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Now a free cuddles service from resident dogs at luxury hotels

Resident dogs have become feel-good brand ambassadors of select hotels and homestays across the subcontinent—often greeting guests and accompanying them on treks and walks

The Kumaon, a luxury hotel near Almora in Uttarakhand, is home to Juno and Elsa, a five-year-old Himalayan Bhotia and an Indie respectively

By Riddhi Doshi

LAST PUBLISHED 01.09.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

Amankora Thimphu is one of Bhutan’s most picturesque hotels, situated right beside the residence of the country’s royal family. It is nestled within a pine tree forest, overlooking a perennial river. To see five dogs, lazing in the sun on the entrance lawn of this upscale property, takes me by surprise. They keep their distance, though. Perhaps, they have been trained to not bother guests. But as soon as I call out to them, the handsome babies, a mix of Tibetan mastiff and Himalayan sheepdogs, come to me, wagging their tails, pleading to be petted. “They are the lodge’s dogs and are always happy to greet guests," says my guide Phub Dem.

After a night of being terribly ill, seeing the furry babies Jumo, City, Gigi, Blue and Shaka instantly brings a smile to my face and uplifts my mood. That warm welcome seems to be healing me, and I instantly give brownie points to the hotel and its staff for sheltering the dogs and caring for them. In fact, Amankora has dogs at all its five lodges across Bhutan.

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Back in India too, luxury hotels are showing off their dogs with pride. The furry canines become great conversation starters and make for a good first impression. Most guests love it when they accompany them on walks and treks. 

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“Caring for a pet demonstrates compassion and empathy," says Abhinav Trivedi, general manager of The Kumaon, a luxury hotel near Almora in Uttarakhand. It is also home to Juno and Elsa, a five-year-old Himalayan Bhotia and an Indie respectively. “Allowing pets on the premises can indicate that a hotel truly cares, is an inclusive space and is willing to accommodate a wide range of guest needs and preferences," he adds. 

On The Kumaon’s Instagram page, you can also read stories about Juno and Elsa. One of their posts reads: ‘Guests are usually delighted with our view, cuisine, service, and Juno's company. A gentle Himalayan Mastiff, who is equally happy to play with humans and other dogs, he is the mascot of our pet-friendly hotel. Juno has an impressive resume which includes being great at walks, treks, fetch and keeping secrets. To meet Juno, call…’. It’s followed by guests’ comments on how they miss the adorable pup or how great it was to spend time with him at the property.

Unknowingly, these dogs have become feel-good brand ambassadors of the hotels. 

The Mary Budden Estate in Binsar, also in Uttarakhand, features the property’s three dogs Bobo, Lyla and Rufus in many of its Instagram posts. One particularly adorable one has a photograph of them sleeping in the sun. The caption reads, ‘Take low living to a whole new level as you take a cue or two from these cuddle puffs at Mary Budden’.

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Even Suryagarh in Jaisalmer has its Golden Retrievers take centre stage on its Instagram page with photos of them spending time with guests. They are often included in the welcoming ceremony as well, but only if the pups are in the mood.  

While not all of these hotels allow guests to bring in their pets, they take good care of the dogs living on their property. For instance, at the Amankora and The Kumaon, all the staff, right from the general manager to a restaurant server, pitch in to take care of the dogs. They are fed, groomed, taken to vets and showered with love. However, there are times when they are kept away from those guests, who might not be comfortable with dogs.

But those who love dogs, like me, would give a hotel an excellent rating just for the free cuddles service. I would also revisit the property to meet the cuties again. After all, who can resist those puppy eyes, that pawsome handshake and the constant attention that they shower at you, even when you are leaving the hotel? 

Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist