When you walk into a hotel lobby, you expect to see a concierge or helpful front desk clerk, but at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, the face behind the counter might belong to an adoptable dog who’s hoping to check out with you.
The hotel has been fostering rescue dogs since August 2014, and so far more than 30 adoptable animals have donned the “Adopt Me” harness while hanging out in the hotel lobby.
According to Emma Ledbetter, Aloft Asheville’s assistant general manager, the idea to host the adoptable guests grew from a smaller plan that involved just one dog.
“Our general manager and our director of sales and I — we had wanted a hotel dog. And David [McCartney], our GM, was finally like, let’s do that,” she says.
Soon, though, the idea to incorporate a rescue dog into the hotel grew, thanks in part to a coincidental airline seating arrangement.
“I happened to be on a plane going to Florida, and I sat beside one of the board members of Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue,” Ledbetter remembers. “We started talking, the phones came out, and we started showing pictures of our dogs.”
Before long, the conversation turned to how the Aloft Hotel could help dogs in need, and when Ledbetter returned from Florida, she passed the information to her director of sales, Christine Kavanagh, and the Aloft Foster Dog Program began to take shape.
“They try to find a dog who has a good temperament, that’s a good fit for the hotel, and we provide excellent care of the dogs, so it’s just been a great partnership,” Ledbetter says.
“The dogs stay here 24 hours a day. They have a crate in the back to sleep in the office during the nighttime, and we have a feeding chart and a potty chart so that we can make sure they’re on a schedule.”
Although Aloft does sometimes host bonded pairs, Ledbetter says usually the foster dogs are hosted one at a time.
During the day, the adoptable dogs spend most of their time in the lobby area. There they have a pen with easy access to a comfy dog bed, food, water, and front desk staff members who play with them whenever possible. According to Ledbetter, the staff love interacting with the dogs, and they’re not the only ones.
“Guests are allowed to come and hold the dogs in the lobby as long as they are in view of an Aloft talent member. They can walk the dogs around the lobby,” she says.
Although guests are the rescue dogs’ target audience, Aloft staff members certainly aren’t immune to their charms. Ledbetter herself ended up taking home Aloft Foster Dog No. 16 — a little hound mix called Ladybug.
“When Ladybug arrived at the hotel, my general manager was the first one to see her, and he was joking about how she was the one for me,” says Ledbetter, who already shared her home and heart with a rescued Basenji cattle dog called Butters.
Not sure that she was really in the market for a second dog, Ledbetter was hesitant to agree with her colleague’s assessment, but Ladybug quickly won her over.
“I brought her upstairs, and she was just so shy and so timid, and I petted her, and right before I was about to walk out of the office, she licked me on my hand, and I thought, ‘I’m in trouble.’”
For the duration of Ladybug’s stay at Aloft, the general manager played matchmaker, taking daily photos of Ladybug sitting in Ledbetter’s desk chair and advising Ledbetter that the adoptable dog was waiting for her in office.
Ledbetter made sure to take time each day to play with Ladybug and run around with her in the lobby. Unsure if she should take on a second dog, the Asheville native decided to think about it during three days she had off from work. She spoke with her friends and boyfriend during that time and decided she was ready to commit to Ladybug.
“But when I came back to work, she was already gone, so I was really upset,” Ledbetter recalls. “She wasn’t there, and I saw another dog with the ‘Adopt Me’ harness on, and I was like, ‘Where is my dog?’”
Luckily for Ledbetter, she got a second chance with Ladybug when the person who intended to adopt Ladybug declined a home visit from Charlie’s Angels and Ladybug went back into the adoption pool at the rescue.
“The president of Charlie’s Angels and I were talking, and I was like, ‘What, she’s back?’ And she said if I was serious they could let me take her home to see how she reacts with my other dog — and it was just a match made in heaven.”
Thanks to Ledbetter, Ladybug found her forever family, and plenty of other pups have also found loving homes thanks to the partnership.
“Anybody who has the ability to do this and the staff that are willing to put the extra effort in, I definitely think it’s a great idea,” says Ledbetter, who adds that arrangements like this one aren’t limited to hotels. She’d like to see more businesses partnering with rescues to help dogs get the kind of in-person exposure that just can’t happen through pictures.
“It’s great to see the personality of the dogs. It’s just crazy to see how the dogs change from when they first get here.”
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at email@example.com.
Read about more Dogster Heroes:
About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.