If you go back through the annals of the Soapbox, in my first month of blogging (a few years ago, now) I wrote In Defence of Big Dogs, a wordy rant lamenting sized-based dog discrimination.
Well our recent trip to the west coast reignited some of that fury.
We had the pleasure of our vehicle breaking down during our trip, finding ourselves stranded while it was repaired and in need of a last-minute hotel room for ourselves and the Newfs.
Calls to about 8 different places were required because it’s tough to find a place that’s (a) pet-friendly, (b) no, ACTUALLY pet-friendly, and (c) has pet-friendly rooms available.
As it turns out, “pet-friendly” is a subjective term. A lot of hotels will tout pet-friendliness until you test that notion with Moses, a 180lb Newfoundland. Even a lot of those pet-friendly travel websites and directories require some digging through the fine print.
No room at the inn? But his name is Moses… not… you know…
The biggest obstacles were the seemingly arbitrary size limits. “Pet friendly up to 50 pounds.” “Pet friendly up to 25 pounds.” I actually called one hotel and the lady on the phone cheerfully advised me that “of course” they were pet friendly… up to 15 pounds.
15 pounds! [Insert spit-take here.]
There are perfectly healthy cats that weigh more than that! I politely told the woman that a 15 pound limit isn’t actually very friendly at all and we’d continue to look elsewhere.
After a while, and half a dozen calls, I started to feel desperate. I actually found myself thinking, I wonder if we could pass Alma off as 80 pounds? And then just sneak Moses in a back exit, in some elaborate and clumsy Three’s Company-style ruse? If anyone asks, it’s just one dog, and their eyes must be playing tricks on them.
But I think we all know I’m not up to that. I once rode transit home without paying for fare – it was the first of the month and I’d forgotten to buy my monthly pass – and while the bad-ass feeling was exhilerating, once I realized what I’d done, I spent the rest of the ride eyeing my fellow passengers, it being clear they could all tell I was a dirty thief. The guilt (more like fear of being caught, but close enough) ate me up.
We ended up at the Marriott, which, while not necessarily the most cost-effective option, was certainly the most accommodating and I would highly recommend them and stay there again. Their pet fee was reasonable, the room was nice, and the staff was friendly and all big fans of Moses and Alma. We actually felt welcome there rather than a burden.
Moses and Alma at the Marriott, waiting for the elevator
And this is the thing I don’t get: how do smaller dogs seem to always get a pass? And where do we get one?
There are some days I’m tempted to take Moses and Alma though service or therapy dog training just so they can go anywhere, unencumbered.
I mean, I would understand – even welcome – requirements such as “pet friendly for all Canine Good Neighbours.” That way the business is ensured each dog has some basic training and socialization. After all, aren’t property damage and noise disturbances the biggest concerns?
Sure, I guess it makes sense to a certain extent. Smaller dogs have smaller bladders and smaller mouths, so if some sort of accident or destruction is going to happen, it will be lessened with a smaller dog. I get that. But that reasoning seems to assumes all dogs are destruction machines and the hotel is just hedging bets based on size.
And I don’t want this to be misconstrued as hinting that all small breed dogs are little hellians and are somehow getting undeserved privileges, despite my own previous confessions on bias. But it would just make sense to acknowledge that well-behaved dogs and poorly-behaved dogs come in all sizes, because it really comes down to what kind of owner the dog has.
Who knows – maybe some hotels start with an all-encompassing pet-friendly policy, and slowly whittle it down following bad experiences. Or maybe some hotels are easing into it, starting small and expanding the policy as good experiences come. But that’s the problem – anecdotal stories don’t necessarily represent whole populations.
Just because one person has a certain experience doesn’t mean it speaks to overall trends or facts. [Photo: nestler.com]
But the rules of logic fail many, and those of us travelling with our dogs or taking them out in public – those conscious and conscientious thinkers of us, anyway – are usually hyper aware of this and try to mitigate it. We keep the dogs leashed, we clean up after them, and we keep them under control – because who wants to be the one who ruins it for everyone else?
And because pet owners are improving and evolving as a courteous and educated population, pet-friendly should also grow be just that. Friendly. Welcoming to all. If you don’t want to allow dogs at all, fine. But once a hotel is willing to open its doors to the 35% of Canadian households that have dogs, size shouldn’t be a randomly-chosen limiting factor.
Sure, there are bad owners who don’t train or socialize or leash their pets (of any size) and who will ruin fun privileges for the rest of us – that will always be the case. But these owners come in all types and so do their dogs. And I like to think they’re part of a shrinking minority.
It’s not objective or accurate to say all dogs of any particular size or breed are particularly well or poorly behaved, so those size restrictions on “pet-friendliness” are mostly ridiculous and irrational, in my opinion.
Besides, Moses and Alma are our travel companions whenever possible, and our money is just as green (and blue, and purple… this is Canada, after all) as everyone else’s.
Moses and Alma at the famed Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.
And ranting about things I don’t like or disagree with is exactly what this Soapbox is for.