Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sandy Eichel and her wife, Nancy Noet, love to travel. They also love their pets: Tilda, a 14-week-old Bernese mountain dog, and three cats, Snowball, Sophie and Plumpsen.
The cats usually stay home, but Tilda — following in the footsteps of the Bernese pooch that preceded her — often travels with her owners.
“They are our four-legged children,” said Eichel, who said she and Noet will probably take Tilda with them when they travel to Detroit this summer to visit her family. The same for visiting Noet’s kin in Milwaukee. And perhaps even on a longer trip to the Northwest or New England.
The cats can be a bit persnickety about travel, so they usually remain in their comfortable surroundings with a friend who house-sits for the couple. But they joined the rest of the menagerie (humans included) on a recent four-day stay at the pet-friendly HotelRED in Madison, across from Camp Randall near the University of Wisconsin campus.
It was a staycation of sorts, while renovations were being done on their house. The six of them made the best of it and were welcomed with open arms by the staff, Eichel said.
“We needed a place to bunk while the work was going on, and we really wanted to keep all of our pets with us,” she said. “The folks at HotelRED fawned all over them, so it was a stress-free stay at what we found to be a hip and funky boutique place. With the polished cement floors at the RED, there was no worry about an ‘accidents’ staining rugs, either.”
Ricardo Contreras, general manager at the HotelRED, said Eichel, Noet and their critters are part of a growing trend in the travel industry — guests who view their pets as furry children and want to take them on their travels.
In Wisconsin Dells, more than two dozen properties, including campgrounds and at least one waterpark, accept pets, though some hotels have size and other restrictions. Most have surcharges.
Elsewhere around the Badger State state, travelers can find pet-friendly properties and places to romp from the tip of Door County’s Washington Island to the southern reaches of the state by going to travelwisconsin.com/planning-tools/pet-friendly-directory.
Contreras, who has two cats of his own, said HotelRED has been welcoming pets (mostly dogs) since it opened about six years ago. He said every employee there “loves animals and is eager to pet them when they arrive.
“When we take a reservation for someone bringing their animal, we get the pet’s name and put in on a little welcoming board with a bowl of water and treats in the lobby,” he said, noting there is a $50 extra charge per room for animals. “We’ll also make recommendations on where people can take their critters for walks.”
“The largest number of animals we’ve ever had in my time as general manager was four or five dogs, and they all got along when they encountered each other. Knock on wood, that will continue. Another guest recently brought two puppies and two cats and they all did quite well.”
He said the dog treats provided come from the Verona-based Wisconsin Brewing Company, are all natural and are made with spent grain from the company’s aptly named Chocolate Lab Porter Beer. The company donates 100% of its profits from the canine treats to Dane County dog parks, he added.
When warm weather arrives, he said, the hotel will host several Pups on the Patio events where the property teams with Fetch, a local dog adoption program, to find homes for rescue animals. HotelRED is also teaming up this summer with Capital K9, the Madison Police Department’s dog unit, to host a meet and greet at the hotel with the Police Department and dogs to raise funds for their organization.
In Wausau at the upscale Jefferson Street Inn, general manager Debbie Rice said her hotel has been accepting pets since it opened more than a dozen years ago.
“Back then, there weren’t a lot of nice places that let you bring your pets in,” she said. “But the trend is growing and we’ve had good luck. The owners are conscientious and their ‘surrogate children’ have been well behaved, even when we’ve had six to eight dogs in the lobby at the same time during the especially busy Christmas and New Year’s periods.”
Rice, who often brings her own dog to work, said many pet owners treat their animals as important members of the family. They are happy to find hotels that accept them and are willing to pay the $30 a night cleaning surcharge.
She said the Jefferson Street Inn is just a block from Wausau’s three-mile River Walk trail and described it an ideal place to take a stroll with a dog.
“We’re also only a couple of blocks from residential neighborhoods, which are good for walking,” she said. “Just be sure to pick up after your dog.”
Rice said some regular canine guests know to go straight to the front desk for a treat when they arrive at the hotel. She said the hotel also sees the occasional cat, and one woman recently stayed with her feline pet for 30 days.
But Rice said it’s not just dogs and the occasional cat that stay at the Jefferson Street Inn. When animal trainer Jack Hanna, star of the “Into the Wild” show, performed at Wausau’s Grand Theater, he booked a suite for a panther, four penguins, snakes, a flamingo and other critters.
“And it all worked out just fine,” Rice said.
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