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Image: Dog in lobby
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Increasingly, hotels, inns and resorts are adopting pet-friendlier policies to attract pet-loving guests. Patrons, however, don't always pack good behavior or common sense.
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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/18/2010 9:46:50 AM ET 2010-03-18T13:46:50

It’s always nice to find a pile of morning newspapers by the hotel elevator. A pile of dog poop? Not so much.

But that’s what greeted me at the 9th-floor elevators during a recent stay in Portland, Ore. Worse, someone had already stepped in it.

“I’m so sorry you encountered a surprise in the hallway,” the manager of the upscale, famously pet-friendly property wrote via e-mail when he got wind of the incident. “From time to time it does happen. It is a rare exception to responsible pet ownership.”

Oh yeah? That manager asked me to please not name his hotel here, but other hotel managers and pet owners tell me pet-friendly properties must deal with elevator “surprises” and more all the time.

At the Half Moon Bay Inn, in Half Moon Bay, Calif., owner Jamie Barber charged an extra $150 after the guest’s dog chewed a hole in a down comforter and shook feathers all over the room.

And while their policy prohibits guests from leaving dogs alone in the rooms, it happens anyway at the Paw House Inns and Resorts in Vermont. “People say, ‘Oh, our dog is well-behaved and is fine being left alone,’ but we’ve had nervous dogs claw at the floors, chew the molding right off the door frames and tear apart the sheetrock on the walls in an effort to get out,” said owner Mitch Frankenberg.

Frankenberg doesn’t blame the pets. “There’s no such thing as a bad dog — only bad owners.”

And, it seems, good pet owners who leave their manners behind when they take their pets with them out on the road.

Doggone those hotel rules
According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey, more than 71 million U.S. households own a pet. Many people consider their pets to be part of the family, and when it’s time for a business or leisure trip, many dogs, cats and birds go right along.

While there are an increasing number of hotels, attractions and even bars and restaurants with policies welcoming pets, some travelers still feel the need to chew up the rules.

While moving from Florida to Ohio, Sherry Gavanditti smuggled her 15-year-old family dog, Benji, into a no-pets-allowed hotel by wrapping a scarf around his head and cradling him in a blanket like a baby. “No one busted us. But I think Benji was embarrassed. And I still smile when I see a little old lady in a headscarf,” she said.

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Sheryl Matthys, the author of “Leashes and Lovers” — a new book about dogs and relationships — has brought her greyhound, Shiraz, “who is by no means a purse dog,” into nice hotels that either don’t allow pets or have size and weight limits that exclude medium to large dogs.

And for years Howard Lansky (an alias) and his wife have taken their Wheaten Terrier, Raleigh (also an alias), along when visiting a favorite historic hotel in New Hampshire. This year they may all have to return in disguise.  Lansky recalled a hot day last summer when he and his dog jumped into one of the hotel pools for a swim. “Some other guests thought it was cute and even took pictures.” The hotel staff, however, was not amused. Lansky later received a $100 “Dog in Pool” fine in the mail.

You can’t please everyone
Some hotel owners find that no matter how pet-friendly they make their properties, some guests will find an excuse to yap and whine.

“We allow dogs to sleep in the bed with their owners, to swim in the pool with their owners and to attend lectures with their owners,” said Janice Costa, owner of the Canine Club Getaway in Lake George, N.Y. “We even have an outdoor dining area where guests can dine with their dogs.”

But that just isn’t enough for some. “One woman refused to come here unless her dog got a seat at [not beside] the dinner table,” Costa recalled. “Another woman wanted us to provide a dog bed with linens that would match those on her own bed. And we’ve had several people who wanted us to make sure the dogs in the rooms on either side of them were of the same breed, because they believed their dogs prefer being with their own kind.”

Traveling with tails
Sandy Sandler takes her husky, Nouvelle, along on business trips and always tries to find a hotel that will allow the dog to join her in the evenings at the bar. Before arriving, she finds a dog-sitter who can take care of Nouvelle during the day. “I’ve found sitters by calling ahead to the hotel, by contacting local veterinarians and I’ve even had luck with craigslist, although of course I ask for references and check them out.”

Top 10 hotel perks for pets

Hotel owners who have fielded complaints about barking, whining and crying dogs down the hall no doubt wish other travelers would follow Sandler’s lead. Other property owners just wish their guests would be honest about the pets they have in tow.

At the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N.H., a guest who said she’d be arriving with two well-behaved puppies showed up with a couple of 6-month-old mastiffs weighing between 120 and 140 pounds each.

And Vermont’s Paw House, a guest showed up with a small monkey hidden underneath her cape.

“The monkey was named Amelia,” innkeeper Denise Altland said. “She was wearing diapers and a little sweater. And she had very good manners.”

Harriet Baskas is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com, authors the “Stuck at the Airport” blog and is a columnist for USATODAY.com. You can follow her on Twitter.

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