A pleasant breeze was blowing off Biscayne Bay, on a residential cay just outside of Coconut Grove, in Miami. There, at the four-star Grove Isle Hotel’s restaurant, candles flickered in hurricane lamps, a distant South Beach sparkled under the stars, and waiters hovered over me and my long-haired miniature dachshund, Zoloft, or Zoli for short.
“Would she like the tap water?” one asked while holding a crystal pitcher.
I said that would be fine, and he filled the silver bowl—engraved with the words cherish others—at her place. Once the waiter had finished filling my own glass, Zoli put her cognac-brown paws on the table and drank in a way that can only be described as genteel. Her little tongue lapped as softly as the bay lapping the shore. After a few moments, she sat back down in her chair, quiet yet attentive to the proceedings.
While well-dressed human couples dined nearby, enjoying a romantic evening, I was smiling like a lovelorn idiot, admiring the table manners of my tiny and big-snouted companion. “I guess a dog can be a pretty good date,” I told the waiter when he arrived with our entrées: filet mignon for Zoli, and salmon for me.
“Oh, yes, sir, the best there is,” he said.
When the bill came, I noticed that her meal was more expensive than mine. But at least there was enough left over in the doggie bag for both of us to eat later.
Welcome to the world of high-end pet travel, where the increasingly over-the-top level of luxury service for humans is now available to dogs in amusing new ways. But then, what else to expect in a country with 77.5 million dog owners where, according to a recent American Pet Products Association survey, at least 16 million of us travel with dogs?
“In the last few years, better hotels are making more of an effort to cater to dogs,” says Melissa Halliburton, founder of the pet-travel website bringfido.com, which has doubled its size to 35,000 pet-friendly hotel listings since its founding in 2004. “They’re providing dog menus, massage therapists, and all kinds of high-end services.”
The pet-friendly Kimpton chain of boutique hotels has amenities such as special birthday cakes from a local dog bakery at the Marlowe Hotel, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or a “pawdicure” service at Miami’s Epic hotel. Loews Hotels offers animal workout tips and diet pet menus at all of its properties. There’s even a dog surf package at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, in San Diego.
“Dogs are traveling more and more,” says Eric Hyde, the manager of Grove Isle Hotel, where Zoli and I visited after hearing that it had received a Five Dog Bone award for pet friendliness from Animal Fair magazine. “Hotels either get it or they don’t.”
In Miami, it seems they do. At Grove Isle, where bowls, beds, and treats are presented upon check-in, dogs also have access to paw massages, a VIP lounge, and a Creature Concierge who will arrange playdates, walks, and poolside seating. The restaurant welcomes them, too, creating low-fat and low-salt meals for dogs with special needs.
“We will happily honor any request for dogs, because we understand that they’re like children,” says Hyde, who has plans to open a pet salon at the resort. “But then, we’re not your usual hotel.”
He might be surprised to find that isn’t so anymore. While it’s true that Grove Isle may offer the ease and practicality of Spanish-tile floors and big balconies (so owners can worry less about doggy accidents) as well as 18 acres for walks, it turns out that the rest of Miami as well as Palm Beach, two places on my weekend itinerary, are now also doggedly dog friendly.