Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A doggone nice hotel

Winnipeg's Delta is happy to extend a warm welcome to furry four-legged guests

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After Zeus checked into the Delta Winnipeg earlier this month, it wasn't long before the devilishly handsome young fellow became unbearably lonely.

A stranger in a strange land, his mournful wails made it clear to everyone in the upscale hotel that he just couldn't stand being stuck in a room all by himself.

Fortunately for Zeus, from the moment the staff at the downtown Delta laid eyes on his fuzzy face, it was love at first sight.

So, alerted by their guest's plaintive cries, they came riding to the rescue, freeing Zeus from his room, taking him downstairs and showering him with love, affection and more than a few treats.

It seems that's just the level of personal attention and service you can expect at a hotel like the Delta if you happen to be a five-month-old, ridiculously cute bullmastiff puppy.

"The puppy (Zeus) couldn't stand being on its own, so it came downstairs and it was just like having a baby show up," gushed Helen Halliday, general manager of the Delta Winnipeg. "Everybody came to see the dog.

"He had the saddest, saddest face and huge paws," Halliday recalled. "As soon as it was known there was a very cute dog in the hotel, he instantly got kidnapped by the accounting office and the controller.

"He was a huge, huge hit because he was so adorable. The controller had the dog in her office and it fell asleep under her desk and started snoring."

Zeus's story highlights one of the burgeoning trends in the travel industry -- a growing number of travellers who bring their pets (and it's almost overwhelmingly dogs) along when they check in for the night.

For her part, Halliday said the hotel has definitely seen a sharp rise in the number of guests who, along with luggage, are packing the family pet when they arrive in the city.

"No question about it," Halliday told me last week. "Pets are family and definitely some people won't travel unless they can take their pets. That's just the reality of our world.

"I would say, especially on weekend, it has at least doubled or tripled in the last decade. I would guess we'd see two to half a dozen a week and more on the weekend. We welcome pets as part of the family."

Travelling with pets has become a lot easier with the advent of specialized websites such as TripsWithPets.com, which, according to a recent news release, is rated the best pet travel site by Consumer Reports and has just expanded its service to Canada.

The website's directory lists more than 12,000 pet-friendly hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, inns and vacation rentals throughout Canada, including at least 18 in Winnipeg.

Users can find a detailed overview of each pet-friendly lodging and its pet polices, or plug in their departure and destination cities to obtain a list of all the places that accept cats and dogs within a five- or eight-kilometre radius of their route.

The Delta Winnipeg is one of the Winnipeg hotels highlighted on the site, and Halliday says being stroked in cyberspace for its pet-friendly accommodations helps unleash new business.

"Often people introduce themselves through the website and then go to the hotel site to book," said Halliday, the proud owner of a beagle named Finnegan and a Cocker Spaniel dubbed Sadie.

The general manager said she suspects most modern hotels are pet-friendly because it makes good business sense in a world where, for many people, pets have become like children.

In a career that has spanned four Canadian cities over 28 years, Halliday said she can't remember a time when the Delta didn't accept pets with open arms. Pets have never proved to be problem guests, she said.

"The vision of our company is we provide the comfort on the road you'd expect in your own home, and that includes your pets," she explained.

In the case of lonely little Zeus, it was only natural for her staff of dog-lovers to go beyond the call of duty. When his cries began wafting through the halls, Delta staff quickly alerted the pup's owner.

"We consulted with his owner and told her we'd be happy to dog-sit while she was in her business meetings," Halliday said. "It was fun. Our guests come to us with their challenges and it's our job to help."

Like most big-city lodgings, the Delta has policies governing pets, including a fee of $35 per stay/room to cover additional cleaning costs. There's a maximum of two pets per room and pets must be leashed in public areas in the hotel. Pets are not allowed in certain areas, such as restaurants and the health club.

One of the rules states medium-sized dogs and cats (less than 50 pounds) are allowed, but that guideline, like an extendable leash, is just a little bit flexible.

"We're dog-friendly enough that 'medium' has come to include Great Danes," Halliday said, laughing. "We recently had a Great Dane as a guest. I only saw its rear end as it walked out of the hotel. It's name was Hiccup, because he had an issue with hiccupping."

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2013 C1

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