a sister restaurant of The French Laundry.
Now back at her home base on Nantucket Island, Franceschi said she’s working on a Top 10 list of pet-friendly hotels from her tour. The Inn of the Anasazi will make the list, she said.
Sometimes a hotel’s execution of a pet amenity is more important than the amenity itself, Franceschi said. “If we check in and I have Beau in one hand and a bag in the other and the valet is behind me offering a pet amenity, I want to throw something at them. It needs to be set up in the room.”
At the end of her tour, Franceschi said, she was feeling a bit jaded when she arrived at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows in Santa Monica, Calif. She quickly noted the amenities: beautiful room, check; food and water bowls, check; pet bed, check; treat and toy, check.
“It wasn’t until I walked into the gorgeous marble bathroom that I had noticed housekeeping had spelled out ‘Welcome Beau’ in little 2-inch-tall, pastel-colored sponges along the rim of the soaking tub,” she said. “It was fantastic. We’ve seen a lot, but nobody’s ever done that.”
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