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Some hotels roll out the red carpet for pets

Sleeping dogs now have a luxurious place to lie.

In a hotel-industry first, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced that its Sheraton, Westin, and W hotels welcome dogs. Included with the "Pets Welcome" sign are plush robes, dog beds and amenities like doggy toys, even canine massages.

Starwood's new dog beds are custom designed and have doggie duvets that are signature to each hotel brand. Each brand also offers food and water bowls, collars, temporary ID tags and leashes. The W hotels pet package includes a pet toy, dog treat, bone, plus _ are you ready for this _ turn down service and a treat on the pet's bed at night.

"We intend to become the most dog-friendly hotel company and not just allow dogs to stay, but actually pamper them," said Barry Sternlight, Starwood's Chairman and CEO, and proud owner of Comet, a Jack Russell terrier, and Potter, a black Labrador.

The furious feline

Unlike dogs and people who can quickly get over being upset, a cat that has lost its cool may remain furious for hours, even up to a day. Trying to calm down an enraged cat by restraining or stroking it will only keep it aroused and could get you hurt.

A cat that has become upset and aggressive should be segregated in a quiet room by itself to chill out. If it needs to be moved, don't try to pick it up. Instead, use a long object _ like a broom _ to gently encourage it to enter a quiet, time-out room. Then shut the door and leave it alone.

If you look in on your cat and see dilated pupils and a hostile stance, close the door, go away and come back later. It may take all day, but it's futile and potentially dangerous to reason with an outraged cat.

The bark says it all

Recent scientific studies have demonstrated what dog owners have known for centuries; dogs use different-sounding barks to communicate different things.

Dr. Sophia Yin recorded dogs when left alone, when disturbed by a stranger ringing the doorbell and when playing. She found that the barks produced in those circumstances were sonographically different from one another, and it was possible to distinguish between them. There was a difference in the tonality of the barks; disturbance barks were lower and more harsh while the more tonal, higher pitched, modulated barks were more common in isolation and play situations.

It makes sense that a dog faced with the potentially hostile circumstance of an intruder at the door would respond with a low, rough-sounding warning bark. This is a lot like a cat fluffing up its fur to makes itself look bigger when it faces a threat. So, while dog barking might not be analogous to human language, it is a form of communication, not meaningless noise.

Service animals aloft

The federal government says airline passengers will be permitted to take dogs, cats, small pigs, monkeys and other animals aboard domestic flights for emotional support, but not spiders, snakes or rats.

Reuters reports in the New York Times that the Department of Transportation revised guidelines to clarify the definition of service animals, which until now, had been limited to those animals that helped passengers manage physical disabilities, such as service dogs for the blind.

But recognizing that trained animals help with hearing, pull wheelchairs, warn epileptics of seizures, aid people with balance problems and help agoraphobics and others with their emotional health, the government agreed with those proponents seeking to expand the ranks of recognized service animals.

The Transportation Department's guidelines say, "A service animal is any guide dog, signal dog or other animals individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability." The animal does not necessarily need to be licensed or certified by a state or local government.