Rescue Dogs Melt Hearts from the Lobby of a Resort


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Animal Samaritans in Thousand Palms and the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa began partnering six years ago to find permanent homes for rescue/shelter dogs from the Coachella Valley. Animal Samaritans operates a no-kill animal shelter that gives dogs and cats second chances to become valued members of Coachella Valley families. Westin Mission Hills and Westin Hotels & Resorts around the country are known for welcoming mid-size dogs and smaller at their properties, offering their trademark Heavenly® Dog Bed and other special amenities free of charge.

Together, they’ve found homes for more than 150 dogs since 2015. Dogs available for adoption are placed in the lobby of the Westin Mission Hills, in a white picket fenced dog yard complete with a doggy house. Guests who would like to spend time with the Westin foster dog are required to sign in first, and then they can cuddle with them and take them for a walk around the property. The dogs are equipped with a GPS monitor to prevent them getting lost if they happen to break free of their leash or harness. Westin foster dogs stay in the lobby 24/7 until they are adopted, and resort employees take care of them during quiet hours.

Westin has always been a pet-friendly company, so partnering with Animal Samaritans was a natural fit. Having hosted several of their fundraising events, Westin Mission Hills had built a relationship with Animal Samaritans and was supportive of their cause. Westin Corporation had a successful dog adoption program on the East Coast that they wanted to emulate in California, and Animal Samaritans was looking for opportunities to provide off-site adoptions.

The program has been extremely rewarding for the rescue dogs, Westin Mission Hills guests, and associates of both the resort and the rescue. “Our partnership with the Westin has given new life to so many homeless dogs,” said Animal Samaritans CEO Tom Snyder. “It takes a special staff of animal-loving employees to make this work, and it works beautifully.”

Before a dog is chosen to be a Westin foster dog, it must meet several criteria. The most important is the animal’s temperament. The dog must be sociable and friendly, and able to walk on a leash and harness. They must also be able to stay in a dog pen without constantly trying to jump out, and because of this setup, they are generally smaller dogs, less than 30 pounds. Finally, they must not have any medical issues that require medical supervision or the regular administering of prescription medications.

At the Westin, dogs are fed in the morning by staff. Throughout the day, resort guests sign up to socialize and walk the dog. In the evening, the dog is fed dinner and a staff member walks the dog a final time for potty breaks before bed.

When a guest or other visitor requests to adopt the dog they met at the Westin Mission Hills, Animal Samaritans reviews their application, performs routine background checks, and conducts an initial phone interview. If approved, the new owners then meets with Animal Samaritans to pick up their dog and take him home.

Animal Samaritans works in partnership with the Coachella Valley City and County Animal Shelter, as well as a network of animal shelters, rescue groups, and pet fostering networks to find dogs and cats temporary refuge and permanent homes. For additional information on this program and the VIP dogs, contact Melanie Stroh at The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, 71333 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage, (760) 328-5955. Or contact Animal Samaritans at (760)

It’s a Dog’s Life

Breakfast with Westin staff

Greet visitors in the lobby

Cuddles and pets from visitors in the Westin

Walks with Westin guests and visitors

Dinner with new Westin staff

Nighttime walk To the Heavenly® Dog Bed in the doghouse

And always, be on the lookout for a forever home!

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Pet Companion Mag
Pet Companion Mag
Southern California's Local Pet Magazine


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