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Sirena Rubinoff/Medill

"You are going to take me with you on your vacation...right?"

More owners pamper their pets with animal-amiable vacations

by Sirena Rubinoff
Aug 01, 2007

PETS_doggie bed

Sirena Rubinoff/Medill

The W Hotel provides four-legged guests with a bed, toys, collar, water bowl, toys...and of course, cologne.

Pets have long been a part of the American dream, right up there with white picket fences and Sunday afternoon barbeques.  Some 60 percent of U.S. households have at least one dog, cat, bird or other companion animal, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. 

But in today’s fast-paced world, long work hours and frequent business trips mean less time for man’s best friend.  Not to be kept apart from their furry friends, more pet owners are seeking vacations that are animal-amiable this summer. 

More than half of the 1,100 pet owners surveyed last month by TripAdvisor, the travel advisory Web site, said they would only stay at accommodations that were animal-friendly when traveling with their pets.  A similar survey last year found that just 23 percent of pet owners would demand a pet-friendly hotel or motel. 
“Pet owners treat their pets as if they are their children,” said Brooke Ferencsik, media relations manager at TripAdviser.  “Animal lovers are often as finicky about the accommodations for their pets as they are for themselves.”

Many hotels charge guests a fee to accommodate their animals, money that 37 percent of TripAdvisor respondents said is well-spent.  Dog owners appear even more attached to their scruffy friends, with 50 percent saying they're willing to pay more to stay at pet-friendly accommodations.   

“I’d pay hundreds of dollars extra to have Patch with me when I travel," said Randy DuRussel, Chicago resident and devoted owner of a 5-year-old Irish Jack Russell Terrier. 

“When you consider the cost of boarding, dog walking, and everything else, I’d pay [hundreds] – if not more – to be able to take him with me,” DuRussel said.

Ferencsik said bed-and-breakfast inns tend to offer the best service to pet owners. TierraLinda Bed and Breakfast in Galena, Ill. is the top dog-friendly accommodation in the United States, according to the TripAdvisor survey, which described it as “a slice of dog heaven” where your dog can “run through the forest, swim in the lake, dash through the waterfalls, and lay by a bonfire.” 

Several Chicago hotels cater to the pet set.  Guests at the W Hotel on West Adams Street in Chicago pay a $100 non-refundable fee at check-in and then $25 per day for custom pet beds, litter boxes, food and water bowls, W Hotel pet tags and clean-up bags, leashes and toys.  The concierge will also walk dogs and set up appointments at local pet boutiques and pet spas.

But not all pet-owners are willing to paw, er pay, the extra bills.  Kristin Oswald, owner of a one-year-old Puggle, said hotels shouldn’t charge more than a one-time $25 refundable fee to have a pet in the room. 

Kathy Barsness said she would pay up to $50 extra to keep her 5-year-old Brittney Spaniel and 3-year-old chocolate lab with her when she travels.  But she doesn't see the appeal in all the doggy extras.

Dogs are treated like royalty at the Urban Outsitters Professional Pet Care Services in Chicago, where pets listen to relaxation music in a “ballroom” that is infused with therapeutic essential oils. 

At Bark Chicago on West Lake Street, pet owners can treat their dogs to a full service spa that includes teeth brushing, ear cleaning, coat combing, paw-di-cure, and cologne spray.

And while some pet-owners rave about the amazing services they can give their beloved pooches, others can’t relate. 

“I don’t go to the spa.  My dogs aren’t going to go to the spa,” Barsness said.

“I think the dogs don’t really know if they’re getting a facial or a manicure,” said Emily Robertson, who owns a 4-year-old Border Collie and an Irish Setter puppy.  “They just want to play and be loved by the people around them.”