story by Becky Maltby
photo by Brad Goda
You’re being dragged on another trip. The car stops. The door opens. Friendly people welcome you by name and drape purple flowers around your neck as you step into the sunlight. You’re escorted to your room, where there’s a comfy pillow and a gourmet peanut butter snack with your name on it—literally.
Could a dog’s life get any better? Ask Elizabeth Taylor’s white Maltese, Daisy, or any of the other four-legged guests who have stayed at the Kahala Hotel & Resort in the past five months. Since the inception of the Pampered Paws Program last March, new resort manager Tim Lee has made sure every canine visitor gets the five-star treatment—at no extra charge. Guests need only mention they’re bringing the dog when making a reservation, and hotel staff do the rest. Room amenities include a bone-shaped ceramic dish, a Kahala hotel cushion, and personalized doggie treats. It’s the kind of attention-to-detail customer service Lee demands for all of his guests, regardless of species, and there’s no doubt in his mind that the dogs lap up the mollycoddling. “When they walk through the lobby, everybody calls the dog by name,” he says. “The dog is so happy.”
Lee designed the bone-shaped food dish himself (dishes and cushions are available for purchase in the hotel shop) and put his chefs to work on developing the tastiest treat for a canine palate. “Our pastry team tried recipes in different flavors—cheese, bacon, peanut butter,” Lee says. “We gave twenty-four employees samples to take home. Hands down, all twenty-four said their dogs went right for the peanut butter.”
Since the state eased restrictions on transporting pets to the Islands in 2003, more dogs have been accompanying their owners on vacations to the Islands. And to make sure that the dogs, like their owners, get at least a little dose of native culture, each pooch staying at the Kahala can learn basic commands in Hawaiian. Little Daisy Taylor knows that “Hele mai, honi,” means mama Liz wants her to come over for a kiss. But multilingual skills don’t make Daisy pretentious. She’s just a dog who knows she’s important, and that’s all that matters to Lee. “They’re on vacation,” Lee says of his canine guests. “They’re spoiled … and they’re happy.”