Canine ambassadors

Canine ambassadors

Ella and Elly work at a luxury hotel in Vancouver where their job is to welcome visitors. Meet these unusual hospitality experts.

June 28, 2019 By Violaine Sigouin-Charest

When walking into a chic hotel, you don't expect to be greeted by a dog—ears up, tail wagging and a smiley look on its face! Meet Ella, a four-year-old Labrador-Golden Retriever mix. Eleanor—or Elly to her friends—is a little shyer, but it doesn't take her long to join her partner. The two Labs are happy to be patted and willingly pose for those who want to take their picture. After all, as canine ambassadors, it's all part of the job.

“Clients love the dogs and many people come into the hotel just to see them,” says Debbie Wild, Elly's owner and 23-year veteran concierge at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Ella belongs to concierge Darren Klingbeil, who's worked at the hotel for nearly three decades. The dogs go to work with their masters everyday: Elly, from Saturday to Wednesday, and Ella, from Monday to Friday, so they overlap three days a week. “That's when they are at their happiest,” says Debbie, who admits to treating her dog like her own child. “They're only seven months apart in age and are best friends. We found out that when they were puppies, their foster families knew each other. They were subsequently reunited though their new careers!”

When the two dogs aren't playing in the hotel lobby, they're sleeping on their dog beds next to the Louis Vuitton shop. Incidentally, they're the only Fairmont Hotel Vancouver employees allowed to snooze on the job.

People often arrive stressed out from a long flight, a hard day or having just lost their luggage. But one look at the dogs and their mood changes immediately …

The ambassadors also participate in special events and photo and video shoots. Celebrities staying at the hotel sometimes ask to spend time with them. Talk about a dog's life!

Job profile

A total of 14 dogs are “canine ambassadors” for the hotel chain. Sixteen years ago, Vancouver's Fairmont Waterfront was the first to hire a furry employee. “When clients were asked what they missed most when staying at the hotel, several jokingly replied: “My dog!” The sales director at the time got the idea to bring her Wheaton Terrier to work,” remembers the concierge. “His name was Teagan and he was very friendly. But he would get nervous when surrounded by too many people.” That's why the Fairmont now calls upon organizations such as BC and Alberta Guide Dogs to ensure that their new recruits have the right personality for so much attention.

Not all dogs are up to it. Elly and Ella were both trained by BC and Alberta Guide Dogs, but they didn't make the final cut. Nevertheless, both dogs were definitely suited to work with the public. “They are very patient with children, even the very young ones. They let themselves be stroked and jumped on, without ever flinching,” says Debbie Wild.

Great job, girls!

Photo credit : @fairmonthotelvancouver

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