Meet Luke Tips, Our Hotel Dog Concierge!
Luke, the Labrador, a natural as hotel's canine concierge...
Story courtesy of MySA.com
VOTE FOR LUKE AS EL REY FIDO 2008.
Luke Tips, the big guy who really runs The Fairmount Hotel, has his own business card imprinted with the title: "director of pet relations." This is followed by an address, a phone number, where to send e-mails and faxes and how to reach him toll-free.
Formerly a scruffy, starving street dog who ended up at the city pound, Luke seemed an unlikely candidate for such praise and career success. In fact, having heartworms and many other ailments, he was likely destined for euthanasia. A new leash on life came his way when hotel owner Robert "Dick" Tips' sister-in-law Lori and niece Natalie, rescuers with SNIPSA Inc., visited Animal Control Services. Luke was sitting in his kennel looking oh-so-forlorn, and they fell in love with his gentle, jowly face and sweet-natured disposition.
Saved by the twosome, treated extensively by vets and given plenty of TLC, the pooch regained his health and vigor and with a wagging tail told the world he was ready to start climbing the corporate ladder.
The Fairmount and Dick Tips, who officially adopted him, provided a full-time job and a permanent home. And it didn't take Luke long to prove he was a smart hire. A personality-plus pooch and a born PR type, he excels at meeting and greeting. Indeed, since padding into the lobby and taking up residence last year, the big guy has never met a guest he didn't like; and every guest has liked him. Front desk clerk James Stansberry says visitors really appreciate all the personal attention (and sniffing) they get when checking in and out - especially if they happen to have a few dog treats in their pockets.
Watch Luke at Work
Luke Tips "On-Break"
Treats and tasty Fairmount food, however, soon posed some problems for the former stray who often went hungry on the street.
"Luke couldn't get enough to eat when he first arrived and gobbled up gourmet food at every opportunity," Fulgencio explains. "Naturally, he got overweight."
Now on a diet, the lab can no longer gaze at the chef with pleading eyes and there's no more begging for steak. The kitchen is strictly off limits to the 75-pound pooch whose twice-daily menu revolves around a veterinarian-prescribed dry food formula. Yes, yummy treats such as bacon strips and doggy chews are sometimes allowed, but intake is closely monitored. After all, a canine concierge must stay in shape because it's a dog-eat-dog business world out there.
Luke is being trained to deliver newspapers to hotel suites, and he's available to guests for brisk walks around the courtyard and jogging at nearby HemisFair Park. Tourists lonely for their pets left back home can also request an overnight stay by Luke in their rooms. And, always eager to please travelers, he's readily available for a nice brushing session. For his efforts that go above and beyond the call of duty, the pooch gets generous tips - donations, which the hotel matches and sends on to SNIPSA, a rescue group run by veterinarian Shannon Espy. The vet's volunteers save strays like Luke from euthanasia and find owners for homeless animals.
"It's in our dog's job description to be an animal advocate, and we're making a real commitment to his cause," Dick Tips declares.
The Fairmount Hotel, built in 1906 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, intends to become as famous for its pet-friendly attitude as for its historical status. It's already offering a "pet spa package" with limousine service to take travelers and four-footed friends to Luke's official groomer. Luke's limo also is available for luxury shopping expeditions and recreational tours of the city, and doggy-themed merchandise, including robes, coffee mugs and T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "I Slept With Luke at the Fairmount" soon will be available in the hotel gift shop.
Dick Tips believes the idea of an animal mascot is new to San Antonio hotels. But the concept isn't new nationwide. For decades, some of the finest hotels in the land have capitalized on animal magnetism to attract customers.
The Algonquin Hotel in New York City, for example, is known for both its Old-World charm and its cat. Currently in residence is a friendly, 10-year-old blue-point Birman. "The Algonquin has had a kitty ever since the 1930s," notes Jenna Arin, director of sales. "I think there have been around 11 cats over the years, and to simplify things for the staff, all the males have been called Hamlet and all the females, Matilda." Then there's the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., which acquired some ducks in 1932 but became famous for them in 1940 when bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to deliver ducks to the hotel each day, much to patrons' delight. He taught some mallards the now-famous Peabody Duck March, and today the parade goes on when a drake and four hens take the elevator from the rooftop Duck Palace down to the lobby, where they waddle across a red carpet and jump into the fountain. (Peabody hotels in Little Rock, Ark., and Orlando, Fla., have followed suit with resident ducks of their own.)
"The ducks are a big drawing card," declares Kelly Earnest, Peabody Memphis public relations director. "People from all over the world come to see them." People also come from near and far to the Fairmount Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston - just to see Catie Copley. The black Labrador has been charming guests since 2004, has hobnobbed with Hollywood stars, has a book coming out in May and, according to Jim Carey, concierge director, is the most powerful public relations expert he's encountered during 29 years in the hotel business.
Obviously, there are similarities in Catie's role and Luke's. But their corporate styles are different. While Catie goes home each night with Carey and rides back to work with him on the subway each morning, Luke remains on the job 24/7, watching things faithfully from his dog bed in the lobby.
"I've had people offer to buy him, but we'd never think of parting with Luke," says his owner. "Our dog lives at the hotel full time and helps to make it a warm and friendly place. He's an important member of the Fairmount family."