Meet the Quack Pack and other an­i­mals

Emma Hughes gets to know the dogs, cats and ducks bring­ing an­i­mal magic to some of Bri­tain’s best ho­tels

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs by Steven Brooks

Emma Hughes gets to know the an­i­mals grac­ing the best ho­tels

It’s a cold, crisp thurs­day lunchtime at the Rose­wood on High Hol­born in Lon­don. I’m in the cob­bled court­yard, watch­ing a stream of taxis drop off guests check­ing in for the week­end. Next to me, one of the ho­tel’s most highly re­garded staff mem­bers is on hand to greet the new ar­rivals. Pearl, who’s friendly, at­ten­tive and all smiles, is the per­fect host. she is also a golden re­triever.

Back in 2013, it was de­cided that the newly opened 300-room ho­tel was miss­ing some­thing—and that some­thing, it turned out, was a puppy. Af­ter a bois­ter­ous start (‘Put it this way, we never needed to use the shred­der in the of­fice,’ the head porter whis­pers), Pearl has set­tled into a com­fort­able rou­tine. Break­fast at 7.15am sharp is fol­lowed by a walk, a nap, an­other walk at noon (she likes Lin­coln’s Inn Fields or, when it’s sunny, Hamp­stead Heath), an­other nap, a light din­ner and then a fi­nal walk be­fore bed. In be­tween, she makes her­self avail­able for pats and strokes in the mid­dle of the lobby. In many ways, it’s an or­di­nary dog’s life—just with a lot more of the good stuff in it.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, she’s a hit—par­tic­u­larly with peo­ple who’ve had to leave their own dogs at home. ‘Peo­ple book in spe­cially to

‘Hav­ing a duck­ling swim­ming be­side you in a five-star ho­tel is def­i­nitely a nov­elty’

see her,’ says man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Michael Bon­sor. ‘She’s re­ally trea­sured and she makes a huge im­pact on guests. We once had a lit­tle girl stay­ing with us who didn’t want to go out at all, but she and Pearl were very at­tached to each other. We ar­ranged for her to take Pearl on a lit­tle out­ing so she would see some Lon­don sights. They had such a lovely time that, when they got back, they both fell fast asleep straight away.’

There have been ho­tel an­i­mals for as long as there have been ho­tels. The Duchess of Ar­gyll shared her suite in Grosvenor House with a se­ries of poo­dles and the Savoy’s oys­ter bar is named af­ter Kas­par, the (ad­mit­tedly inan­i­mate) cat that, since 1927, has joined ta­bles of 13 in the restau­rant to ward off bad luck.

Now, they seem to be as much a part of the up­scale-get­away ex­pe­ri­ence as a 24-hour concierge and Far­row & Ball on the walls. So­cial me­dia’s rise as a mar­ket­ing tool has played a part: an­i­mals are a ‘like’-mag­net (Pearl, who’s on Instagram as @pearl of rose wood lon­don, has more than 4,000 de­voted fol­low­ers), yet it runs far deeper than that. ‘Pearl makes the place feel more like a home than a ho­tel,’ states Mr Bon­sor sim­ply.

Not all res­i­dent an­i­mals are per­ma­nent fix­tures. El­len­bor­ough Park near Chel­tenham has three ex­tra-spe­cial sea­sonal guests: a fam­ily of mal­lards. The two males and a fe­male ar­rive each spring, nest and pro­duce a brood of duck­lings, which wad­dle win­somely around the grounds. To­day, they’re prac­ti­cally on the pay­roll.

‘They’ve been com­ing here for years,’ says Deb­bie Purvis, the ho­tel’s busi­ness­de­vel­op­ment man­ager. ‘It’s al­ways won­der­ful to hear them quack­ing away on the roof for the first time and they’re in­cred­i­bly tame. Once, they all went for a dip in the pool and the guests loved it—hav­ing a duck­ling swim­ming be­side you in a five-star ho­tel is def­i­nitely a nov­elty. We have no idea why they chose us, but we’re glad they did.’

The mal­lards are so pop­u­lar, in fact, that when they’re away, the staff draft in hol­i­day cover: run­ner ducks be­long­ing to farmer Meirion Owen. Guests can take part in duck herd­ing with the Quack Pack, coach­ing them around a spe­cially con­structed wa­tery ob­sta­cle course with help from one of Mr Owen’s col­lies.

Watch­ing from the side­lines is Zeffie the two-year-old sharpei, who be­longs to the ho­tel’s gen­eral man­ager. ‘She’s very friendly, but she does get a bit overex­cited around the ducks,’ ad­mits Miss Purvis. ‘Al­though she’s never ac­tu­ally man­aged to catch one, she cer­tainly likes to have a go.’

It isn’t just hu­mans whose days res­i­dent an­i­mals brighten. At The Gal­li­vant in Rye, East Sus­sex, vis­it­ing dogs are wel­comed at re­cep­tion by Brock, a three-year-old Nor­folk ter­rier. A so­cial-me­dia star, he’s reg­u­larly snapped frol­ick­ing on the nearby beach with hu­man and an­i­mal guests.

‘Peo­ple fight over who gets to take him out for his walks,’ ad­mits mar­ket­ing co-or­di­na­tor Katie Mc­nie. ‘Brock gets on with other dogs bril­liantly and he, as well as Dougie—a oneyear-old French bull­dog who used to re­side here—have re­ally helped to es­tab­lish us as a dog-friendly ho­tel.’ Un­der their in­flu­ence, rooms have been equipped with dog blan­kets, toys and bowls, plus un­lim­ited bis­cuits.

Brock likes to hole up in a cosy spot for the day, whereas Dougie pre­ferred to fol­low his nose—usu­ally to­wards food. ‘He was of­ten in the restau­rant so­cial­is­ing,’ dis­closes Miss Mc­nie. ‘And there was one oc­ca­sion when we came back from a meet­ing to find him on top of a desk in the of­fice eat­ing some beef-

jerky sam­ples we’d been sent. He es­caped a cou­ple of times, too, and we had to chase him down the road.’

More and more peo­ple on The Gal­li­vant’s team are now look­ing into bring­ing their dogs in—al­though Miss Mc­nie isn’t one of them. ‘My re­triever is very badly be­haved and I have a feel­ing he’d just cre­ate work for me,’ she laughs. ‘But per­haps one day we’ll have as many an­i­mals on the staff as hu­mans. That would be great.’

Back in Lon­don, the fires are blaz­ing at Ha­zlitt’s, a Geor­gian town house on Soho’s Frith Street. It’s at­tracted plenty of larg­erthan-life char­ac­ters over the years—the suites are named af­ter the likes of the rene­gade Duke of Mon­mouth—but the chap loung­ing by its fire is es­pe­cially louche. God­frey (who takes the hon­orific ‘Sir’) is a gin­ger tom of Hog­a­rthian pro­por­tions who ar­rived at Ha­zlitt’s three years ago from an­other ven­er­a­ble in­sti­tu­tion: the Bat­tersea Dogs & Cats Home.

‘Soho can be a stress­ful place for an­i­mals and we wanted to make sure we got a cat who would be happy liv­ing here,’ points out Ag­nieszka Ash­worth, who looks af­ter reser­va­tions—and God­frey. ‘Luck­ily, he isn’t in­ter­ested in go­ing out­side. In fact, he’s not in­ter­ested in mov­ing full stop. He’s been on a diet ever since we got him.’

Hav­ing come from a house full of stu­dents, 10-year-old God­frey is ‘used to com­ings and go­ings’. When he’s not in one of his day-beds (his favourite is in house­keep­ing), he pro­cesses through the com­mu­nal ar­eas like a gen­eral sur­vey­ing his troops. ‘He’s not al­lowed in the bed­rooms, but there was a time when some­one got their suit­case out from un­der the bed and found him in it,’ Miss Ash­worth re­veals. ‘The pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pant had been feed­ing him.’

Ev­ery­one agrees that God­frey is as much a part of the fab­ric of Ha­zlitt’s as the wood pan­elling and four-poster beds. ‘You just ex­pect to find a cat in a place like this. It completes the pic­ture.’

‘You just ex­pect to find a cat in a place like this. It completes the pic­ture’

Do I have to get up meow? ‘Sir’ God­frey has found life quite agree­able since mov­ing into Ha­zlitt’s in Lon­don three years ago

Brock is on hand to wel­come any ca­nine visitors to The Gal­li­vant ho­tel in East Sus­sex

Above: Zeffie the sharpei roams the grounds of El­len­bor­ough Park in Glouces­ter­shire. Be­low: Pearl is now a val­ued mem­ber of staff at the Rose­wood Lon­don

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