Downeast Dog News

The Dog at the Front Desk

By Susan Spisak | Nov 30, 2018
Photo by: Inn by the Sea Inn staffer Nick with Puppet before adoption.

“It’s quite amazing,” said Rauni Kew, PR and Green Program Manager at the high-end and dog-friendly Inn by the Sea of their distinctive adoption partnership with the Animal Refuge of Greater Portland (ARLGP). This luxury Cape Elizabeth Inn has pampered canines and their owners for over 25 years, so it was a natural transition to support the nearby ARLGP by fostering one dog at a time at their beach resort in the hopes of facilitating a relaxed adoption process. Rauni (pronounced Ronnie) reached out to the powers that be at ARLGP, and they thought it was a terrific idea. As a result, on May 11 of 2015, they placed a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog named Mambo in the Inn’s care. A family met him, fell in love, and adopted him within his first day there--the program was off to a successful start.

Since Mambo, the Inn has fostered roughly 150 of ARLGP’s adoptables, and all have found new homes, often within a week. It works beautifully because the Inn has staff on site 24/7, and they enjoy doting on their canine charges. “When a [new ARLGP] dog arrives, staff from all departments pour downstairs to welcome him. They drop what they are doing,” Rauni laughed.

The dog lives at the front desk and greets visitors as they arrive. He is treated just like a guest canine--he has his own personalized L.L. Bean dog bed (his reads “Adopt Me”), L.L. Bean dog toys, blankets, Inn by the Sea dog bowls for his gourmet meals and water, organic treats, and may be seen sporting an “Adopt Me” vest on his daily walks around the grounds with staff and guests, too. “The dog’s life here is just being loved, cared for, and played with until adoption,” said Rauni.

Jeana Roth, Director of Community Engagement at ARLGP, said she and Rauni have a good working relationship on this unique program. Rauni agrees, “We are thrilled to be working with them. I can’t say enough about ARLGP. They’re a terrific community organization.”

To insure everything goes smoothly, ARLGP carefully scrutinizes which adoptables will not only thrive in this hotel environment but are good with other dogs and children. It’s one of those win-win programs--it’s a nice opportunity for ARLGP dogs, and pet-loving vacationers appreciate the Inn’s altruistic efforts. Jeana added one more winning aspect, “It’s brings a lot of fun experiences for the Inn staff.”

Part of the reason it’s so successful is that guests, be it overnighters or those just in for a meal or drink, interact with a relaxed, chill dog in the seaside setting and may decide they can’t go home without him. Jeana added that it’s not just vacationers who adopt their off-site “Inn dogs.” Area residents may see an Inn foster dog on their website and drive to Cape Elizabeth to meet him.

“You just don’t know who the dog is going to impact,” Rauni explained. She shared the story of a guest who invited her friend from southern New England to the Inn for lunch. The friend walked through the lobby, noticed the dog at the front desk, and asked Guest Services about him. She was distracted during the meal--she couldn’t get that dog off her mind. She had never planned on adopting a pet, but the chance meeting changed that. She drove to ARLGP, filled out an application, met with the adoption counselor to insure it would be a good match, and went home with her new companion. (It’s the same adoption process whether you pick out a dog at the shelter or meet him at the Inn.)

A New York family and their dog spent a weekend at the eco-friendly boutique hotel. They all played with the dog at the desk, decided he was a good fit for their clan, and adopted him. They came back for another vacation with the two dogs and did it all over again--they adopted the Inn’s foster dog. “They’re sticking to three dogs, and fortifying themselves against falling for the dog at the desk,” Rauni said and added, “That is one of the perks of this. As sad as we are to see the dogs go, they often come back a year or two later with returning guests.”

One dog they don’t anticipate seeing anytime soon is sweet Puppet, a 12.5 lb. Papillon mix. He was rescued from a California shelter by ARLGP, brought to Maine, and was fostered at the Inn. A couple from Seattle, Washington was vacationing there and met and adopted the 6-month-old snuggly boy. Puppet moved back west with his new parents. “That was a well-traveled little dog,” laughed Rauni.

The Inn’s staff isn’t immune to their foster dogs, either. A few years ago, a new General Manager arrived at the Inn by the Sea. After two days on the job, he adopted the little Beagle that resided on the comfy bed at the desk. There was Mr. Chompers, an older toothless guy. “He was such a character dog,” said Rauni. “He was so ugly he was kind of cute.” A spa staffer connected with him--he visits with her occasionally.

Jeana said this distinct joint venture caught the attention of an Animal Planet network producer, and the upshot was that an AGRLP black and white pup named Juniper made the cut to be on “Team Ruff’s” starting line-up of Animal Planet’s televised 2018 Puppy Bowl XIV--their annual canine show that mimics a human football game--complete with commentary--and runs on the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday. Animal Planet also filmed a segment at the Inn, which shed light on the foster program and featured Juniper being loved by guests that aired during the Puppy Bowl. And yes, Juniper was quickly adopted.

Sound like a great place to get away with your dog? The stunning Inn by the Sea is nationally recognized as one of the top dog spots and is so into four-leggeds that there’s no pet fee, no weight limit, and they allow three dogs per room/suite/family. While dogs are not permitted in the Spa or main dining room, they may dine with their owners in the Sea Glass Fireplace Lounge and alfresco deck--they do offer gourmet pet menus. One-third of their 61 rooms are open to your canine, and the staff can direct you to dog-friendly beaches, parks, and trails. Dog walking, dog sitting, and in-room pet massage and spa services are available. (