So I brought my dog Rudy (a pet, not a service dog) to MFM this past weekend and wanted to share the experience in case anyone else is thinking of doing it. I had little info to go on so we just muddled through. :) I wanted to bring Rudy because he really helps keep me calmer when it comes to anxiety troubles (but that alone is not service-dog worthy, he could be considered an Emotional Support Animal if I bothered to get a letter but that STILL doesn't grant him access to places pets are not allowed other than flights and apartments). He did his job, I actually had a mini-panic attack on the ride there and it was very comforting to be able to pet him on the ride to refocus and calm down.
Maybe this will help someone else decide whether or not they should bring their pet on vacation with them. There's a lot of things to be prepared for!
1) Fees. Our hotel charged $50 a night extra for a pet not to exceed $100 for the entire stay. So it worked out to be a little cheaper than kenneling him (would have been ~$30/night for 4 nights to kennel). Do the math - kenneling may be cheaper, and if you have a friend or family member to watch your dog that's definitely going to be more affordable most times!
2) Rules. Though the hotel was pet friendly, there are still rules. You can't bring pets into areas where food is served, and hanging out in the lobby is generally discouraged (there may be other guests allergic to, or with phobias of dogs). With a con going on, there are even more rules! Because of conventions insurance among other things, pets aren't allowed in any con spaces. So be prepared to spend time with your pet in your room and outside, and not many other places. I got stopped to talk in the hallways with Rudy along and no one seemed to mind, in fact people loved seeing him and it was great for him to get used to new people and new situations. But out of respect for everyone else I did not intentionally loiter in public spaces when Ru was along.
3) Other dogs. There are a lot of furries with service dogs! I'm pointing this out because your dog had better be well behaved around other dogs! Service dogs are more than just a beloved pet, they are an essential tool to help people with disabilities navigate life, so of course they feel EXTRA protective towards them. If your dog makes someone or their service dog uncomfortable, it's not a "brush it off and walk away" situation like it may be to a regular pet owner. Be conscious of that, be respectful, and if your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, a con probably isn't the place for him. I was mortified when I let Rudy meet another little dog and he growled at her. He plays in the dog park all the time and is good with other dogs, but I think this doggie reminded him of the dog-park bully Annie even though she was a little sweetheart (they do look the same). So, yeah. Awkwardness. And I'll be talking to a trainer about it because I can't have that if he'll be accompanying me other places.
4) New situations. There's a lot going on and a lot of new things for a dog to learn about at a hotel and a con. Rudy turned out to love the elevator, but he hated the fire stairs (I think because of the echo). He got to the point he would freeze near the stairs afraid I'd force him down them, then dart for the elevator. So we need more work on scary-new-things! He was ok with most fursuits, but the RC car wandering the halls spooked him. I had lots of treats and made sure to treat him whenever he encountered something new. It was really a good training exercise!
5) Crate. When your dog is in the room it must be kenneled, so housekeeping can get in and out without worry. Rudy did really great with being in his crate. I made sure to have toys I could fill with treats and peanut butter so he had something to chew on and keep him busy while I was out. Roomies and housekeeping both said he was quiet and well-behaved when I left him in his crate. Just to be safe I left my number on the crate with a note to call me if he was being a nuisance, and the front desk had my number too. I kept my phone on me even while fursuiting, which I never do, because I wanted to be able to run back up there if he was noisy and another guest complained.
6) Walkies! Since your dog is going to be in your room in a crate whenever you want to fursuit or go to a panel or event you have to make sure the poor thing gets lots of exercise in between. I took Rudy out probably every 2-4 hours, even throughout the night. I made sure to get one long walk in every day, with his backpack so he burned more energy, even though it was raining and miserable. We had a long walk from our room to the outside - I wanted to make sure he didn't have an accident on the way there because we waited too long, so we had more potty breaks than normal.
7) Cleanliness. Goes without saying - SCOOP YOUR POOP. I hate when dog owners don't pick up after their dogs. Even if you think it's an out-of-the-way spot no one will even walk, do it anyway. Kids run all over the place, and other dogs will sniff out and even roll in it, so just be a good dog owner and take care of it! :P Also, something I didn't think about til it happened - walking in the rain meant Rudy got muddy paws and legs and I had to call Skippy to bring a towel down to me to clean him up before I walked him through the lobby. Bring your own towel or doggie wipes. :) We had a blanket we put on the bed for Rudy to lay on with his toys so he didn't get doggie slobber all over the hotel sheets. I also read you shouldn't ever bathe your dog in the hotel, you'll clog up their drains with dog fur and annoying staff is a good way to get pets banned completely. Be thoughtful and considerate so places stay pet friendly!
So, my conclusion... Rudy did really well and it was great having him along! I will definitely do it again, but only if I am not planning on doing artists alley or staffing or anything else that will keep me busy. Next time I'd love to meet up with some other pet owners if there are any for a group walk or something else so taking care of Rudy is part of the social aspect of the con instead of keeping me away from it, but even if that doesn't work out it wouldn't discourage me. It was great training for him and helped show me some areas we still need to work on. I'd love to get him his CGC someday, and exposure to new situations like this is essential for him! And it was great for me to have my little buddy along, because to me, home is where my dog is. :)