Lassie, Come To Houston

The pet-friendly city makes it easy for road warriors to take along their pooch

Are you feeling guilty about leaving Fido or Fluffy at the kennel while you're away on business? If you're headed to Houston, maybe you should take them along. The American Automobile Assn. rates it the most pet-friendly city in America, at least if you go by the number of AAA-approved hotels that accept four-legged guests.

At the 314-room Hotel Derek in the city's tony Galleria area shopping district, dogs and cats get their own beds, water and food bowls, and a gift bag of toys. Pet sitting is available, and room service will deliver cooked-to-order bow-wow and meow chow. "We realize your dog or cat is part of your family," said assistant front office manager George Treviño, who was recently dispatched to get a carpeted kitty condo for Cher's cat, Mr. Big.

The Four Seasons (FS ), Westin (HOT ), and St. Regis (HOT ) hotels confer posh pet privileges in keeping with their nationwide policies. Smaller lodging facilities, such as the 14-room Lovett Inn in the museum district, also allow pets but don't serve them treats on silver platters.

During your free time you can take your buddy for a romp in one of several canine parks, including the 15-acre Millie Bush Bark Park, named for former President George Bush's late spaniel. It has walking trails, swimming ponds, and paw-operated drinking fountains. Hungry? Stop at one of three Barnaby's Cafes, known for their multi-ethnic menu, decadent layer cakes, and dogs lying under patio tables at their owners' feet.

By Kate Murphy

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