Ottawa hotel turns its lobby into a haven for rescue dogs
Published Friday, April 8, 2016 5:32PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 8, 2016 6:52PM EDT
The Westin Ottawa is a four-star hotel. So perhaps it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see a fur coat in the lobby.
What is surprising is when that fur coat comes with four legs, a wagging tail, and a wet nose.
That is when The Westin has a dog in the lobby.
A few months ago, the dog-friendly hotel partnered with Ottawa Dog Rescue to turn the hotel’s lobby into a temporary foster home for rescue dogs. Hotel staff built a kennel - complete with a Parliament Hill dog house – right beside the escalators. “We have the facilities and the ability to do it,” says the hotel’s General Manager, Ross Meredith. “We house people so, maybe we can house dogs.”
On Friday it was Casper's turn. The 3 1/2 month-old husky cross was trying out the kennel. Casper was abandoned by his owner after he was born with a painful eye condition that required surgery.
The reaction from guests is immediate. As soon as they see the dog they want to pet and play with it. And when they learn why it’s there they are impressed. “I love dogs so I love the idea of making sure they go to the right home,” says Karen Jackson from Toronto.
And it's working. The hotel has already helped six hard-luck dogs find new homes. “The program so far has been fantastic,” says Andrea McCoy of Ottawa Dog Rescue. “I think it brings a lot of awareness to rescue and the rescue world in general.”
The dogs don’t just stay in the lobby. Hotel staff can take them to quieter areas when necessary. And registered guests are even allowed to take them for walks.
The dogs are also carefully screened to make sure they have the right temperament to live in a hotel. Between guests and staff, they certainly don’t lack for attention. “Our last dog was a celebrity,” says McCoy. He was at meetings and conferences, and all over Twitter, because he was just fantastic with everybody.”
The only downside is when staff members have to say goodbye. “It’s hard to let them go.” says Elia Villamayor, Executive Assistant at The Westin. “You build up such a fond bond with these dogs.”
So far, each dog has spent 2 to 3 weeks at the hotel before being adopted. There’s also been about a week in between each dog until another suitable candidate can be found.
Both The Westin and Ottawa Dog Rescue plan to continue fostering dogs in the lobby. Andrea McCoy would like to see the idea expand to other hotels and other dog rescue organizations as well. “I think it's fantastic. I really do."