A New Breed Of High-Flyers
When people talk about getting all your ducks in a row, they’re not generally referring to the quacking, feather-tailed Indian Runner duck waddling its way to seat F17. But then they may not have heard of Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt. Daniel (yes, a duck) took his first flights in 2016, from Milwaukee to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then on to Asheville, being allowed on board as an emotional support animal for his human Carla Fitzgerald, who battled PTSD after an accident.
And what of the airborne escapades of Easter the turkey and Flirty the mini service horse (yes, in the cabin), who even has her own Instagram account? Let alone the pigs, such as a beach hog named Hamlet, the squirrels, the kangaroos – you name it – who’ve taken to the skies alongside their reliant bipeds.
While emotional support animals are not currently regulated in South Africa, service dogs for blind or deaf passengers are permitted for check-in and in the cabin, with other pets able to travel as checked baggage on a number of kulula.com flights.
When it comes to calming your pets’ nerves for the flight, Dr Jeanine Gibb, a veterinarian at a practice in Johannesburg, explains that airlines require you to use natural products. ‘The airlines generally don’t allow sedation or anti-anxiety meds,’ she says. If your animal is flying in the cargo hold, she highlights the importance of a securely locked crate. ‘I have a scary story about an animal escaping on the runway because they didn’t have a proper lockable crate, which you have to have by regulation now.’ She also recommends getting your pet accustomed to their crate a few weeks before travel, perhaps by feeding them in it.
The good news for those travelling with Fluffy or Rover is that the travel industry is beginning to roll out the red carpet for this new breed of traveller. With 2020’s Covid-induced lockdowns, social distancing and working from home setups, pets became a priority for many – and many animal shelters saw a welcome uptick in adoptions. Google search trends showed a growing trajectory in online searches for ‘dog-friendly hotels’, which began trending upward in February 2020, more than doubling from 2019 searches.
The hos-pet-ality boom
So, what could it look like to take a holiday with man’s best friend? What packages are on offer for the most discerning four-legged jetsetters? These days, if you can dream it, you can pretty much find it.
While South African hospitality for pets is fast catching up, it’s the Americas leading the way on this one. Take the Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, for example. Here, pampered pooches can get a blueberry facial, dead sea salt scrub and milk-thistle paw soak at a local pet boutique. Or take advantage of the hotel’s daily dog-walking services and be treated to a welcome box, a one-hour photo session (with up to 40 images), a yacht cruise, and a $500 shopping spree. Which explains why pricing starts at $9 300 (almost R140 000) for a two-night stay.
If your pup is the outdoorsy type, try the ‘Pines Pup Bucket List’ at Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek, Colorado. You’ll receive a map with dog-friendly hiking routes and can rent a GoPro camera to attach via a pet harness for recording your adventures from Scooby-Doo’s point-of-view. After your exploits, dog and dog-dad can both cool down over ‘yappy hour’ at the hotel’s pet-friendly restaurants or clean up nicely before heading home with a spa session that includes dog massages, baths and blow-outs.
For a tropical getaway, head to the Caribbean St Barts island, where dogs receive freshly caught fish for dinner at Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa. They can also look forward to their own reserved lounge chairs on the beach and – should the mood strike – can dip a paw in the ocean during a paddleboard or kayak ride with their owners.
Wondering where your pet ostrich might be welcome? Well, at a Kimpton Hotel, he wouldn’t be the first. Along with dogs and ostriches, the uber-flexible pet policy of the San Francisco-based group has seen hedgehogs, cats and even penguins coming through their doors! And apparently, they even take humans.
Local sleeps for pet-venturous travellers
Situated 2km from the reception and historical Werf area at Boschendal wine estate, Trout Cottage is surrounded by fragrant fruit orchards and vineyards. Your pup will love taking a dip in the nearby trout dam, or trotting along with the family as you explore the walking, trail running and mountain biking on Sugarbowl Mountain. boschendal.com.
At Cape Town’s Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa (below), pets are welcome in specially selected rooms – pet beds, bowls and special menus can be arranged when making your reservation. Plus, they can join you at the hotel’s Leopard Bar (where veterinary dieticians have collaborated with the chef to design deluxe kitty cuisine and there’s a ‘barkalicious’ dog menu – both also available via room service). Dogs must be under knee height and kept on a leash in public areas. A small deposit is required, to be returned at the end of your stay if no damage is caused. 12apostleshotel.com.
Antbear Lodge offers amazing Drakensberg views and plenty of space for your dogs to roam. Here, you can relax in your private garden with a fully fenced area where your pet can run free. You’ll receive a doggie welcome bag with some treats, a list of local pet services and a towel – in case Fluffy heads for the dam. Pooch burgers and other doggie meals can be prepared on request. antbear.co.za.
At The Four Seasons Westcliff Hotel, furry guests receive a personalised pet arrival letter, a plush bed and bowls for food and water so they feel right at home. Rooms are allocated so that four-legged roommates can enjoy some outdoor sun on a terrace and dog-sitting services are available too. fourseasons.com.
Although known for its lobby cat, Skabenga (left), Umhlanga’s Oyster Box offers canine connoisseurs their own menu, linen and sleeping baskets. Check-in includes a stylish collar and water bowl gift set. Mutt meals are taken on the veranda at the Ocean Terrace restaurant or as room service. Woof waffles are particularly popular with high tea. The Full Doggy Breakfast includes scrambled eggs, pork sausage, bacon and hash browns.
Down at the V&A Waterfront’s Silo District, Radisson RED is both pet friendly and has a Boston terrier hotel mascot, Baxter (below) – or perhaps he’s really Cape Town’s most adorable concierge? The hotel’s team of ‘creatives’ has treats from biltong to toys and a dedicated menu to keep your pup’s tail wagging.