Boutique Hotel Runs Unique Foster Care Program

Cookie found her forever home through the Aloft Hotel foster care and adoption program.

When Emma Ledbetter, director of food and beverage at Aloft Asheville in North Carolina, was flying to interview for her job, she sat next to a man who worked at an animal rescue facility. They got to talking. In an additional stroke of kismet, she sat next to the very same man on the flight home. The encounters sparked an idea in Emma.

After securing her job, she brainstormed with the hotel general manager about having an “ambassador dog” that would ultimately be adopted. The first canine guest, Gabriel, was housed in the back office. It took just three days for him to get adopted. Subsequently, the staff moved their foster dogs into a contained area in the lobby, and had the custom dog house built.

The Aloft Asheville is one of four hotels  managed by Tampa-based McKibbon Hospitality, and the foster dog program is exclusive to McKibbon’s Aloft portfolio. Each hotel partners with a top local animal rescue facility. Hundreds of rescue dogs have found new homes through the collective program.

“Even associates who aren’t really dog people got excited and helped make the program a success,” Emma says. “And the guests love it. It’s so fun to see businessmen come in and the first thing they do is greet the dog.”

Community service is a major part of McKibbon Hospitality’s corporate culture. Leadership gives teams the freedom to undertake projects that will enhance the guest experience, lift employee enthusiasm and do good in the community. “The foster dog project is a perfect example of how these factors converge,” says Randy Hassen, President of McKibbon Hospitality? “It checks all the boxes. And it’s a great example of innovative thinking about how to run a successful hotel. We’re not surprised that three of our other Aloft properties started their own programs.

That each hotel — all of which accommodate dogs — is located in a bustling central business district makes the addition of friendly, adoptable pooches all the more special.

If you visit, you may just come home with the best “souvenir” ever!


tip of the day

Dogs (and some cats) like cool treats just as kids do. Consider freezing Ultramix sweet potato or pumpkin puree dietary supplements in an ice tray and serve ice as a summer treat. Alternatively, turn the frozen treat into something special by freezing the mixture in small plastic cups and using a natural chewy treat as the stick. Insert the treat when the puree is partly frozen to get the stick to stand up properly. The treat should be easy to remove from the cup if you run the cup briefly under lukewarm water.