If you check in at the Aloft hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, the first thing you’ll be able to check out is a homeless pet in need of some permanent digs.
Right there in the lobby is a playpen of sorts – and looking up at you is what could be your new best friend! How “suite” is that?! Ahem, a little hotel humor.
For the past 8 months, the pet-friendly Aloft has been fostering dogs from Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue, also in Asheville. Charlie’s Angels saves animals from high-kill facilities.
“I honestly believe the dogs know they’ve been taken from a scary situation and you can see their personalities blossom – it’s so much fun,” said Aloft director of sales Christine Kavanagh. “They’re not timid and scared like you’d see in the shelter. They’re all so happy and joyful.”
Charlie’s Angels brings in one dog at a time and the pets remain at the hotel 24/7 until they’re scooped up by someone who wants to give them a loving home. So far this partnership has led to 21 adoptions.
And while the dogs are at the hotel, you can bet they’re getting the five-star treatment.
“Our whole staff takes care of them,” said Christine. “We move them to the back office for sleeping at night and they get bathroom breaks at 5:30 or 6 in the morning and throughout the day. They get plenty of attention and exercise and a Charlie’s Angels volunteer also comes to take them for a nice long walk in the afternoon.”
The Aloft staff members keep a chart to make sure the pups stay on a regular eating/potty break schedule. And sometimes the dog’s agenda even includes attending important meetings.
“We take them with us,” laughed Christine. “They’re a very integrated part of what we’re doing here every day now. We feel fortunate to work for a company that really encourages us to do this kind of thing.”
The bonding just kinda happens.
“Two of our staff members actually have adopted dogs,” said Christine. “They weren’t intending to adopt, then they fell in love.”
Now, it appears this has become a model for the future of dog adoptions.
“We’ve had hotels get in touch with us from Charleston, South Carolina, Austin, Texas, California and other places,” said Charlie’s Angels volunteer Kim Smith. “They all want to find out how they can start this in their hotels.”
Kim, who also has a job as an administrative assistant, volunteers more than 40 hours a week removing animals from high-kill shelters, transporting them to other facilities and doing home visits as part of the screening process for potential adopters.
And when Kim gets text messages from the adoptive families, it makes her feel like all the time she selflessly gives to the cause is all worth it.
“They update me and let me know that the dog is a valued member of their family, they’re safe, they’re treated like a brother or sister – they’ve got a cushy life,” said Kim.
More than half of the dogs showcased at the Aloft hotel have gone to families from out of state. The farthest has been Massachusetts. Most were people who didn’t think they needed a dog until they met that perfect match. A little paperwork, a home visit completed by a rescue in the Charlie’s Angels network and the pet was on its way to its new place.
One little guy didn’t have to go far. Sarah Rosario works at Biltmore Estate in Asheville and was actually looking for a new four-legged family member when she heard about the Charlie’s Angels/Aloft agreement.
“It’s brilliant!” said Sarah. “Absolutely brilliant! It takes time to figure out which dog you click with and this allows you to see, touch and feel instead of just reading about them online. It’s awesome.”
The Aloft is where Sarah first laid eyes on Rocco.
The Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier mix had been scheduled to be euthanized, but Kim Smith took him home and fostered him until she felt he was ready to greet guests.
He’d been described as “unfortunate looking,” but at the hotel Rocco was really able to showcase his personality.
“He has a bit of a goofy look to him, but it’s an endearing goofy look,” said Sarah, who acknowledges his snaggletooth and pigeon-toed stance. “That made me love him even more. You can’t help but fall in love with him. He’s a character for sure – so animated and charming.”
Rocco and Sarah are now besties, touring the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, enjoying leisurely breakfasts together and there are also plenty of cuddles, of course.
“He’s a snuggle bug, completely,” said Sarah.
What started out as a one-time community project at the Alfot has become something pawsitvely more.
“We never thought it would turn into what it has, but we’re super proud of it,” said Christine Kavanagh. “You get attached to certain dogs and there have been some tears shed when they leave, but when you see the dogs with their new owners, that makes you cry too because it makes you happy.”
As for the dogs and their newfound family members, it’s life changing.
“I’m so lucky to have found him,” said Sarah. “He completes my life. I love him so much.”
The Aloft/Charlie’s Angels pet project is an example of some real out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to pet rescue. Do you know of any innovative and interesting rescue programs going on in your community? We want to hear from you!
(Images Courtesy Aloft Asheville Downtown, unless otherwise noted)