Sign up for a weekend with your pet at destinations that pull out all the stops to keep them happy
hen the person on the phone says, “Your dogs can sleep on the bed with you,” you know that’s as close to home as you’ll ever get on vacation. And that’s what our first impression was of the Sharoan homestay in Kodaikanal, long before we made the 500 kilometre drive from Chennai. A beautiful gray-stone home, the place looks like it’s straight out of an Enid Blyton novel. Owned by Manmohan (Mac) Sahani, this ‘pet and you’ getaway is almost enough to make you forget that you just drove 10 hours with two dogs in the same car.
Increasingly, pet owners are finding that taking their dogs along on a holiday is a viable option—sentimentally and financially—over leaving them in expensive kennels. And it’s all thanks to a few indulgent pet lovers with property, who have decided to create holiday homes that are open to the whole ‘extended’ (the wagging tailed kind) family. “I’ve been driving up here (to Kodaikanal) with my pug Sasha for years now,” Mac recalls, but adds, “every time this would come up in conversation with friends, I realised very few people had the same option.”
However, several holiday options that are pet friendly choose not to go overboard with publicity. While Mac has confined his ‘ad’ to a single poster outside his vet’s Chennai clinic, Nicholas’ L’Escale guesthouse in Pondicherry leaves it to good old word-of-mouth publicity. The Englishman who has settled there with his French wife tells us, “We’ve had three owners come with their pets in three years.” Do they allow any kind of pet? “Yeah, as long as it’s not a tiger!” L’Escale responds with a laugh.
Also in the same vicinity is the boutique resort, the Dune. Formerly an artist’s residence, the 40-acre property has been converted into 55 gorgeous cottages—each aesthetically unique and all open to canine guests. “We even cater to custom doggie meals on request,” Dune’s director Sunil Varghese tells us. And the dogs are free to roam the property on or off the leash. Perhaps the only no-paws zone is the restaurant. “We keep this off-limits to pets for hygienic reasons,” Sunil explains, sounding a little apologetic. But hey, as long as you get to wake up every morning to a wet-nosed greeting even when you’re on vacation, what more can you ask for?
The Bed and Breakfast on OMR is less than an hour away from the city and has a relaxed set up of 12 rooms (all pet friendly), a lake that is great for a doggie swim and plenty of farm animals to socialise with. Says Shalini Phillip, who co-runs the space, “Since we don’t
specify what pets are allowed, we’ve had dogs, cats and even turtles!” Cost per room: Rs. 3,000 plus taxes
Vivanta by Taj Connemara
Would you believe Connemara has been open to furry five-star guests since the 80s? And now that the hotel has been rebranded, pet-friendly rooms are a part of the policy. Once you check in, your pet can enjoy a host of luxuries. “That means a doggie bowl, a separate mattress and custom food, like lamb broth,” says Ashirbad Praharaj, the accommodations manager. He adds that guests with pets usually get an upgrade to a deluxe room with direct garden access. Cost for pet for the duration of your stay: Rs. 3,000
Sharoan Cottage (Kodaikanal): Rs. 4,000-5,000 depending on which room you pick L’Escale (Pondicherry): Rs. 450 for the pets and Rs. 2,200-Rs. 2,700 for the rooms
Dune (Pondicherry): Rs. 5,500-Rs. 19,000 depending on proximity to the sea