New York City is known for posh hotels. But one particular establishment is proud to go – at least for one weekend a year – to the dogs.
"The Hotel Pennsylvania is the heart and soul of the Westminster Dog Show," said dog breeder Judy Davis as we stood in the hotel's Green Room Dog Spa, an area in the basement Davis created. "Everyone knows they can congregate here and be welcome."
The Hotel Pennsylvania, located right across the street from Madison Square Garden, where Tuesday's Best in Show competition takes place, is the official host hotel of the prized pooches who traveled from as far away as Russia to compete in the Westminster Dog Show. The hotel said it's the home away from home for one-third of the dogs that will compete in the show.
Such a large doggie presence does bring up a logistical question. Where do all these dogs relieve themselves? Such pedigrees surely can't be expected to go on the streets of New York, with their owners picking up after them. The Hotel Pennsylvania has – among many other dog amenities – an indoor relief station located in the hotel's basement. The large area is covered in straw and comes complete with several red plastic fire hydrants.
More befitting to these pooches is the hotel's dog spa, complete with bathing areas, drying stations, a Jacuzzi, doggie treadmills, gait analysis technology and an on-staff veterinarian to stretch the dogs throughout the weekend.
And perhaps best of all, there's the dedicated Doggie Concierge, Jerry Grymek.
"I'm here to make sure all our guests – four legged and two legged – feel welcome and have everything they need," said Grymek as he greeted guests -- both human and canine -- checking into the hotel.
And making sure they have "everything they need" sometimes means more than tracking down a bag of kibble after dark. These dogs come with every food request under the sun, from cheeseburgers (hold the onions) to spinach pizza.
The requests go far beyond food, however. "One year a woman asked for an opera singer to serenade her dog before the show," said Grymek. "Another year we had a request to roll out an actual red carpet for a dog when they arrived at a hotel so he would feel special."
As with any sport, the participants (or more specifically in this case, the participants' owners) have their superstitions. For example, this year there were many requests for room 212. Why? Because the Best in Show competition is being held on Feb. 12. 2-12. "Uno [the beagle who won best in show in 2008] stayed with us the year he won Best in Show," said Grymek. "That year the best in show competition was held on Feb. 13, and Uno happened to be staying in room 213."
Grymek said the dog that was lucky enough to get room 212 just happened to make the first request. It's not crazy if it works, right?
But no matter which breed emerges as top dog Tuesday, one thing's for sure: The Hotel Pennsylvania will already be planning for the 2014 Westminster Dog Show.
"This takes a year to prepare for," said Grymek. "As soon as one year's show is over, we're already into the next."