Inns Going to the Dogs


With a face like a wrinkled blanket, Richie gazed toward the ice machine, slobbered a bit and then checked back into his room at the Motel 6 in Ventura.

There were no nature shows on television, room service didn't deliver soup bones and the big competition wasn't until tomorrow. So the brooding, 122-pound bull mastiff settled for a spritz of cold water and a dog biscuit before flopping down in his pen.

"We keep them crated so there are no accidents," said his owner, Tracy Ferrick of Escondido. "If a dog destroys your room, you are responsible for it. And the crate isn't punishment, it's like his den. He watches television in it."

Throughout Ventura County, hotels and motels have gone to the dogs.

More than 2,500 spotted, mottled, striped, yappy and sullen canines from all over the country have been in Ventura this week competing in two dog shows, the annual Dalmatian Club of America Specialty and the El Camino Real Summerfest at Seaside Park.

While many hotels refuse to take dogs, others set conditions; the two Motel 6s in Ventura want them in pens, and the Marriott charges a $100 fee to de-flea rooms afterward.

The Clarion Ventura Beach Hotel is "just trying it for this week; it's an experiment," said Chris Martinez, an assistant manager. "We have hundreds of dogs."

And they quickly made themselves at home. Dogs breezed through sliding glass doors, rode elevators and galumphed around their rooms. A frazzled maid emerged from one room where two dogs were howling.

"I don't like dogs," she said. "Too much hair."

No one was listening.

In Mary Lou Castle's room, a Dalmatian nosed around the remote control, searching out jerky treats. A silver water bowl sat on the bathroom floor. There were wine glasses with black Dalmatian spots, purses with Dalmatian images and Dalmatian socks on Castle's table.

"When I first came here, I wondered if I could walk her through the lobby," said Castle, 67, of Hemet. "But it's been great; there have been no problems."

The El Camino Real Summerfest is one of the biggest dog shows in the West, sponsored by kennel clubs in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Ventura. More than 150 breeds compete each day, said Bill Dumas, an event coordinator.

Some dog show participants said they reserved rooms six months in advance.

Mary, a 5-year-old championship Chihuahua, yipped as she wandered in a small fenced area outside her Motel 6 room.

"She gets all excited when she sees me packing for a show," said Paula Murray, Mary's handler from Scottsdale, Ariz. "It's not hard to keep her entertained in the room. I just turn on the TV."

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