There's a celebrity in the lobby of the Fairmont Copley Plaza, and people can't keep their paws off her. Actually, the real paws belong to the star, Catie Copley, an almost 7-year-old black Labrador retriever who serves as the hotel's canine ambassador.
Catie patiently greets fans next to the concierge desk, close to her comfy bed, while PR director Suzanne Wenz holds her red leash. "Catie come" is all it takes to get the star up on all fours and headed toward the elevator to continue her busy day of walks, personal appearances, room deliveries, and, of course, napping. On the way, a young guest tells Catie his room number so she can visit him, and Wenz politely explains that Catie doesn't make house calls but he can visit her in the lobby instead.
Catie originally trained to be a guide dog, but when cataracts forced a career change, she joined the hotel staff in 2004. She commutes to work Tuesday through Saturday on the T from the North Shore with her caretaker, Jim Carey, the hotel's director of concierge services. The canine has since become a well-known public figure in downtown Boston, not to mention the subject of a children's book. In fact, Carey says that since he started hanging around with Catie, he's stopped getting questions about his name.
The ambassador takes several walks a day with hotel guests, and this day's companions include the Schillaci family from Indiana: Gus,13, Dixe, 12, Duke, 11, Ella, 9, and their parents, Adalyn and Jim. The dog greets them with a wagging tail, and after a little cuddling, they head outside. Wenz, who is staying behind at the hotel, tells the children to hang on tight because Catie likes to say hello to other dogs - she is an ambassador, after all. While Adalyn and Jim relax on a bench in Copley Square, the kids take turns walking Catie as they head down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. There are a few stops to take care of business (luckily, nothing that requires picking up), and when Catie does a little digging, Ella finds herself in the line of fire.
Catie's clearly in no hurry. It's humid, but this isn't the only explanation for her slow speed: Living the good life has resulted in a few extra pounds.
Back outside the hotel, the kids say their goodbyes, and take plenty of photos, and Wenz guides Catie to her next engagement, a book reading of "Catie Copley" at the TadPole Playground on Boston Common. As we head down Boylston Street, a Boston Duck Tours guide recognizes Catie. He tells his passengers about the pooch and everyone waves and says "Hi Catie." Within a few seconds, letter carrier Frank Pessin spots his friend - who likes to follow him around the hotel when he delivers the mail: "Hi pumpkin, how's my girlie?" We walk through the Boston Public Garden and across Charles Street, and Catie's next move forces Wenz to pick up more than the pace, if you know what we mean.
In the distance we hear children singing "C-A-T-I-E, and Catie is her name." More than 200 kids are waiting at the playground for the guest of honor. Carey, looking distinguished in full concierge attire, takes her leash, and after Catie slurps up a drink from a water bottle, she's ready for the story. Carey turns the pages while author Deborah Kovacs tells the kids about the Catie in her book, who looks everywhere to find a stuffed bear that belongs to a young hotel guest.
After the reading, Carey fields questions from the children, including one from Scarlett, age 4, who asks what kind of dog Catie is. He tells her that she's a black Lab and adds that Catie's real name is Katie Scarlett (they changed the spelling of her first name to match Copley).
When it's all over, Catie heads back to the hotel in a taxi. What's next, a waiting corps of puppyrazzi?
Drop by to say hi to Catie and check out the Catie-related items in the Fairmont Store. Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston, 138 St. James Ave. 800-441-1414. www.fairmont.com