You’ve seen them everywhere: shop dogs, hanging out with their people in a variety of establishments from auto shops to art galleries. Here are several Bay Area business owners with canine sidekicks at work. The people were happy to share their pups’ origins and explain the roles their furry friends now play in their businesses
Cathy Scott, Pet Sitter, and Moose
When Cathy Scott started her pet sitting business, The Urban Pooch, in San Jose 12 years ago, she had no idea how much it would grow. In a city with over a million people and a quarter- million dogs, the need for professional pet care is high. Between vacation and business travelers and folks with long workdays, Scott soon found her phone ringing off the hook and her schedule full. Like most pet sitters, she started off doing individual dog walks, but a combination of timing and clients’ needs caused her to start doing group walks, better known as “pack walks.”
“Many of my client’s dogs are adopted from shelters or rescue groups,” she explained, “and they need socialization. Some are shy or scared, others are wild and hyper.” Noting the difficulty of schooling each of these individual dogs on walks, instead she uses their natural pack instincts to make things easier for everyone. “A calm dog has a settling affect on the whole group.”
Enter Moose. Moose, so named for his Dumbo-like ears and larger-than-life personality, was one of several mixed-breed puppies fostered by Scott and her husband, Troy. When all the others went off to new homes, Moose stayed behind and became part of the family. As she started taking him on walks, Scott noticed right away how well he fit in to the pack. “He settled the other dogs in the car, calmed them on walks.” Soon Moose became a regular, helping Scott on her daily rounds. Once, he even helped her catch a loose Yorkie that had gotten away from his owners. “The owners were chasing their dog, and he kept running away. I called for them to stop chasing, then I used Moose as a ‘magnet dog,’ and that little Yorkie came up to us and jumped right in the car!”
“Moose helps keep my client dogs safe and teaches them good habits.”
Laura Paine Carr, Artist/Massage Therapist, and Emerson
Laura Paine Carr is a Sonoma County artist and massage therapist. As a resident artist for the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery, she spends a lot of time there greeting locals and tourists and introducing them to the paintings and sculptures the community is known for. Phoenix, an older standard poodle owned by another artist, was a regular at the gallery. He was very popular with visitors who were heartbroken when he passed away. “They still look for him,” Carr said.
When she got Emerson, a black Labrador, as an adorable puppy, she thought he’d be a shoo-in for the gallery, a way to fill the void left by Phoenix, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. “Emerson was a shop-dog fail,” she said with a sigh. Vocal since he was a puppy, he barked at people entering the gallery. “It startled people. He wasn’t being unfriendly, but he’s big and loud. It scared some people.”
Relegated to staying at home, Emerson got a second shot at being a shop dog in Carr’s massage therapy business. More comfortable in his own environment, Emerson is a love bug that loves to be touched and hugged and will look up at you with soulful eyes until you do so. He and his “sister” Luna, a mixed-breed resembling a Dalmatian, greet clients and hang out with them while they receive therapy. Carr always checks with clients to make sure it’s OK with them, and if they are afraid of dogs, Emerson and Luna wait in another room. If the client is comfortable with dogs, they hang out and provide a loving, calming influence. When people connect with animals during therapy, Carr noted, “The energy goes in a beautiful circle.”
Natalee Tappin, Dog Boutique and Spa Owner, and Roxy
The Healdsburg Dog House has been a popular spot for pet lovers for 16 years. Located in trendy downtown Healdsburg, the dog boutique and spa is frequented by locals and tourists alike. A big believer in networking and supporting other local businesses and nonprofits, owner Natalee Tappin sponsors numerous events and fundraisers benefiting the community. Over the years, the shop has seen a number of resident dogs, but none quite like Roxy, aka Crazy.
A Cairn terrier, Roxy has a big-dog personality in a small body. She charms all the customers, even modeling dog clothes for them. “We have over 2,000 pieces of clothing,” said Tappin. “People often see something they like, but aren’t sure if it will fit their dog, or how it will look off the rack.” Seeing the clothes on a dog helps the customer make a decision, and they often take home a toy and other goodies to go with the new canine outfit.
As a full-service grooming salon, “We have a lot of dogs in and out of the shop every day,” said Tappin. Because of this, shop dogs must be well socialized. Roxy and her companions—dogs owned by other employees—love coming to work and help to calm visiting dogs that may be nervous. Buddy, a past shop dog, was a small Pomeranian with an affinity for purses. “We’d laugh when we saw a customer leave an open purse on the counter, because we knew what was coming,” said Tappin. Within minutes, Buddy would jump into the purse, settle down, and refuse to vacate. “He loved purses.”
Roxy also provides companionship to tourists who are missing their own dogs left at home. “When pet owners travel, they visit pet shops,” said Tappin. “They miss their own dogs, so getting to spend time with ours makes them feel happy.”
Brigid Wasson is the founder of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting, providing infrastructure building, management team support, and lifesaving programs for animal shelters across the country. She lives in Sonoma County with three dogs: an Anatolian shepherd, a Corgi/Terrier, and a Pomeranian/terrier. For more information visit AnimalShelterSuccess.com.
Main article photo by: Courtesy Cathy Scott