Imagine arriving to your hotel after a long day of travel. Exhausted, you begin the check-in process when you notice movement behind the registration desk. Curious, you peer over the counter and notice a smiling dog, tail wagging, practically begging for you to say hello.
Members of the hotel staff invite you to spend time with the pup, and you feel the stress of the day melt away after being greeted by kisses and wiggles. “He’s available for adoption,” the staff member says. What started as a humdrum business trip has resulted in you finding a new best friend and family member.
This hypothetical situation has been the reality for hundreds of travelers as they’ve stayed at four different Aloft Hotel locations. “It all started with a real love for dogs,” states Emma Ledbetter, corporate food and beverage manager for McKibbon Hospitality, and the person who spearheaded its dog foster program following two serendipitous plane rides.
Initially, Emma was hoping to establish a “hotel dog” program and was working with management to develop a plan. The plan changed after sitting next to a representative from Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue on a flight. They chatted about their dogs and started to brainstorm a way to establish a partnership. Two days later, Emma found herself sitting next to the same person. They picked up where they left off and came up with a plan.
The rescue is responsible for vetting potential adopters. Hotel guests submit an adoption application, and the rescue contacts landlords, veterinarians and checks the home. The hotel serves as the temporary home and caretaker for the dog. They maintain a food and walk log, arrange for an observation period to allow the dog to get settled and feel comfortable, and help guests visit with the dog.
Guests and local residents have gotten wind of the partnership between Aloft and rescue groups and have started to stop by to visit, and bring local treats and other goodies for the dogs. Some guests have traveled long distances, with their current dogs in tow, to have a meet and greet with the adoptable dogs. Being able to have a chance for dogs to meet may not be possible in a shelter environment, but it is possible at the dog-friendly hotels.
The four McKibbon Aloft hotels (Asheville, North Carolina; Orlando, Florida; Greenville, South Carolina; and Tallahassee, Florida) have adopted out over 360 dogs. What started as a project that Emma thought would take three months for a dog to find a home, resulted in the first dog being adopted in three days. “We never stopped; we always want to have a dog in our hotel. Even though we’re in the business of being at hotels, we’re willing to dedicate our time to helping improve the lives of animals in need.”