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“It’s our first time here – we’re having a little staycation with the dogs,” Satesh says, clutching flaxen-haired Toffee, while Bhavani hovers behind him, grinning and clutching Truffle, whose tiny, soft eyes peek out from beneath a fringe of dark-chocolate fur.
As we teeter on the edge of the 2020s, this is a peek into the reality of the multi-faceted existences many of us lead, and how we strive to gather the many threads that make up our daily lives and weave them into a rich tapestry of enjoyment. Two cheery local souls - Indian by heritage but born and bred in the Lion City - decide to park their ‘normal’ life for a few days and check in for the weekend at the Regent, a five-star hotel a stone’s throw from the buzz of Orchard Road, with its noodle bars and megamalls.
In the not-too-distant past, dogs were left in the company of friends and family, and sometimes led howling to the kennels while owners chivvied off to enjoy some fun and frolics. No longer. More of us want our four-legged friends around us, even if it means relinquishing a modicum of freedom. “We come here because it’s really pet-friendly,” Satesh adds. “There aren’t many places like it in Singapore.”
Jianle, the hotel’s head of public relations, has kindly offered to sit down with Dudley & Co for a hospitable chat on a wet Friday evening, and as we settle in at the Tea Lounge on the ground floor and order two large cappuccinos, we leave Satesh, Bhavani and Truffle to enjoy the many amenities The Regent has to offer.
Gregarious and effervescent, Jianle is keen to engage but also to learn. What is the Regent getting right, he asks as soon as the coffees arrive – and where could it be doing better? The in-room dining menu, full of doggie delights freshly cooked to-order by the kitchen staff is a great idea. The boneless chicken breast (called the ‘Tail Wagger’) costs 18 Singaporean dollars ($13.2/£10.6/€11.8), while the ‘Mighty Mutt’ (beef medallion) and ‘Rin Tin Tin’ (steak with vegetables) will put you back S$22.
When it comes to catering to our furry friends, the Regent is off to a great start while still finding its feet. They are good and they clearly love doggies – many of the guests, Bhavani and Satesh included, are regulars so they are certainly doing lots of things right. On arrival, each dog gets a bed, water bowl, and goodie-pack, including a specialist dog shampoo from Singapore hair specialists Leonica K, a soft rub-down towel, courtesy of Woofer & Purrlensky, and pack of dried lamb-fillet nibbles from Loyalty Pet Treats. Jianle says great care is taken to minimise noise and damage (a flat-rate cleaning levy of S$75 is charged on any doggie staycationer) and to keep those of us who love dogs well away from the poor souls who live on the other, lonelier side of the fence.
But there is also room for improvement: they could work on presentation (the goodie bag is presented in a small, plain brown cardboard box) and small touches (a local map offers a guide to the neighbourhood, which comes in handy but which could also include tips on welcoming spots to let your pup put his or her bum down). And what about upping the ante when it comes to ambition: why not offer customers the option to pay for a dog-walking or dog-grooming service, as the Milestone and Curtain hotels do in London? Jianle looks surprised, then smiles. “They’re great ideas. We should definitely do that.”
But The Regent is certainly leading the way in the doggy-catering stakes in Singapore as a whole, which is a step behind when it comes to this burgeoning market: while friendly and wealthy and super-safe it’s lacking the range of dog-friendly hotels, bars and restaurants found in London or New York. Among the challenges, Jianle says, is the prevalence of public housing, where pets are a no-no, and the challenge of flying into the city’s airport with a pooch in tow. But with more and more people making sure that the tapestry of their lives includes their four-legged friends both at home and away, The Regent has seen the future, and it’s got dogs. And they’re going to make sure they’re as comfortable as they can be.