What is a dog trained to be a guide dog for the blind to do when she has eye problems of her own?
She becomes a concierge at a hotel, of course!
That’s what happened to Catie Copley, a 12-year-old black Labrador retriever, when she nearly completed her training to become a guide dog.
“When we renovated the hotel in 2004, we wanted to make it feel like a home away from home and what is more home-like than having a dog greet you at the door?” explained Suzanne Wenz, Communications Director for the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.
Catie qualified as a career change dog because she has a very slight eye problem that doesn’t affect her daily life, but eliminated her from becoming a guide dog. The hotel found Catie through the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and today, she’s been on the job at the hotel for more than a decade, is beloved by staff, guests and Bostonians who live near the hotel. She even has her own email address and business card.
Her job is to greet guests, receive lots of pets, some treats and registered guests at the hotel can even sign her out to take her on walks through the neighborhood. She also has some special duties visiting children at libraries and schools, as well as attending the official tree lighting ceremony in Copley Square each holiday season.
Rumor has it that Catie is a little enamored with herself, however. “Catie likes the Fairmont Store, she loves to hang out near her stuffed animals,” said Wenz.
Of course, Catie stuffed animals are one of the bestselling items in the hotel’s gift shop, as are the children’s books inspired by her adventures. The hotel staff will even provide a personalized “pawtograph,” a stamp of Catie’s actual paw print on the books.
As Catie ages, the hotel gave consideration to the future, so they rescued a 3-year-old lab from the Animal Rescue League of Boston to someday take Catie’s revered place. Carly was an owner surrender and like Catie, underwent some training and works the lobby during the day (if the pair aren’t lying in their custom made beds) and goes home with a staff member for a regular doggy family life at night.
“Catie likes the gift shop and Carley’s thing is riding the bell carts,” said Wenz. “We didn’t train her to do that, she just hopped on one day.”
For now, Catie isn’t going anywhere, though, so it might be awhile before Carley captures the top dog job. “Catie is in really good shape and we’re happy to have her as long as she continues to enjoy it,” Wenz said.