Hotel Pennsylvania prides itself on catering to every dog’s need
By Sandy Robins
updated 6:28 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 2, 2006
NEW YORK – The idea for the Westminster Dog Show may have been born and bred in the bar of the Westminster Hotel in Manhattan 130 years ago, but it is the Hotel Pennsylvania on Seventh Avenue that is known the world over as the host hotel catering to VIPs — Very Important Pooches — that check in from all over the United States and internationally to take part in this celebrated canine event.
For days preceding the show, the foyer of the hotel can best be described as a huge meet-and-greet arena as dogs of all shapes and sizes sum each other up and sniff each other out, making new acquaintances and finding old friends.
This is the fifth successive year that Jerry Grymek has been on duty as the official Doggie Concierge. Armed with a lint roller to ensure his stylish GQ appearance at all times, he attends to every canine quirk and bends over backward to deal with every doggie demand.
“I already know that when a owner calls down asking for an extra cot and blankets to be brought up to the room for their dog that in actual fact it’s for themselves because their pooch has taken over the bed,” Grymek said. “There are a lot of owners camping on the floor so that their dog can get a good night’s rest.”
“We believe it’s as important to cater to our four-legged guests as well as our two-legged ones. No request is ever turned down,” Grymek said.
Even the raging blizzard the city is currently experiencing is no deterrent for Grymek to fulfill special doggy food requests.
“One owner called down for seven McDonalds cheeseburgers for her dog. The owner explained that cheeseburgers make her dog’s coat manageable and shiny,” said Grymek, who says there is also a high demand for pizza. “Plain cheese and tomato is a popular order and so is chicken. Owners eat the toppings and give the crust to their dog.”
Grymek also has had owners call in advance requesting the red carpet be rolled out for their pooch on arrival.
“I was asked to put on the star treatment for a pug that had recently won a show in its hometown,” Grymek said. “The owners were arriving in a Hummer and also wanted the Pupperazzi on hand with flashing cameras for the dog’s grand entrance.”
Grymek’s other duties include being on hand in the foyer and other public areas of the hotel to ensure there are no “little accidents.”
“I call housekeeping immediately to come and mop up. You know, it’s like you hear in a supermarket. ‘Clean up on aisle five!’ ” he said.
A huge attraction at the hotel is the doggy spaw set up in the hotel to cater to all doggie needs.
“Every year, we convert the ballroom into what must be the largest doggie green room in the world,” Grymek said.
There is a complete grooming center with Jacuzzi-style baths and tables with blow dryers so that pooches can be fluffed up and perfectly coiffed for show day.
A section of the room is strewn with sawdust and converted into a doggie restroom. And yes, the line is definitely longer for female dogs. Some of them simply can’t find a spot!
The exercise room is set up with jog-a-dog treadmill machines so that the show dogs can get plenty of exercise without leaving the hotel and risk getting their fur wet and paw pads damaged on sidewalks heavily salted to combat the snow.
“It’s a really great workout,” says Carolyn Asquith of Miami, whose Australian shepherd Willow climbed on for the first time. “I can’t get her off it. She thinks its lots of fun. I brought her downstairs to go to the doggy toilet, but she refuses to stop jogging.”
Also set up in the green room is Debbie Zimmermann of Newburg Park, Calif., a pet masseuse and aromatherapist whose job it is to ease away any last-minute stress that may hinder performance on show day. Canine clients are given a special drink of lavender flavored water to calm them down.
A pet psychic is on hand to talk to the dogs and find out if they have any problems which could be standing in the way of success in the show ring.
“Some of them sniff out the competition and get very nervous,” said animal communicator Anni Germani of Monroe, Mich.
Also doing brisk business is the International Canine Semen Bank as breeders organize to have the sperm of their top show dogs frozen for litters in the future. It costs owners $275 to create a semen vial, which is instantly frozen and placed in the sperm bank.
“You can freeze sperm for up to 30 years,” says company spokesperson Chuck Murray. “One breeder successfully produced a litter of puppies with sperm that had been frozen for over 28 years.”
The adjacent pet mall has vendors selling everything from fancy jewelry to stylish leaches. The stall offering mint-flavored doggy ice cream has been doing brisk business with canines that have a sweet tooth. Dogs can also have their portraits painted and their photographs taken.
Apart from the facilities available to canine guests, the hotel also organizes a full week of events, including a canine couture fashion show with outfits that are knock-offs of designer gowns worn by celebrities such as Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman.
Grymek estimates that more than 70,000 Westminster show dogs have walked across the hotel’s portals during its 87 year-history and that probably more than 100,000 canines have stayed here taking into account the hotel’s year-round pet-friendly policy.
Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania. It is indeed a dog’s life.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning freelancer writer based in Irvine, Calif. Her work has appeared in numerous publications in the United States and internationally.
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