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Bow Wow to Your Hospitality

Aditi and Vishal Kamat’s home throngs with joy as tails and feathers lap their love.

An avid animal lover and environmentalist Vishal Kamat, executive director, Kamat Hotels India is parent to three canine kids. Despite a busy schedule of steering top notch hotel brands like Orchid, VITS, Jadavgadh and Lotus Resorts he and his wife Aditi, a restaurateur and chef, have fun time rearing the fur babies. A formidable pack of four including Bubli, a German Shepherd, Pedha, a lively Labrador; Tara, an extremely intelligent indie accompanied by the witty chatter box Johnny the African Grey Parrot, keep the household exhilarated. Vishal and Aditi’s love for their fur balls is intense, packed with unconditional affection which the pooches reciprocate with their loyal companionship and playful antics.

Team BUDDY LIFE in a tête-à-tête with the couple.

Inputs by Mr Vishal Kamat, Executive Director, Kamat Hotels India Ltd. and Ms. Aditi Limaye Kamat, Restaurateur and Chef Have you always had a pup at home? Were you raised in a family of animal lovers?

While having a pet, especially a dog, is almost every child’s dream, it wasn’t looked upon favourably in our house when I was growing up. When I married Aditi, she already had two pets, Masti, a Labrador, and Pugli, a pug. Aditi’s wish was to have them in our house, and when we moved into our own home, they became a part of my life, full-time. Initially, it was challenging for me to adjust, but Masti and Pugli’s very human-like nature won me over. They made me realize what I was missing in my life – the joy of having someone who’s always happy to see you, even if you’ve been away for just a few hours.

What are your earliest memories of having dogs around?

I used to enjoy playing with dogs at my friend’s house, but I was generally quite scared of them. I don’t recall meeting any adults who tried to help me overcome that fear. Consequently, I make it a point to encourage young children and even adults who are scared of dogs to interact with our current three playful companions: Bubli, a German Shepherd; Pedha, a lively Labrador; and Tara, an extremely intelligent indie. Removing misconceptions about dogs during childhood is essential for fostering more accepting and compassionate individuals as they grow up.

How and when did you get the three fur babies at your home?

Masti went through a traumatic incident when she was attacked by street dogs, which led her into depression. My wife, Aditi, found Bubli through a friend during this challenging time, and brought her home. Bubli’s mischievous nature, while initially bothersome to Masti, ultimately helped her recover from her depression, and from then on, we never looked back. Pedha came into our lives coincidentally after Masti passed away, and a friend, Sonia, wanted to give him away, insisting that it had to be us. Despite initial reservations, we couldn’t say no, and he won over my reluctant mother-in-law, Smita. Tara’s story is more dramatic – I found her as a 15-dayold puppy during a cyclone in Mumbai, abandoned and alone. When I reached my building, I saw this little puppy alone in a corner. The drivers in our building around that time also didn’t know where the puppy came from. We went looking for the pup’s mother and any trace of the rest of the litter, but to no avail. I spoke to Aditi and it didn’t feel right to just leave the puppy to herself, and so we decided the best would be to bring her home and give her a temporary shelter, at least till the storm passed and then search for the mother. Initially, we didn’t plan to keep her, but she turned out to have a phenomenal personality, and we ended up becoming the parents of four incredible dogs, including Pugli, who passed away 9 months later.

Do you groom/ bathe your fur babies? What part do you play in their grooming?

We used to bathe them at home, but now we “prefer taking them to a professional salon because they do an excellent job, including nail trimming, and make them look better than our home washes. There are also professional groomers who come to our home equipped with grooming kits, offering convenience for pet owners interested in at-home grooming.

Are they allowed on the couch and most importantly, the bed?

Before our house renovation, they were allowed almost everywhere. However, post-renovation and under the strict instructions of our dog trainer, they are not allowed on the sofa or other places they used to sit on, especially Pedha. Yes, they are allowed on the bed, but Bubli prefers to sit in the corner like a diva, while Pedha thinks the bed is his domain, and we are guests.

Where do you draw the line when it comes to pampering them with treats? What is their favourite food and treat?

Pampering our dogs with treats is not about making us feel good, but rather using treats as a reinforcement tool for good behaviour. Discipline in us is more important than discipline in our furry friends. Many pet owners feed their pets just for the sake of it, but we use treats as rewards for desirable behaviour. Our dogs are well-behaved and social, thanks to the training we received initially. Every dog owner should actively participate in the training process to earn their dog’s respect.

While you have at home, virtually a “mini zoo” with Bubli, a German Shepherd, Peda, a labrador, Tara an indie and Johnny, an African Gray parrot, your Orchid Hotels allow dogs only? Any plans to include other pets?

While I love animals, extending our love and passion to places where many others gather can be challenging. During the lockdown, we made our hotels pet-friendly, but there were several challenges, such as not all pet owners being diligent about their pets’ behaviour. Additionally, those without pets or with concerns about someone else’s pets may not be comfortable, leading to conflicts or negative experiences. Hence, we prefer to keep our hotels neutral in this regard. However, I do occasionally visit pet-friendly hotels, which tend to attract like-minded families and pet parents.

Please share a list of all your pet-friendly hotels.

None of our hotels are currently pet-friendly. However, I can tell you that during the lockdown, our pets enjoyed their time at Fort Jadhavgadh and Lotus Murud Dapoli in Konkan. There has been a lot of popular demand from my staff at these hotels to welcome the kids again, especially Pedha.

Have you ever taken your fur babies for vacations at your hotels? How was your personal experience?

Like I mentioned, we have taken them to two of our hotels and our personal experience has been positive. We don’t hesitate to clean up after them, as some pet parents unfortunately neglect this responsibility. I must say that many pets are more well-behaved than some people’s children.

You have conducted various pet adoption camps at the Orchid Hotels. How was the response?

We conduct an annual adoption drive at The Orchid Hotel Pune in collaboration with an organization dedicated to finding homes for dogs. It has been highly successful, with many on-the-spot adoptions taking place. We are fortunate to have spacious lawns at The Orchid Pune, spanning 50,000 square feet, which allows us to host such events. We aim to expand this initiative to other hotels wherever there is space to conduct similar activities.

Have you ever adopted or had a rescue pup at home? Or maybe a homeless?

Yes, as I mentioned earlier, we adopted Tara when I found her as a puppy during a cyclone in Mumbai. Additionally, my wife, Aditi, and her restaurant team at Home Chef Dadar recently adopted an abandoned Pomeranian named Snow. Snow was found by Aditi’s friend, and not knowing what to do, they decided to adopt her. Snow has turned out to be a well-brought-up and enthusiastic biker dog, enjoying rides with the staff. Snow likes to sit on the bike whenever she January sees the staff go around with their materials for work. She claims her own role and sits and balances perfectly while the bike zigzags through traffic.

Do you see yourself as an animal advocate? Have you ever spoken up for animals that needed to be adopted, or in support of animal rights?

I don’t consider myself an advocate, but I believe in leading by example. I prefer to inspire others through my actions rather than imposing my thoughts on them. Rescuing animals from cruelty is something I strongly advocate, but it’s crucial to strike a balance between helping animals and ensuring they don’t become a public menace when left on the streets. There are a lot of people who are misguided in my opinion, about what it means to speak up for animals and animal rights. Rescuing those who cannot speak from the clutches of cruelty is something I advocate strongly but at the same time allowing animals on the road to become public menace is again not right, so there has to be a balance between things.

We actively support various initiatives, including helping birds at our hotels and protecting turtles in Orissa. Our contribution extends beyond our home to society and the environment. All our hotels help grow the population of Sparrows, Parrots, Mynahs and even Crows for that matter because all are an important part of the environment that we live in. We also have a lot for deers at Fort Jadhavgadh, especially in the summer when water is scarce on the plains around so they come and drink from the lake within our property and we also keep some food for them which helps.

In Orissa at Lotus Konark, where all the Olive ridley Turtles come, we do Turtle Protection Drives and Beach clean-ups so that our contribution is not limited to our home but to our society and the world at large.

What’s that one quality that makes a dog so endearing to you?

The unwavering loyalty and boundless joy that a dog brings are unmatched. No one, not even your children or spouse, can match the sheer energy and affection a dog showers upon you within the first few seconds of entering your home. There have been times when I’ve waited for our three dogs to return from their evening walk because I couldn’t bear to enter an empty home without their warm greeting.

Who looks after your pooches when they fall ill? Any favourite vet?

We’ve been fortunate to have fantastic veterinarians in our lives, thanks to Aditi. Additionally, our house helpers, who love our dogs as much as we do, play a crucial role. They ensure the dogs receive their medicines on time, monitor any changes in behaviour, and make sure they are never bored. Our house helpers even enjoy traveling with us when we take the dogs to Lonavala or pet-friendly malls.

There are many stray dogs and cows roaming the streets. Do you plan to build a shelter for these creatures in the near future?

Rather than building our own shelter, I prefer to support existing initiatives led by dedicated individuals. We regularly donate food to shelters and assist in finding homes for strays. I believe it’s more effective to bolster the efforts of those already doing remarkable work in this field than to start something anew. Our goal is to contribute positively to society and the world at large.