Inns bag hunter by taking his pooch There's no room like a full one

December 20, 1992|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

EASTON -- Although one of them chewed through a wooden door frame, Irene Gibson says they're still welcome as guests at the Mariner Motel she manages in Rock Hall.

And Buddy Harrison says as long as he has his industrial-strength vacuum cleaner -- the one that "sucks the carpet right straight up in the air" -- they can sleep in his Harrison's Chesapeake House on Tilghman Island any time.

These "guests" are of the four-legged variety, the dogs that waterfowl hunters bring with them to the Eastern Shore about this time every year to help retrieve geese and ducks.

While the custom of allowing hunters and hunting dogs to stay in the same room is not practiced by all motels and inns on the Shore, some owners say it's an effective way to garner a share of the profits from the seasonal hunting market.

"I think we're getting more business because of it," says Mr. Harrison, who decided in 1986 to keep his rooms open through the winter to attract hunters.

"We've never had a minute's problem," he adds. "We keep the rooms clean after they leave. Hunting dogs are free of fleas and just great dogs."

Others, like Beverly Platzke of the Days Inn in Easton, say keeping hunters and dogs together through the cold winter nights just seems the hospitable thing to do.

"On the whole, we don't have any problems at all with dogs staying right in the room with the owners," says Ms. Platzke, who has managed the Talbot County motel for the past 11 years. "I've found that hunters take good care of their dogs. They're bathed regularly and defleaed."

"To be honest, we only had one problem with it, and that was four years ago," she continues.

"One of the hunting guides who stayed here left his dog in the room one day. [The dog] proceeded to chew up some chairs."

Something like that happened at the Mariners Motel in Rock Hall a while ago, says Ms. Gibson, who insists that guests obey two rules when they bring dogs into the rooms with them: The dog sleeps on the floor, and owners are never to leave the animal alone in the room.

"A dog in a strange environment can get frightened," she says, recalling the time a hunter left his canine in the motel room.

"This guy went to dinner and when he came back to his room, the dog had chewed the door frame right off."

The dog owner paid for the damages, says Ms. Gibson, and no changes were made in motel policy. But that's the kind of dog story some businesses don't want to experience.

At the Tidewater Inn in Easton, where hunters from around the world gather for waterfowl season, dogs are no longer welcome in the rooms.

Under new ownership this year, the Tidewater has been completely refurbished and redecorated. While the hotel was being spruced up, a kennel was added to the basement.

The policy change was made partly to protect the new furnishings, but other considerations were made as well.

"For us, it was more a liability and health issue," says Tidewater Inn manager Kenneth M. Hanbury. "Like a human being, a dog can snap at any time." Besides, he adds, fewer out-of-state hunters bring their own dogs with them to the Shore. "Over the years, most hunters have been using dogs provided by local guides."

The Tidewater still caters to hunters, though, by providing a "mud room" where gunners leave their muddy boots to be cleaned in time for the next day's shoot.

At the Imperial Inn in Chestertown, the new owners did away with the kennel reserved for hunting dogs in order to add a room onto the establishment.

Co-owner Carla Massoni says hunters who arrive with their own dogs are referred to a local kennel.

Owners and managers of businesses that let owners and dogs stay together say they clean the rooms thoroughly after the guests leave.

And even at places where hunting dogs are barred from staying with their owners, managers speak highly of the pooches.

"The dogs sometimes act better than the hunters," said one manager.

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