Happily, some of Southern California's finest hotels leap at the chance to accommodate his penchant for luxury. They greet him with open arms, tell him how handsome he is, then give him the run of the place.
Never mind that Darby speaks only in monosyllables, doesn't carry a credit card and ambles across the lobby on four legs instead of two. He is treated as an honored guest. Hotels that once shunned nonhuman guests are now rolling out the grass carpet. And we're not just talking about Motel 6, which has allowed guests to bunk with man's best friend since its founding in 1962. AAA estimates the number of dog-friendly high-end hotels has doubled since 2006.
"Luxury hotels set themselves apart by the level of service they lavish on guests," said Kim Atkinson of Mobil Travel Guides, which recently published "On the Road With Your Pet." "This is another way to go above and beyond your competition."
At these posh hotels, dogs are welcome
Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa: 27984 Highway 189, Lake Arrowhead; (800) 800-6792, www.laresort.com. Rates range from $149 to $900 per night; $20 charge per pet per night.
Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey: 4375 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; (800) 542-8680, www.ritzcarlton. Rates range from $339 to $3,200 per night; $125 nonrefundable pet cleaning fee per visit.
Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort: 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (800) 445-8667, www.hilton. Rates $209 to $829 per night; $75 charge per night for dogs.
San Giuliano: 375 W. Arenas, Palm Springs; (877) 897-7100; www.sangiulianohotel.com. Rates range from $145 to $295; $30 per night pet fee. $200 refundable cleaning fee.
Cambria Pines Lodge: 2905 Burton Drive, Cambria; (800) 445-6868, www.cambriapineslodge.com. Rates range from $109 to $229 per night; $25 per night per pet.
Among the perks she cited: mini-bars containing doggy ice cream treats, color sessions for the poodle that needs a touch-up, appointments with trainers and pet psychics.
At such tony digs as the Peninsula Beverly Hills, pampered pups receive a nightly turndown service with Evian water and a set of monogrammed paw-print towels.
At the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, where some of Hollywood's most glamorous stars hide out in pink bungalows, hounds can chase pink tennis balls and wolf down cookies inscribed with their name. At the Omni San Diego, they can choose an in-room doggy movie to help them pass the time. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, personalized food and water bowls await, along with an issue of Hollywood Dog and toys from Bark Jacobs and Jimmie Chew.
With so many luxury hotels putting on the dog, I was curious. Would Darby really be accepted or would he and I be shunted off to a room at the back of the hotel with a view of the parking lot? We hit the road to test the luxe quotient at five dog-friendly California hotels.
Of course, the fun usually doesn't come cheap. Some swank hotels charge a nonrefundable pet fee of as much as $500, but there's a range: The Beverly Hills Hotel's fee is $200 per stay; the Peninsula charges $35 per day. In some cases, the fee is used for additional cleaning to make sure the room is acceptable to the next guest, who may not be traveling with a pet.
Here's an account of our journey, with Darby's favorites listed in descending order.
LAKE ARROWHEAD RESORT & SPA
Darby, a wheaten terrier, and I met about six months ago when he was up for adoption. He planted so many wet kisses on my face the first time I saw him that I knew he had found a home. He knew it too. That night, he hopped up on the bed and stretched out his long body lengthwise across the pillows.
This guy enjoys the finer things in life, I thought. But so do I. So I shooed the big pillow hog down to the foot of the bed.