By MANETTE KOHLER, DVM
Word is out around Milwaukee. There’s a cute new gal with blonde, curly hair working at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. It’s Millie, the canine concierge. At just one year of age, Millie, a mini Goldendoodle, is very popular and regularly receives emails and comments via the hotel website, great Trip Advisor reviews, and dog treats, sweaters and toys from adoring fans (aka hotel guests). Her proud owner, Rusty Dahler, the human concierge at the hotel, was thrilled to share Millie’s story with FETCH readers.
“Last fall the idea for a ‘hotel dog’ began to circulate,” says Dahler. “A great idea never happens easily,” he adds. “It takes a lot of determination and hard work.” He set to work finding just the right dog for the job, researching breeds and talking to breeders and decided on a smaller, non-shedding dog with a phenomenal temperament. Millie, whose name represents Milwaukee (first and third syllables), fit the bill perfectly. Born September 13, 2016, Millie went home with Dahler at eight weeks of age and by ten weeks was spending a few hours at a time at the hotel. She now spends 40 hours a week in the lobby and hotel, brightening the day for guests and employees alike.
As one would guess, training has been and continues to be a focal point for Millie. Dahler explains that it’s been a lot of work to train a puppy in such a large hotel and to teach her all the things she’ll need to learn including not jumping on guests and coming when called. Holly Lewis, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Cold Nose Canine, has worked one-on-one with Millie as well as in group classes. “Millie’s private lessons are focused on specific skills that Millie utilizes at the hotel,” says Lewis. “Millie learned to stay out of specific areas of the hotel as well as showing guests where the restroom is from the concierge desk.” The “say hello” cue directs Millie to the check-in line where she greets guests. She may even bring along her favorite ball for someone to throw.
Other important tasks include riding luggage carts up to the rooms for deliveries and standing proudly on the podium at the front door, smiling and wagging her tail as guests arrive. “On the flip side,” adds Lewis, “it is really important for her to remain in tune with Rusty so she does not wander off and get distracted with a guest. Recall and focus are important points of Millie’s training.” The need to be able to easily adapt to the fast pace and changing environment of the hotel lobby is the biggest goal, according to Lewis. “There are always people and animals breezing through the lobby and it takes a special dog to be able to handle the activity,” says Lewis.
“Millie has changed the environment in our lobby by 100 percent,” shares Dahler. He knew she’d have an impact on the guests, but he never guessed the impact she’d have on the employees. They stop by the desk to share phone pics of their dogs and love on Millie as if she were their own. Fellow co-worker, bellman Jack Wood says, “Being able to experience Millie’s friendly and playful personality is the reason both myself and the guests keep coming back to see her every day.” Millie takes all the attention from guests and employees in stride, and that’s part of what makes her so special. “She gives a lot to her work,” says Dahler. She’s petted hundreds of times per day, often awakening from a nap because an eager guest really wants to say hello.
Like any hard working employee, Millie deserves and enjoys her time off. “Home is her restful space where she can do what she wants to do when she wants to do it,” says Dahler. “She enjoys walks on Brady Street, playing with dog friends at Pulaski Park and dog training classes at Cold Nose Canine,” he adds. She also enjoys the company of Oliver and Rose, Dahler’s two cats. “Oliver and Millie love to hang out and tussle together while Rose enters in only when she thinks it appropriate.” As for toy preferences, the more squeakers the better, but long toys she can play tug with are also preferred.
Dahler explains how rewarding it’s been to see her progress and to hear guests comment on how well-behaved she is. “She has brought smiles, laughter, and even tears to many within her short time here and we can’t wait for more of this to come as she grows older with the Hilton Milwaukee,” shares Dahler.
For more info check out “Millie At The Hilton” on YouTube; on Instagram at “hiltonmilwaukee” and on Facebook at Hilton Milwaukee City Center.