We had a few days off last week and were inclined to take a break in the Deep South. 

The problem in the way was that our dog sitter was away in Galway enjoying himself, and that was a major fly in the ointment, because we could not leave our little terrier, Pepper, and the gentle retriever, Anika, unattended for three days and nights.

I was resigned to the situation, but my good wife went away to make a few phone calls. 

She returned 10 minutes later, loaded myself and the delighted dogs into the car, and headed off in the general direction of Cork, without telling us the eventual destination.

The dogs were asleep by the time we reached Blarney, but she kept going ahead in a westerly direction, along the Skibbereen road. I relaxed and said nothing at all.

She eventually pulled into the warm croí of Clonakilty, said we had reached journey’s end, and marched the three of us into the reception area of O’Donovan’s Hotel on Main St. And that is the pure truth, yet again.

There are many thousands of hotels on this island. By nature of my trade, I have spent bed nights in many of them. All of them can cope with two-legged guests but, to my knowledge, not so many of them welcome pets like our Pepper and Anika.

It is a fact, however, that O’Donovan’s Hotel in Clonakilty is what they call “pet friendly”.

It is a fact there was an even warmer welcome for Pepper and Anika than there was for the little old Ulsterman at the other end of the leads.

For those amongst you out there who are tethered to pets, that has to be very good news indeed. I warmly recommend the establishment in Clonakilty to you and Shep and Fido, and whatever you are having yourself.

It is not that the dogs are taken away out the backyard and lodged in cabins there, either. Not at all. They are welcome in the rooms, as long as they are house-trained, well-behaved, and stay out of the beds.

Our ladies were delighted to be whisked upstairs in a lift to their comfortable and spacious quarters, and took to their new lifestyle like ducks to water.

Later in the evening, they were also welcome in the bar, and folk lined up to stroke their heads and backs, and feed them tasty scraps.

They had a mighty break altogether and, for that reason, so had we, in a special outpost of a town I have always been fond of but never before had the opportunity to fully savour.

I think, the last time I was there, I was feeding a hungry newsdesk in Dublin with details of a drowning tragedy in the hinterland.

Can I add to my commendation that the receptionist I first met was born in Bethlehem, and had a smile that would dazzle you.

Can I further add that there was a splendid weekend farmers’ market the day after our arrival. 

It was in the hotel car park, and I have never seen a more succulent selection of vegetables and home baking products like porter cakes and apple tarts.

The dogs went off shopping with my wife very happily, and if I spent a considerable part of my time along the bar drinking honeyed hot whiskey and suchlike, then that is my business.

It has taken six generations of O’Donovans to establish this special kind of céad míle fáilte, and a man at the bar told me that the seventh generation are already moving in. So you and your pets are assured of a welcome into the future.

There is more.

I do not just chatter idly. Like a policeman off duty, I always keep my ears and eyes open. 

Having done that in various establishments over three days in Clonakilty, which is, of course, Michael Collins country, I am now convinced that when all the skirmishing is done in Leinster House, we will all be off to the hustings again for another general election.

The scuttlebutt around west Cork does not see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael burying those aged hatchets anytime soon. And that again is the pure truth, as I picked it up.

I want to send a final message to the lovely lady who was born in Bethlehem. 

It is that we and our dogs will be back for another stay before the year is out. 

It is also to request her to try and come up with some strategy which will make it easier for pet owners to get their animals to check out. 

Our ladies, after being so spoiled, whined all the way home, and have been sitting expectantly beside the cars ever since.


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