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At Nashville’s Bobby Hotel, rescue dogs get the suite life and a new home

For centuries, dogs have been bred to work and perform specific tasks. For example, Pembroke Welsh corgis often work as herding dogs and were “once invaluable to farmers in Wales,” .

These days, though, dogs that were originally hard at work are now frequently found hardly working. Like my own corgi, Splenda, whose “job” is helping me — one of TPG’s senior hotel reporters — to review luxurious pet-friendly hotels, . Ruff life, right?

In Nashville, at the Bobby Hotel, there’s another type of job available to our four-legged friends: “,” a program that sees rescue dogs from the undergo incredible training with experts followed by a gig “working” as the best, fluffiest and friendliest greeter in the hotel for a year before finally being placed in a fur-ever home with a U.S. veteran in need of companionship.

It all started with Sasha, an office dog from back before the hotel even opened that ultimately became the first dog-in-residence, Joel Morales, Bobby Hotel’s chief marketing officer, told TPG. “We brought on a kind of office dog that, very quickly, from an idea perspective became: ‘Hey, let’s train her and have her in the lobby.'”

That idea stuck, and Sasha quickly became the most popular (slobbery) face at the Bobby Hotel, greeting guests and gifting smiles and tail wags in the lobby. During that time, Sasha lived with the hotel’s front desk manager, but after three years, it was time for that employee to move on in life, and, as Morales explained, the hotel realized it was best for Sasha to retire so she could move on with the person who took her home every night.

“That’s when we sat down and reexamined the program because we [had] to be realistic and can’t assume that people are [going to] stay with us forever. So that’s when we developed what it is today,” said Morales. “Community is a big, big component of our brand. We wanted to give the dog a purpose, so we partnered with our local shelter, the Nashville Humane Association, and an organization called , which is a national organization that gives resources to vets who are looking to adopt pets, meaning they’ll pay for adoption costs and for food, if they need that kind of help, to be able to have a pet or companion.”

The Bobby Hotel also partnered with a training program called Instinct to help the dogs learn the ins and outs of hotel management — well, how to manage themselves in a hotel through social cues and boundary training so that, as Morales explained, the dogs-in-residence avoid certain areas of the hotels (like elevators and food service areas) and to understand when a guest wants to interact and when a guest may be hesitant. “If a guest does not come to engage them first, then they don’t engage. If they see that [a guest] is kind of coming over to them and approaching them, then they’ll go ahead and approach the guest as well.”

But the training provides more than just the skills the pups need to “work” at the downtown Nashville hotel.

Bobby Hotel

“That level of socialization and that level of training also makes them the perfect companion for someone who is a vet and may need friends,” said Morales, adding that “after a year of their service to us as our dog-in-residence, we work with Pets for Patriots to find them a forever home.”

Now, a few years after the launch of the program, the Bobby Hotel has seen a few dogs come to work and then successfully move on, including a wirey, friendly-faced pooch named Hairy and, most recently, Zoe (pictured at the top of the story), who learned the art of being a hotel canine from .

The entire program is a community effort, starting with the folks at the Nashville Humane Association who work to find a dog in need with “the right profile” to spend time greeting guests in the hotel lobby, followed by the teams of experts who work with the dog in a camp for 30 days (“on the job training,” Morales jokes) and the people who help find the dog its forever home. There’s even a volunteer foster who doesn’t work at the hotel and, outside of their own job, takes the dog-in-residence to work every single day “for their shifts.”

While there are plenty of dogs in need of homes, Morales pointed out that the dogs best suited to work in the hotel are dogs that frequently face the most barriers to adoption, like being older in age.

It’s a beautiful program, but one that’s also bittersweet when it comes time for the dogs, like Zoe, to retire and say goodbye to the Bobby before becoming a full-time companion to a veteran.

“The people love seeing the dog in the lobby, and the last couple of times that we’ve transitioned a dog, we’ve had a going-away party,” Morales said. “We’ve had hotel guests come to it. We’ve had neighborhood [regulars] that come into our coffee shop come and say goodbye. People get really, really familiar with the lobby dog.”

Then the process restarts, and the Nashville Humane Association (i.e., dog-in-residence recruiter) reposts the job description that Morales says includes an endless amount of cuddles, a rest area in the back, a bed in front of the check-in desk and a lot of toys.

And, once the dog is transitioned into its new life, the veteran also gets some special bragging rights, Morales explained: “Not many people can say, ‘Oh, my dog used to have a full-time job as a greeter at a hotel in one of the most popular cities in the country, which is so fun.'”

If you find yourself heading to Music City, rates at the Bobby Hotel start around $249 a night. Your own pets are also welcome at the Bobby; up to two dogs are allowed per room without a fee.