If you've ever shared an elevator with a potbellied pig, you know they can be delightful travel companions. And in this age when the hotel industry is fawning over pet owners and their business -- a swine sighting is not out of the question. Some inns take virtually any animal that meets their weight limits.
More than 29 million Americans have vacationed with pets, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Dogs are the most common companions, but cats, birds and rabbits take their owners on trips as well. It's not far-fetched to say we, as pet lovers, are just along for the ride. We lay out the cash, then choose a hotel for its creature comforts for Fluffy and Princess.
Consider the plea that went out across several social networking platforms recently; "I'm taking my dog to San Francisco. Can you give me advice on where we can stay and what we can do downtown?"
This missive unleashed a flurry of replies, almost all of them directing the lady away from downtown and toward the pet-friendly inns near Crissy Field. "There are lots of dogs and their owners at Crissy," one respondent observed, admitting she wasn't quite clear on "who owned whom" in these relationships.
What is clear is the length to which pet owners will go to ferret out friendly territory for their four-legged family members. And even the luxury inns are eager to oblige.
W Hotel in San Francisco boasts a menu of services including toys, treats, bedding, dog-sitting, dog walking and more. The Pan Pacific and Palace Hotels welcome furry friends, too. At each upscale offering there's a one-time charge for cleaning -- ranging from $75 to $100.
But why stop at luxury bedding and a squeeze toy or two? Many pet owners feel their companions need more. At San Francisco's Hotel Monaco, your dog dines in elegance with the "Bone Appétit" menu -- food and beverage served in designer bowls with -- not the morning paper -- but a copy of The Dog Lover's Companion to the Bay Area.
Yet for all the attention that canines are getting, cats seem to be second-class citizens. Despite being more discerning than their overeager, just-get-me-in-the-car-and-I'll-go-anywhere counterparts, cats don't get nearly the respect from the hotel industry.
After a barely audible titter, one reservationist told me she'd have to ask her manager about cat amenities. Five minutes later, she came back on the line with this tantalizing offer -- a litter box and cat treat at check-in.
I'd venture to say even the potbellied pig gets a welcome package. For information on pet friendly hotels, motels and inns in America, go to http://www.tripswithpets.com.