As a dog owner, I can confirm that genuinely dog-friendly accommodation in South Africa needs to be improved.
When I came across Ildi Hegyi and Terence Bestwick’s beautiful Greystone Lodge on the outskirts of Dullstroom, photos of happy dogs, fenced chalets, and space for furries to make fur friends, it was like hitting gold.
Ildi’s late uncle Vaughan purchased the lodge in 2016. Although it was dog-friendly, or dog-safe as they like to call it, the nine chalets were not fenced in.
After the COVID pandemic, the couple noticed how family structures had changed and how dogs had become more integral to the family due to all the time owner and pet had spent together in lockdown.
With a more significant demand for genuinely dog-friendly facilities, Ildi and Terence fenced all their chalets in November 2021.
Greystone Lodge is the perfect holiday accommodation for you and your fur child of any shape and size (although they suggest keeping your Teacup Yorkie in your pocket as they can fit through the fence), as the chalets are spaced out to give everyone space, there’s a beautiful big field for non-aggressive and socialised pups to run around off-leash and even a dog-friendly library where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the fireplace with your dog.
1. Can you share your policy for allowing rescue dogs to stay for free?
As the guests started arriving and sharing their pets’ stories, we noticed how many of our guests were kind-hearted rescuers. Most of the pets had been saved from terrible situations.
We (metaphorically) have shares in Kleenex tissues due to the tears shed with guests. Because of this, we are very pro-spaying & neutering animals, and we do not support any breeding homes.
We felt rescue dogs had already been through enough trauma, and their owners shouldn’t have to pay for their accommodation.
Therapy and service dogs also stay for free as they and their owners deserve to be spoilt for the work they do.
2. Have you ever had any amusing or heartwarming incidents involving pets and their owners during their stay?
We could write a book!
My favourite experiences are when guests bring their elderly or ill dogs to Greystone Lodge, who start getting a bit of life and bounce in their step. The increasing amount of dogs with cancer is heartbreaking! Recently, one elderly dog, who could barely walk, was brought to Greystone for her last holiday. Before the holiday’s end, she walked around the dam and was full of wags. This is why we do what we do.
On the amusing side, the fields where dogs can run off-leash are home to our beloved herd of Blesbok.
The dogs often spot the Blesbok, their primal instinct kicks in, and off they dart after the Blesbok. From Jack Russels to Grey Hounds, they all try.
The funny thing is that they either can’t catch the Blesbok, who are extremely fast, or they end up running with the Blesbok and tire out. They are never sure what to do with the Blesbok once they catch up with them. The distraught parents are left stranded in the field, calling for their beloved fluffy, who has trotted bashfully back to the chalet and waits at the gate while mom and dad frantically call for him in the field. True Story!
3. What is the funniest or most adorable pet name you’ve encountered from your guests?
Viking names are very popular with dog owners, and we’ve had a few Freyas, Odins, and Rollos. Although, I think my favourite name so far is Skimo, a fluffy white pup named after an Eskimo.
What we find funny is that most of our guests’ Labradors are called Bailey.
4. Have you noticed a significant demand for pet-friendly accommodations in Dullstroom?
Our lodge has been booked almost every weekend since the pandemic.
Dullstroom is known for its extremely pet-friendly nature. Most restaurants and shops are dog-friendly as long as they are on a leash. Our website has a ‘pet-friendly tab’ where you can find restaurants that will welcome you and your dog.
5. What challenges did you face when starting this business, and how did you overcome them?
Being very pet-friendly, we understand that pets share furniture with us.
We decided to change our white linen to a stone/ mocha colour, and provided bed and couch covers so that you can enjoy your holiday without worrying about what your dog might do to the furniture.
6. How do you ensure the safety and comfort of pets and their owners at your accommodation?
Since becoming pet-friendly, we have only had three incidences at the lodge.
With all sorts of dogs with all sorts of personalities, we decided to develop a system and implement effective safety measures.
Our Yellow Bandanas are given to guests with nervous, aggressive, unsocial, or in-training dogs that are tied to the dog or the leash. It is highly visible, and guests without the bandana know to turn around and find an alternative route or give these special needs dogs a wide berth.
Guests can also tie the yellow bandana to their gate so other dog owners know to avoid the fence.
This has been our biggest win with pet owners, and if you scroll through our Facebook page to a story we posted on 29 October 2022, we got over 1200 likes. We have put an information leaflet with instructions in each chalet so that everyone knows the meaning of the Bandana.
7. Have you observed any positive impacts of having a pet-friendly policy?
Our extensive list of pet regulations is available to read on our website. It’s necessary for everyone’s safety, yet it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of being at Greystone Lodge. Knowing their pets are safe adds to our guests’ peace of mind.
We believe the small things make our guests love Greystone and continue to come back again and again.
8. What improvements or additions have you made to your facility based on feedback from pet owners?
Improvements and additions are an ongoing process at our lodge.
- We installed Pet Poo Drains, which join directly with the sewerage system. Each chalet has a poop scoop that you can use to toss your dog’s waste into the drain.
- We also provide hose pipes at each unit so guests can wash down their muddy companions after a refreshing galavant in the fields.
- During the summer months, we will provide a Tick Dip bath, known as Julian’s Jacuzzi, after the guest who suggested it to us.
- Thanks to Angela and Michela, we have provided dog leash hooks outside each chalet.
- We have cut paths for four different walking routes and have made a colourful and informative map, which we share on WhatsApp and our website under the Activities tab.
- We also plan to set up an Agility Course, which we believe will be a big hit, and share the course’s progress with our followers on Facebook.
Pictures: Guests of Greystone Lodge
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