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Some hotels offer treats and toys for pets, while others give the cold shoulder

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Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011 9:41 am

It was a late-summer getaway to Monterey. My wife and I decided to take Jake, our little Corgi mix, with us.

We booked a room at the Portola Hotel, close to Fisherman’s Wharf, and Jake was treated like royalty. The hotel offered him special doggie treats. The room was spacious and clean. The hotel staff was thrilled to have our little friend as a guest.

At dinner, we dined at the Portola’s own restaurant, Jack’s, seated next to an outdoor firepit. Judy and I sipped wine and savored the corn-and-clam chowder as Jake happily greeted passersby. 

In contrast, during a trip to Lake Tahoe last fall, we looked into a lakeside motel that shall remain nameless. The establishment had a few “pet friendly” rooms that reeked of cigarette smoke and were jammed within feet of a busy, noisy street.

The spot we wanted to go for dinner said they did not accept pets, inside or outside.

Traveling with dogs is becoming more common, as baby boomers and even business types insist on taking their pets with them. But pet owners are well-advised to do their research before they leave. Some hotel and restaurants absolutely welcome dogs, some places merely tolerate them, and others simply don’t accept them. And the scene is similarly complicated when it comes to airline travel.

Lucky Lodians

Lodi travelers are fortunate to have two pet-friendly destinations within easy driving distance: Monterey and San Francisco.

Most hotels in Monterey accept pets, though some impose restrictions. For instance, you may have to pay an extra cleaning fee. A few Monterey hotels will only accept small animals, typically less than 35 pounds. And many hotels, in Monterey and otherwise, will not allow pets to be left unattended in the room.  

As a rule-of-thumb regarding hotels: The more restrictions, the less welcome your pet will be. Hotels that truly cater to the pet-loving crowd try to make the experience easy and fun. These hoteliers get it: Travelers with pets are an asset, responsible and diligent, not a menace. 

Those hotels that don’t cotton to dogs will bash you with their fees and restrictions. (Such as relegating you to a nicotine-stained room next to a shrieking highway.)

Time to dine

When it is time to go eat, we have come to expect some restrictions. Dogs aren’t typically welcome indoors, and that’s understandable. Generally, though, restaurants are happy to oblige you and your pooch on a patio or deck.

A huge plus for Monterey is Fisherman’s Wharf, where nearly all the eateries have al fresco tables that welcome pets. We dined one evening at Domenico’s, where the waiter brought treats and a special water bowl for Jake. 

Up the coast in San Francisco, walking your dog around Union Square can be testing with the crowds so close and fast-moving. You must navigate your animal companion pretty carefully to avoid pet and pedestrian mishaps, though it can be done.

In a survey by the Humane Society in 2007, San Francisco was rated the most pet-friendly destination in America. 

Perhaps the most pet-loving hotel group in San Francisco is Kimpton, with nine boutique hotels in the city and a renowned pets-centric attitude. At Kimpton, there are no extra cleaning fees. Guests are welcomed with treats for their pet and a list of pet-friendly walking areas and nearby restaurants. Well-behaved pets are allowed to remain in the room unattended, with the human guests encouraged to put “pet inside” hangers on the doors while they are away.

There aren’t any pet size restrictions, either.

“We wouldn’t restrict the size of our human guests — why restrict the size of the pets?,” mused Steven Pinetti, senior vice president for sales and marketing. “People who travel with pets take very, very good care of their pets. They are conscientious. That’s regardless of size.”

Kimpton’s pets-are-cool attitude grew from its founder, Bill Kimpton.

“Bill had a wonderful miniature Collie, Chianti, who had the run of our very first hotel. Pretty soon, people asked if they could bring their own pets, and we said, ‘sure, why not?’”

Pinetti said roughly 15 percent of Kimpton’s guest brings pets, and dogs aren’t the only ones pampered — monkeys, llamas, birds and fish have been guests at Kimpton, too.

Pinetti feels that Kimpton’s pet-friendly credo appeals both to guests who’ve brought their pets and guests who haven’t.

“They may not have their pet with them, but staying with us, they get their ‘pet fix,’” he said.

The topper: Many Kimpton locations have a resident pooch who serves as “director of pet relations,” welcoming people and creatures, and sending out email greetings to pets who are planning a Kimpton stay.

Travelers with pets include singles, couples and families, and Pinetti said he’s noticed an uptick in business travelers with pets, too. If the guest has to attend a conference for a few hours, the staff will look in to feed or walk the pet during the day, Pinetti said.

Up in the air

Flying with pets, at least small ones, is becoming more popular as many airlines now let pets fly in the cabin. Southwest Airlines, for instance, charges a $75 per flight fee for passengers to bring their special friend along. The pet must be pint-sized however — able to fit into a crate that can fit below the seat in front of the passenger. 

“Most passengers don’t even know there is a pet aboard. Usually, the pet just settles down and goes to sleep,” said Ashley Dillon, a Southwest spokesperson.

What to do with a larger pet? Some airlines allow animals to be shipped in their cargo holds (Southwest, however, does not) yet many owners aren’t keen on their little dear ones being exposed to the temperature swings and other variables down below.

One alternative is Pet Airways, which flies only pets, and flies them only in the passenger section. All pets are secured in carriers and they are checked every 15 minutes by an attendant. 

The cost can be pricey, though, with one-way fares of $300 to $500 common. Based in Florida, Pet Airways is fast-growing and has flights out of the Los Angeles area. It does not serve Northern California yet.

Contact editor Richard Hanner at richardh@lodinews.com.

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