Posted on Mon, Mar. 13, 2006
By JURA KONCIUS
The Washington Post
Jackson was one of the first guests to check in to one of the newest hotels in Bethesda, Md.
He marched through the elegant lobby with its cherry wood reception desk and ceramic tile floor to his Large Atrium Room, outfitted with a comfy bed and aromatherapy scented air. He was treated to filtered drinking water and a hypoallergenic lambskin blanket, plus an afternoon snack of lactose-free ice cream. He brought four of his own toys in case he got homesick.
Jackson is a bulldog. And last week he was a guest ($23 a night) at the PetsHotel at the PetSmart. The hotel catering to dogs and cats (kitty cottages are $14 a night) is one of a chain of 35 pet hotels that have opened inside PetSmart stores around the country (www.petshotel.com; the Sand City PetSmart is not on the list).
PetSmart plans to expand to a total of 300 hotels, according to Chris Rowland, company vice president of operations.
”We wanted the look of the hotels to be upscale, because a lot of our customers are going on vacation and there’s a guilt factor in leaving their pets,” Rowland says.
The windows of the lobby area in Bethesda, Md., are dressed in a red English chintz print featuring flowers and dogs; the curtains have tiebacks made of leather dog collars. Two club chairs flank a table piled with books. A large-screen TV is encased in a black louvered armoire.
The challenge was to find homey materials, because everything from 5 feet and below has to be regularly washed down because of the bathroom habits of their guests.
Tracy Lader brought her Chihuahua, Pickles, in for a tour. ”This might be a little more expensive than we’re used to, but the convenience is worth it. And it’s beautiful.”
The PetSmart venture is part of the vast American pet money machine, which will generate $38 billion in sales in 2006, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. About 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet, and pet services are among the fastest-growing parts of the business.
Some people hotels are adopting pet-friendly policies, including monogrammed dog cookies and doggy massages. Country-club-style camps and woodsy resorts accommodate dogs whose owners are on vacation; cat hotels feature multilevel condos, aquariums and luxury theme rooms. Now the urban pet, already pampered with doggie day care and self-cleaning litter boxes, is being offered something billed as a step above your bare-bones kennel facilities.
Are these facilities catering more to owners than pets? California pet expert and syndicated radio show host Warren Eckstein says probably so — but he prefers leaving his pets with an in-home nanny. He says that with more Americans traveling, pet hotels are a good concept, as long as they are staffed round-the-clock and all animals in residence are up to date on their vaccinations.
But aren’t some of them just a wee bit over the top? ”I’ve yet to meet a dog who lay down on a bed in a pet hotel and said he preferred a different style.”
At the PetsHotel in Bethesda, Jackson and his fellow guests do not get private bathrooms. Dogs must go down the hall to an indoor ”park-like relief area” with fake ficus trees and cedar posts. But to make up for this shortcoming, their owners can upgrade to a suite ($33) with DVD players and a choice of flicks including ”The Adventures of Milo & Otis” and ”My Dog Skip.”
On the Web For a list of PetsHotel locations, go to http://www.petsmart.com/PETsHOTEL/locations.shtml