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Isabel Whitlow

March 07 2012

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Isabel's Pet Friendly Inn

This Week's Issue: Homer comments on Isabel's desire to turn Faded Glory Farm into a "pet friendly resort." After several fits and starts, our Inn has finally become a popular destination for pet lovers throughout the South. For awhile, it looked like the circus had come to town.

As far as I know, the Ringling Bros. Circus has "never come to town" here in the peaceful Appalachians, but if you had visited Faded Glory Farm during it's first few months of operation, you might have been able to visit a circus without the clowns, cotton candy, calliope, and admission ticket.

In an early discussion with Micah Davenport, I overheard Isabel saying that she has always had an overwhelming desire to invest some money in a long-term animal-related project. It was my hope at the time that she would decide to fund a study that looked into the long-term effects of feeding delicious and decadent daily dog treats to large handsome dogs like me. Worst case, I figured that she might be looking for a permanent cure for exema, mange or distemper, or, maybe, even more research into the genetic causes of canine hip dysplasia -- but, I was wrong. The end result of Isabel's laudable endeavors would ultimately leave Faded Glory Farm standing high in the rankings of north Georgia B&Bs, but getting to that status proved almost disastrous.

Isabel did have one long-prevailing priority, however, and it had evidently been gnawing (no pun intended) at her for some time. Isabel wanted Faded Glory Farm to be a truly "pet friendly" facility; a place where her guests could bring their pets and spend their vacations relaxing with them. With the sale of the Stoddard Farm behind her, and, after several disappointments, Isabel now had the resources to make this dream come true.

Isabel's disappointments with the "pet-friendly project" are many, and they go back a long way. Initially, Isabel was always 'soft' on pets. She has always loved animals -- all animals. So, when she first opened the Inn, she had no pet restrictions in place whatsoever. Build a pet-friendly inn, and they will come . . . Guests immediately brought along dogs, cats, ferrets, skunks, pot bellied pigs, rabbits, parrots and even a monkey or two to share their leisure time in the north Georgia mountains. In fact, every Friday we were on the edge of our seats wondering if Noah's Ark, (along with its animals) would magically appear under our portico. Of course, Isabel naturally assumed that visiting pet-owners were capable of good judgment and would oversee, and clean up after, their precious pets while they were staying at the Inn. Isabel has always been an idealist.

Isabel's fervent love for animals temporarily trumped her common sense, and within a month the Inn began to resemble a virtual zoo and smelled like a poorly-maintained pigpen.

In fact, during the first ninety days of "The Pet Welcoming Project," I became aware that it might be only a matter of time before I, myself, might fall prey to an unsupervised boa constrictor or an escaped pet panther in some dark upstairs hallway at the Inn. Actually, the morning that the 10 year-old daughter of a visiting Atlanta couple brought her pair of un-caged ferrets to the breakfast area truly became the 'final straw.' Before that day, I didn't realize just how much ferrets love scrambled eggs -- much to the pain and dismay of Louella and our paying breakfast guests. And, boy, can those little devils scratch and bite! The ferrets, of course!

The "ferret fiasco" was followed by little Donnie Campbell's ant farm tipping over in Suite #4, the discovery that Myra Copeland's pet skunk had not been de-scented after all, the escape of Mike Smith's aggressive six-foot Ball Python, and the Christopher family's Dashhund, Schnapps, snatching the Stephens family's parakeet "Amy" out of mid air. In one quick shower of feathers, Schnapps delivered a messy coup de grace to the hapless bird that would have made Atilla the Hun proud. The ongoing "animal acts" at Faded Glory were rapidly getting out of hand!

Realizing that there would soon be other disasters on the horizon, Isabel attempted to put some additional teeth (excuse the pun) in the Inn's pet regulations. She hastily changed her 'pet friendly' policy to limit guest pets to dogs and cats. At this point my potential for future doggy dalliance soared! But, alas, these good times were not to last . . .

Guests began arriving with the nastiest, meanest, smelliest and ugliest dogs I've ever seen. I seriously began to wonder whether there were any friendly, cuddly, medium sized pedigreed or mixed-breed dogs left on the planet! Subsequent to the arrival of two drooling Saint Bernards from Chattanooga and an 150 pound Harlequin Great Dane with diarrhea, the policy was again modified to "dogs weighing less than 50 pounds." Whoa there, Isabel, now you're really impinging upon my carnal pleasures!

Changes were being made so frequently that Micah even suggested that the policy be written on a blackboard, with an eraser at the ready.

After a rash of annoying leg-humping episodes and sordid and several risqué front yard doggy mating entanglements, the policy was again changed to read "all dogs must weigh under 50 pounds and be neutered, and/or spayed, and be leashed at all times when other pets are at large." For me, this was the final fun-buster! Isabel really knows how to hurt a guy!

Despite all of Isabel's efforts to avoid further doggy-damage to the Inn, Isabel finally found it necessary to ban dogs from the guest suites and indoor public areas of the Inn altogether. I didn't realize that so many dogs have a propensity for eating dust ruffles and chewing on goose down comforters and pillows, but Isabel was replacing these costly items often.

A secure, well-lit, clean, dry area was prepared in one of our newer sheds, and owners were asked to keep their pets there overnight in the new pet crates that were now becoming so popular for transporting dogs on planes and automobiles. Sometimes during the nighttime hours, because the shed is not well soundproofed, the sounds of howling and barking dogs could be heard by Inn guests, and most of East Fannin County as well. Isabel knew that it would only be a matter of time before Sheriff Kenny Payne would arrive with a citation or 'summons to appear.' Kenny is one of those honest and scrupulous public servants who would arrest his own grandmother if she ran afoul of the law.

During the daylight hours, pets were still allowed access to the lawns and porches, but they were no longer welcome inside the Inn or the guest rooms. Any guest complaint relating to dogs misbehaving outside would result in the removal of the animal to the shed 'sleeping area.'

Obviously, Isabel wasn't happy with the situation, nor were many of our guests. Isabel decided to build a modern, dedicated pet kennel here at Faded Glory Farm!

Young Jamie Tipton was hired to construct a spacious, comfortable, heated and air-conditioned building to house dogs and cats belonging to guests staying at the Inn. Fully equipped with tinted skylights, a refrigerator, microwave, lockers for the storage of pet food, and Musak, this facility would rival some of the dreary motels that currently exist in our area. When Hank suggested putting a color TV in the kennel, Isabel began to feel a little foolish, and she backed off on providing further luxuries. With the help and advice of Dr. Ben Stubbs, Isabel and Micah Davenport sketched out a rough conceptual building plan, and drew it up as a document that could be submitted to the county with an application for a building permit. As their ideas germinated, improvements and additions to Isabel's plans proved to swell the scope of the project to a level well beyond the commonplace, and it soon began to look like a Taj Mahal for animals.

Years ago when Dr. Stubbs was ten years younger, he had envisioned setting up a large kennel to augment his veterinary practice. The large spacious stainless steel cages that he purchased in anticipation of this project had never been used, and they were now gathering dust in one of Ben Stubbs' outbuildings. Isabel jumped at the chance to purchase all of them for $1,000 -- just a small percentage of their original cost.

From anybody's point of view, this pet kennel was really going to be 'over the top!' The plans called for the building to be constructed of cement block, clad in aluminum siding and a slate roof to match the Inn. The structure would be soundproofed, well insulated and climate-controlled with fluorescent lighting and colorful epoxy-painted floors. For easy cleaning and maintenance, the floors were liberally fitted with drains throughout. I got so excited hearing Micah and Isabel describing the place, I almost decided to opt out of my comfortable residency in the main building and move to the new shangri-la for pets. Once I realized that I would probably lose my kitchen privileges in the process, I immediately thought better of it.

Building construction seems to take forever if you're sitting around watching it happen, but if you have the normal everyday distractions involved in living, it seems to be indeed - momentary. As long as the workmen responded well to "food eyes," I was on the job site every day, and the kennel seemed to take a long time to complete. The scraps were great, the men were kind and generous. and I was sort of sad to see it all come to an end.
I remember the week that the kennel was finished. Isabel and Micah were very excited and eager to show the new facility off. When the Hatfields from Daytona Beach, Florida failed to arrive with their Irish Setter, Rusty, Isabel's excitement waned and the new kennel remained unoccupied until the following week. Go figure!

Since its completion, Isabel's super kennel has housed some of the finest bitches (a term of doggie endearment) I have ever laid eyes on, as well as some of the surliest, mean-spirited cats that ever 'kicked up their kitty-litter.' It will take Isabel a long time to break even on her investment, but Faded Glory Inn now has the facility that she has always dreamed of. As for the subsequent improvements to my social life? It was certainly a bargain!!

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