Lida and dog

Hotel adoption program brings guests and dogs together

By Sarah May Grunwald

When I first started visiting the country of Georgia, I would have nights when I would cry myself to sleep because there were just so many stray dogs on the streets of Tbilisi.

But meeting pillars of the Tbilisi hospitality industry, Lida Vardania and Mamuka Maisuradze, gave me hope. In fact, what sold me on Georgia was the generosity of the people I met along the way. Perhaps that’s why I have been traveling to Georgia six times a year and started my own wine and food tour company called Taste Georgia.

Lida and Mamuka first renovated an old Georgian building in the old town called No12 Boutique Hotel, where the accommodations include modern rooms and a nod to traditional Georgian décor. Next came a natural wine bar called g.vino right on the main tourist thoroughfare in Tbilisi with a delightfully authentic and well-curated wine list and delicious organic food. Gvino is the Georgian word for wine. It’s my favorite place in Tbilisi to imbibe because I love the food and wine.

Naturally, the couple then opened a wine hotel called g.vino City Wine Hotel, where each of the rooms are named after rare Georgian grape varieties. It is a lovely place to stay in a quiet neighborhood. This is where I choose to stay every time I visit Tbilisi. I like Lida as a person. She has a great love of dogs and does whatever possible to help them.

In fact, a program for homeless dogs at g.vino City Wine Hotel captured my attention and the big hearts of Lida and Mamuka.

Just before the pandemic, I was staying at the hotel and greeted by a dog named Mina as I checked in, assuming the pup belonged to an employee. That’s when I learned how the program for homeless dogs works. The idea is to “host” a street dog at the hotel hoping one of the guests will fall in love and adopt. The owners leave info about the dogs in each room. Lida even offered to pay for the dog’s transportation if the prospective adoption required assistance. During my 10 days there, each morning I found myself waking up earlier and earlier just to have Mina time.

But that wasn’t the first time I’d heard about the couple’s kindness with animals. A few years prior, I met an extraordinary stray dog at a gas station. I called her Betsy. Hunting dogs like “Betsy” are often the victims of abandonment if they aren’t good hunters. The next day, I received a message from Lida with a video of Betsy in the back of her car. She and Mamuka drove over an hour just to pick up Besty, and they took her to a foster home to be cared for until the dog could come home with me. In my entire life, I have never experienced such a gesture of kindness. Lida totally understood the sadness I felt leaving Betsy and she and Mamuka sprung into action.

The story came full circle during the pandemic when I was home in Italy and connected with food blogger Francesca Bruzzese of Pancakes and Biscotti. We connected over our shared love of dogs, and she told me she missed having a dog in her life. Our communication with each other consisted of us sending dog videos from The Dodo. Somehow, Mina came up. After sharing photos and videos of her,  Francesca and her twin sister decided to adopt Mina. Because of COVID-19, there was a six month wait to make the adoption official. In October 2020, I picked up Mina from the airport and brought her to Francesca.

This is all thanks to Lida, who is changing more lives than she knows.

About the journalist:
Sarah May Grunwald is based in Rome and runs the wine and food company Taste Georgia. Her work is published by Fodors, Thrillist, SevenFifty and more.