Cleaning Up With Maids At Westminster
Take inside look at doggy hotel to see where pooches stay at show
By Sandy Robins
updated 10:10 a.m. PT, Mon., Feb. 12, 2007
NEW YORK – Because of its cheek-by-jowl location to Madison Square Garden and its exceptionally pet-friendly policy, New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania is known around the world as the official “doggy hotel” for the Westminster Dog Show. This year more than 1,000 VIPs (very important pooches) are registered to check in for this premier event on the dog show calendar.
Apart from having a must-love-dogs attitude, the hotel staff is taught to jump and react instantly to every yelp.
To shed some light on what it’s really like to be a maid in Manhattan during Westminster week, I tried to join the hotel’s housekeeping staff for a day. Politely, I was brought to heel and turned down on the assumption that my writing skills outweighed my feather-dusting abilities. Just as well; the first shift starts early in the morning and I’m not a morning person! However, I was invited to tail staff members as they went about their work and observe from a distance.
Simply put, it’s a hairy job!
The hotel reserves special floors in the hotel for doggy guests and staff are equipped with the latest high-powered vacuum cleaners and other tools of the trade. Basic room cleaning procedures are interchanged with special deep-cleansing and de-hairing routines.
The maids, whether they speak English fluently or not all, understand the meaning of the expression “let sleeping dogs lie” and tiptoe down passages to ensure that pampered pooches get their beauty sleep in preparation for their appearance on the green carpet. The hotel has specially designed “Do Not Disturb” signs featuring pets on them for the occasion.
“These dogs are highly trained and used to being about people, so if their owners request service, they don’t mind the cleaning staff making up rooms around them,” said Steve Leonard, the hotel’s Director of Barketing. “They never bark, and they never mess. In fact we like to say they are amongst our best guests.”
I am sure he was dying to add that they don’t get drunk and vomit in the foyer, either.
In previous years, the hotel installed special doggy toilets on each floor. I can only assume that the housekeeping staff is greatly relieved that they have been replaced by the largest doggy restroom in the world located on the basement floor of the hotel. In fact, it officially ranks amongst the 10 most unique bathrooms in the world.
“It’s been featured on the Discovery Channel,” said Judy Davis, the green room coordinator. “I go to great lengths to keep it original and different.”
This year she’s paved the walkway with green astro turf to give it a real outdoor feel and shipped in 134 bales of sawdust for doggy guests to relieve themselves on. The male area is designated by fire hydrants and ornate mirrors.
Davis, who runs a grooming products manufacturing company in California, flies in well in advance of the event to set up a complete doggy green room, which includes a spa catering to all the pampered needs of these pooches. There’s a doggy masseuse, a fitness gym with jog-a-dog machines and a host of other satellite attractions that make this area a popular meet-and-greet locale for dogs and owners.
Because these are very special show dogs and there’s a lot of expensive merchandise on hand to indulge their every need, security is tight. However it’s difficult to recognize the “heavies” on duty when they’re mingling with the crowd and are scooping poop.
Doggy guests have other special needs, too, such as pet taxis to go for a walk in Central Park, and the Hotel’s Doggy Concierge, Jerry Grymek, is installed in the foyer to answer to all these questions.
This year, apart from a case of lint rollers to keep him fur-free, Grymek ordered a shoe polishing kit to be kept at the front desk, prompted by an incident when a doggy guest confused his Armani trouser leg for a tree and messed on his Gucci shoes.
Once again he’s being inundated with orders for McDonald’s cheeseburgers — hold the onions — a popular pre-show treat amongst the petset.
The foyer of the hotel hums during Westminster week as TV crews and photographers mingle looking for interviews and photo opportunities, guests meet and companies set up shop handing out samples of their pet-related wares.
“It’s organized chaos,” said Leonard, “and very much part of the flavor of the event.”
To describe check-in over the Westmisnter weekend as a zoo is an understatement. However, the front desk can process a show dog and its entourage in less than seven minutes.
“We also have extra staff out on the sidewalk dealing with the additional luggage and grooming paraphernalia that accompanies a show dog in order to keep the cars moving in the front of the hotel,” Leonard said. “And of course we move in with military precision if the weather changes suddenly heralding rain or snow.”
Another task that housekeeping has to deal with during the event is the constant handing out of free merchandise that is delivered by the truckload to the hotel for the canine celebrities. These “wag bags” contain everything from toys to leashes and are laden with yummy treats.
However, because the recipients of all this swag are dogs, they can bury their goodies from the prying eyes of the IRS, which means they can escape having to declare anything for tax …
Now I know the true meaning of the expression “lucky dog.”
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears regularly on MSNBC.com, MSN.com and in various national publications.
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