Travel can be stressful but visitors at Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel are getting some much-needed puppy love.

“Oh, I love Winston!” explains guest Margaret Hardy, after being greeted by the Victoria hotel’s new canine ambassador on Friday. “I think it’s a fabulous idea because it just calms you down.”

Winston, a a two-and-a-half-year-old yellow lab/golden retriever cross, gives guests a big dose of canine cuteness.

“It’s pretty awesome,” says California guest Ray Duarte. “I’ve never been to a hotel that actually has a dog.”

But he also plays an important role as a wellness ambassador, providing pet therapy.

“I think it’s a good idea because a lot of people have been under stress travelling and it’s nice to have him to relax with,” says hotel guest Lisa Lambertson.

Winston’s named after one of the hotel’s most famous guests — Winston Churchill — and trained as a guide dog for the blind, before flunking out.

“Luckily for us, his only flaw was that he was too friendly,” says Tracey Drake, the Fairmont Empress Hotel’s public relations director. “He loves getting attention and also giving attention.”

Vancouver Island businesses becoming more pet friendly

It’s not just hotels that are becoming more and more dog friendly.

On Vancouver Island, there are least 1,000 shops and businesses that welcome pets and let you bring your pooch with you.

Island-owned Heart Pharmacy at Fairfield Plaza is one of them — handing out treats and lots of love to its four-legged customers.

“Being pet friendly adds that extra touch to customer service,” explains Heart Pharmacy’s Stephanie Guilman. “People are picking up their prescriptions and they bring in their dog and we’re really pleased to see their dogs when they come in.”

Back at the Empress, Winston’s laying down on the job as he wraps up a busy first week — famous after a flurry of international media attention.

“People have been coming in off the street saying can we meet Winston?” Drake says. “Where’s Winston? How do we see Winston, so he’s certainly become our little star.”

The popular pooch now even has his own Instagram account and aims to impress, each and every visitor, with his ‘pawsitive’ presence.

Tess van Straaten