Traveling with pets

Hotels that roll over for pets

Courtesy The Benjamin

Millions of people consider their pets to be part of the family and take their animals with them when they travel.

Hotels have caught on and there are now more than 25,000 “pet-friendly” properties. Some simply put up with you and your pet if you pay a hefty extra fee. Others go all out, offering welcome amenities that might include toys, treats and special services.
For a slide show on MSN Travel, I found some lodgings where pets have a paw-up on people.

Here’s a sampling:

Robes for Rover

Courtesy The Benjamin

At The Benjamin Hotel in New York City, pampered pooches snack on complimentary treats, relax in plush doggie bathrobes, dine from ceramic food and water bowls set in wrought-iron stands and drift off to sleep in specially-designed dog beds, sized small, medium or large.

Good dog: The hotel can arrange for a spa gift basket ($40) filled with lavender-scented doggie bath amenities to be delivered to the room.

Massages for “Material Dogs”

At check-in, dogs at La Quinta Resort & Club in the Palm Springs desert community of La Quinta, CA receive “Material Dog” travel totes with organic pet treats, travel-size bottle of disinfectant and deodorizers, biodegradable waste bags and stainless steel pet tags. Hour-long, in-room relaxation massages for pets and their people are also available.

Good dog: A massage therapist offers instructions on performing pet massage at home.

B&B in the world’s biggest beagle

Fans of kitsch and canines get both at Dog Bark Park in Cottonwood, ID. On site is Toby, a 12-foot tall statue of a beagle, and Sweet Willy, a 30-foot tall, 32-foot long structure that is the World’s Largest Beagle and a bed and breakfast with a sleeping loft in the muzzle and a bathroom beneath the tail.

Good dog: Guests can purchase dog-themed carvings at the on-site gift shop.

Camping Canines



Canine Camp Getaway
hosts dog-centric vacations events in Lake George, NY twice each year. In addition to a dog-friendly swimming pool, camp staff includes dog trainers, veterinarians (traditional and holistic) and a dog nutritionist. Camp activities include “Barks & Crafts” and canine freestyle dancing.

Good dog: In addition to nightly “Yappy Hours,” the dining room has a dog friendly section for those who enjoy dining with their dogs.

(All photos courtesy of these pet-friendly hotels).

More hotels that roll over for pets tomorrow.

Jack the cat: alive, but not out of the woods yet.

I have to admit, I didn’t think this story would have a happy ending. But, today on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin, I was pleased to be able to report that Jack the cat, at large at John F. Kennedy International Airport since escaping from his cage in the American Airlines baggage claim area two months ago, has been found.

The cat got loose in the airline baggage center at JFK on Aug. 25, after Karen Pasco checked Jack and another cat in as cargo. A day later, parts of the airport were shut down in preparation for Tropical Storm Irene.

Since then, more than 18,000 Facebook fans of Jack the Cat is Lost in AA Baggage at JFK have been following search efforts that have included at least two Jack the Cat Awareness days, a pet Amber Alert and the hiring of a pet detective.

“He was found when he fell through a ceiling tile at Terminal 8 and was discovered by Customs employees who turned him over to American Airlines,” said Pasco. “He’s in critical condition after being who knows where in the terminal for the last 2 months. He’s being administered fluids, has low blood pressure and is dealing with the effects of prolonged malnutrition. While the prognosis is good overall, he’s not out of the woods yet.”

American Airlines announced the news that Jack had been found on Facebook:

“American Airlines is happy to announce that Jack the Cat has been found safe and well at JFK airport. American’s team of airport employees have been focused on the search effort since Jack escaped on August 25, 2011. Jack was found in the customs room and was immediately taken by team members to a local veterinarian. The vet has advised that Jack is doing well at present.”

Pascoe is in California, but Bonnie Folz, a New York-based search coordinator, saw Jack shortly after he was found. “It was great to know it’s him and to know he’s safe,” she said. “He looked fabulous to me. His eyes are big and beautiful and bright, although he’s lost some weight and he needs some grooming. He’s on IV and is having some tests to make sure he’s OK.”

American Airlines said once Jack is ready to travel, the airline will fly him to California to be reunited with his owner.

In a report of the incident filed with the Department of Transportation and included in the Air Travel Consumer Report issued this month, American Airlines reported that, “The clerk responsible for transporting the kennels to the FIS area loaded one kennel on top of another, and while the kennels were stationary and waiting to be loaded on the aircraft, the kennel positioned on the top fell to the ground. The impact of the fall caused the kennel to separate and the cat escaped.”

Souvenir Sunday: Socks and pet services

Yesterday’s Snack Saturday feature served up Tastycakes and other Pennsylvania-made treats for sale at Harrisburg International Airport’s (MDT) Perfectly PA shop.

Tastycakes, made in Pennyslvania

That same shop is where you’ll find one of this week’s Souvenir Sunday picks: socks decorated with an Amish horse and buggy scene.

 Novelty socks

Novelty socks for sale at MDT Airport

I’m sure there’s a shop or two over at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that stocks novelty socks as well. (Moose anklets, anyone?)  And it’s a good bet there’s a coupon in the airport’s summer coupon book that can be used towards that purchase.

Don’t need any socks? It’s still a good idea to download the coupon book from the MSP website or pick up a copy at an information booth inside the airport. There are dozens of two-for-one and free-with-order drink and meal deals in there, along with discounts and gift-with-purchase deals in many airport stores.

You should also pick up the MSP summer coupon book if you’re a pet owner. MSP has a 24-hour pet boarding facility – it’s called Now Boarding – on airport property and there’s a coupon in the booklet good for a free bath or nail trim for pets staying overnight.  That seems like a great airport souvenir for pets – and their people.

Now Boarding - pet boarding at MSP airport

Did you find a great souvenir last time you were stuck at the airport? If it’s under $10, “of” the city or region and, ideally, a bit offbeat, please snap a photo and send it along. Your souvenir may be featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday on StuckatTheAirport.com.

Stretching the limits of ‘pet-friendly’

If you’re one of those people whose dog tags along when you travel, then you’re well aware of the growing number of pet-friendly hotels, inns and resorts out there. These properties go way out of their way to welcome you and your pooch but, as I found out for my msnbc.com column this week, Stretching the limits of ‘pet-friendly,some pet owners abuse the privilege.

I started thinking about this topic when I found a pile of dog poop out by the elevators at an upscale, pet-friendly hotel in Portland, Oregon.  “It happens,” one hotel manager told me.  “More than you want to know,” said another.

A hotel owner in California dunned a guest $150 for letting their dog chew up a down comforter. And while their policy prohibits guests from leaving dogs alone in the rooms, it happens anyway at the Paw House Inns and Resorts in Vermont. “People say, ‘Oh, our dog is well-behaved and is fine being left alone,’ but we’ve had nervous dogs claw at the floors, chew the molding right off the door frames and tear apart the sheetrock on the walls in an effort to get out,” owner Mitch Frankenberg told me.

Bad dogs? “No, just bad owners,” says Frankenberg. And, it seems, good pet owners who, feel the need to chew up the rules.

Sherry Gavanditti smuggled her 15-year-old family dog, Benji, into a no-pets-allowed hotel by wrapping a scarf around his head and cradling him in a blanket like a baby.

Sheryl Matthys, the author of “Leashes and Lovers” — a new book about dogs and relationships — has brought her greyhound, Shiraz, “who is by no means a purse dog,” into nice hotels that either don’t allow pets or have size and weight limits that exclude medium to large dogs.

And for years Howard Lansky (an alias) and his wife have taken their Wheaten Terrier, Raleigh (also an alias), along when visiting a favorite historic hotel in New Hampshire. This year they may all have to return in disguise.  Lansky recalled a hot day last summer when he and his dog jumped into one of the hotel pools for a swim. “Some other guests thought it was cute and even took pictures.” The hotel staff, however, was not amused. Lansky later received a $100 “Dog in Pool” fine in the mail.

Some hotel owners told me that no matter how pet-friendly they make their properties, some guests will find an excuse to yap and whine.

“We allow dogs to sleep in the bed with their owners, to swim in the pool with their owners and to attend lectures with their owners,” said Janice Costa, owner of the Canine Club Getaway in Lake George, N.Y. “We even have an outdoor dining area where guests can dine with their dogs.”

But that just isn’t enough for some. “One woman refused to come here unless her dog got a seat at [not beside] the dinner table,” Costa recalled. “Another woman wanted us to provide a dog bed with linens that would match those on her own bed. And we’ve had several people who wanted us to make sure the dogs in the rooms on either side of them were of the same breed, because they believed their dogs prefer being with their own kind.”

To read the full column – and cast your vote in a survey about how you and your pet behave when on vacation – please see Stretching the limits of pet-friendly on msnbc.com.