Is there anything more welcoming than being greeted at a store by an adorable pooch? Meet some of Columbia’s friendliest — and well-behaved — shop dogs, who happily take on duties ranging from head greeter to childminder and want nothing more in return than a kind word, a pat on the head, and, maybe, a cookie.
Sassy might not be on the payroll at Monkee’s of Columbia, but customers always look forward to visits with her while shopping. “She loves being everyone’s best friend,” says Reece Miller Stevens. Sassy, an 8-year-old terrier mix belonging to Judy Miller, likes to roam the store quietly enjoying everyone’s company while they browse the latest fashions.
“Husbands don’t mind their wives shopping when they can play with Sassy,” Reece says with a smile. “She’s just so even-keeled with a calming presence.”
First-time visitors to Forest Lake Fabrics on Forest Drive are often surprised that, scattered amid the retailer’s hundreds of rolls of toile, velvet, chintz, and other fabrics, lies an assortment of dog toys. Seconds later, as Woody, a friendly, 75-pound goldendoodle owned by Stephanie Marsha Theodore and her husband, Nick, and Gigi, Ginger and Michael Marsha’s 15-pound Havanese, trot gently toward the front door, smiles replace surprise. “Gigi loves to sit on the counter so she can be at eye level with the customers,” says Ginger. “One day she was so sound asleep that a customer thought she was stuffed. When she lifted her head to say hello, I thought the poor woman would faint!”
Like Woody, Molly, a 10-year-old springer spaniel who spends her days with owner Randy Dennis at 2G’s, a clothing store in Five Points, has learned to greet customers with the perfect level of enthusiasm. “Molly seems to know instinctively what customers need,” says Randy. “She says hello but doesn’t follow unless she’s asked, and she never jumps. We’ve had eight shop dogs, all older rescues, and it takes about a week for them to figure it out.” Randy says that Molly, who had been greeting on a temporary basis after he lost his Irish setter, Maggie, joined him permanently when Molly’s family could no longer care for her. “It just doesn’t seem right without a dog being in here,” he says. “She’s been a joy.”
Bessie Bruton, an apricot and white cockapoo who patrols the floor of non(e)such on Devine Street with her owner, Jean Bruton, also follows another long line of perfectly polite shop dogs. The first, Dinky, didn’t make his debut until he was 8 years old. “The children were in school and my mother was traveling, so I brought him with me to the shop,” says Jean. Although Dinky was a natural at his new vocation, shop dogs weren’t yet a tradition at non(e)such, and when Jean’s mother returned to town, Dinky stayed home. That was until one day when a man walked into the shop and asked for Dinky. “Mother was surprised — I hadn’t told her I’d brought Dinky while she was gone. But then the man explained that he had lost his dog and needed to love on Dinky. From that day on, Dinky was a shop dog.”
Four years later, when Jean’s daughter Margaret got Lola, another cockapoo, Dinky set a perfect example for her to follow. Lola returned the favor by training Bessie. “Bessie doesn’t adore other dogs, but she loves every human she’s ever met,” says Jean with a laugh. “Some days I’ll turn the corner and see two customers on the floor patting her. She’s really a sweetie.”
Chloe Wright, a tiny Shih Tzu who keeps Devine Street safe from her perch at Just the Thing, is another shop dog who would rather spend her time with humans than dogs. “She’s got her dog friends, but when she’s at her post at the front window and a dog walks by, she does tend to bark,” says owner Tracy Wright.
Sister and brother duo Bailey and Boss Goldberg may not have windows to patrol at Palmetto Tile on Huger Street, but they don’t mind — the shop’s constant stream of contractors and other clients keep the pair busy all day long. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In 2017, when they made their first appearance at Palmetto Tile on Huger Street, the plan was to keep the 2-month-old Havanese littermates in the office. “Of course, we didn’t,” says Gloria Goldberg, who, with her husband, Henry, owns the inseparable pair. “They’re in and out all day long although their favorite place is Henry’s lap getting belly rubs.”