Who Let the Dogs In?

23 Aug, 2011

by Stacie Williams

One morning as I enjoyed breakfast with a writer friend in the Café, talking books and playing cribbage, I watched a compact car pull up to the valet; hanging out the back window was the enormous, shaggy, tri-color head that’s signature to the Bernese Mountain Dog. A little later in the afternoon, I was in the lobby when he sauntered in, tongue lolling out and panting from what could only have just been a vigorous walk. Doug, accompanied by his owners Anne and Andrew, looked like a 100+ pound stuffed animal as he was remarkably calm and well-behaved for his two years.

As Doug flopped down on the marble floor, directly in front of one of the large lions that flanked the staircase, a woman stopped to ask, “Can I pet your dog? We have two dogs, but they got left at home.”  Andrew had tweeted the Pfister, asking if they were dog friendly, and explained this to the woman, who replied “Oh! Good to know. That will change our plans for next time – maybe we’ll bring them with us!”

We talked more, while I fluffed Doug’s fur and he panted with contentment.  After posing Doug by one of the lions for a regal photo, I gave Anne and Andrew directions to the nearest dog park and bid them farewell.

During Summerfest there was a small terrier who made random appearances through the lobby, and turned heads every time. His name was Jonah and his face was split with black and white markings that mimicked the Phantom of the Opera’s signature half-mask on one side of his face. He was regularly walked by a burly, inked guy with long hair in a ponytail who easily could have been a techie for any one of a number of bands playing at the Fest that week.  They were quite the pair!

There was also the fluffy white poodle named Gucci skittering alongside her owner’s tennis shoes as they skipped outside and back again on a rainy day. Of course, there was also Gertie, the Basset Hound I met over the Fourth of July weekend, who enjoyed romping down an empty corridor chasing tennis balls and getting attention from all the employees.

Roc, one of the concierges, has much love for the visiting pooches, saying “I love when dogs and children, come to stay. One time a dog that was staying here walked by me, grabbed the pen out of my hand, and just kept walking. It was the darndest thing.”

A recent Saturday featured numerous weddings converging in one place and, amid all the smartly dressed people, a large black and tan dog passed through the lobby, tail wagging a mile a minute. Never one to pass up a chance to get some canine love, I crouch to her level to greet her. At four years old, this Shepherd/Rottie mix is still all puppy. Her limbs flail as her enthusiastic, bounding energy has her practically spinning in circles trying to greet everyone within reach of her half-flopped ears and wet nose.

A bride, her bouquet and dress held together in one hand, pauses to greet Val, petting her briefly, a giant grin spreading across her face, then continues onward. Val’s owner then shows off Val’s only trick. He points two fingers at her, thumb up, like a mime’s gun, and says, “BANG!” as his thumb closes on his fingers and moves toward the ceiling. Val drops heavily to the floor, all 100lbs of her, lies on her back to “play dead,” though her front paws continue to kick the air and her face is happy: loose and goofy. It’s hysterical.

Val’s owner tells me how she was originally a stray from Manhattan and now lives with him in New Orleans. He jokes about this sweet, oaf of a dog, “She’s the love of my life,” while his girlfriend, waiting patiently, smiles as she affirms it, “I’m only #2.”

They make their way through the crowd, heading out for a walk, when they run into another bride. From across the lobby, Roc and I watch with great amusement as the bride greets Val and her owner, hear her shout “BANG!” and to much laughter, we see Val perform her one trick to everyone’s charm and delight, before heading out of the crowd.

Through all of this, Val’s tail never stops wagging; not even for a second.

——————

*If you’re visiting the Pfister with your dog, drop me an e-mail, I’d love to say hello and maybe snap a photo for the blog!

About the author

Stacie Williams

With a love of stories and storytelling, Stacie Williams has worked at a local Milwaukee bookstore for six years, and has experience in travel writing and blogging. In 1998, she moved from California to study theater at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, and stayed.

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