As I get out of my car a dozen dogs come racing to greet me. Their faces show signs of excitement as some try to lick my face. After a 40 minute drive from Durban, we arrive at Durban Dog Hotel in Hillcrest, a spot in the city solely catering to the needs of dogs while their owners are out of town.
“It’s a home away from home that our canines can enjoy while their parents are away,” Sonseirai van Heerden Swanson, one of the owners, tells me as we walk to a small patio table.
She and her wife, Candice, opened the hotel three years ago after they struggled to find a decent accommodation for their two dogs, Benji, a pug boston terrier, and Taylor, a cross between husky, chow and German Shepherd, when they wanted to plan a holiday.
“Besides kennels and cages, there are not many options here in Durban. As we got talking, we decided to convert our property into a hotel for dogs,” Candice says, as Benji sits on one of the seats, clearly not impressed that we are taking his quality time with his parents.
The duo opened the hotel in 2014 with the aim of providing a personalised service that is comfortable for the dogs.
The hotel eliminates the worry travellers have about what will happen to their canine friends when they out having a good time. The couple update the owners about their dogs through videos and pictures via Whatsapp everyday.
The five acre property has a two bedroom cottage and a log cabin. Unlike other luxury dog hotels in South Africa, no dog is given their own room. Instead, dogs are separated into their sizes and breed and are given a pack leader.
The pack leader will sleep with the dogs, take them for walks, offer them treats and love them like their parents.
Sonseirai and Candice have also converted their bedroom to accommodate their furry friends.
“Sometimes we have 15 dogs sleeping on our bed. By having a human presence, it makes them feel safe and loved. We try not to disturb their home routine as they already miss their parents, so we try to create a place that feels like home while still letting them enjoy activities where they can unwind,” Sonseirai says, as a group of dogs lap up treats of biltong that she offers them.
If you hoping to send your dog on a cool vacation, Durban Dog Hotel offers long to short stays, starting from R200 per a dog, per a day.
The dogs are occupied throughout the day. Among the offerings are a swimming pool, jacuzzi, trampolines, obstacle courses, toys, treasure hunts and lizard hunting.
Dogs are given two walks a day and if they behave get to watch a bit of television.
For meals, owners are told to bring their own food to not affect the diet of the animal, however the hotel adds something enticing like chicken livers, rice or chicken gravy to the meals to lure the dogs to eat.
And like any vacation, Sonseirai says that the dogs develop holiday crushes.
“Dogs do fall in love, so like humans they having their own holiday romance…”
There is a screening process to get accepted into the hotel.
The dogs are requested to be social, spade and the breed of the dogs are also taken into consideration. If issues arise from the initial process, they will meet with the owners and the dog for a day visit to monitor its behaviour.
“People put their dogs here to be safe and we try everything in our power to create a stable environment for each dog.
“We are excited about the future. People are loving the concepts and the dogs are having so much fun meeting other canines. We are hoping to grow our brand, possibly to other cities in the country,” said Candice.
For further information, visit http://durbandoghotel.weebly.com/ or contact 083 650 2594.