Shop Dog

RB tales feature

Not long ago I was at a conclave for fly shop owners. One evening, before dinner, I was enjoying a beer and conversing with several other shop owners. The topic of conversation was all about our shop dogs. If you have a fly shop it is a prerequisite that you must have an in-house shop dog. Preferably the breed should be of the hunting verity; Labrador retrievers are very popular. Many shop dogs have names that reflect the brand name of one of the products carried by the shop; names like Sage, Winston and Scott are popular. The shop dogs are expected to greet customers at the door and to provide entertainment for the customer’s children and sometimes their wives.

Our shop has the prerequisite shop dog and yes she is a Lab, although her name is Summer, which has nothing to do with branding. She has been the official and only shop dog almost since the day we opened the shop twelve years ago. She has faithfully greeted customers every day since she came on board and to my knowledge has never complained about the hours or called in sick. The first couple of days at the shop there were a few rough spots, but she soon got the idea of the job requirements. The shop’s bathroom door still has a few chew marks that bare testament to those early days. She was adopted so it is understandable why there might have been an adjustment period.RB-tales-I

Like all shop dogs and the children of Lake Woebegone she is above average; incidentally I have never heard of a shop dog that was not. One of Summer’s more interesting talents is that she knows how to work the power windows in our car. I am not really sure how she figured this out, but she not only learned how to do it in my wife’s car; she has also figured out that she can do it in my mother’s car. On the other hand she learned just as quickly that it would not work in my truck, as I have the old fashioned hand cranked roll up windows; having an opposing thumb is a handy thing.  My guess is that the first time it happened it was by accident, but over a very short period she learned that she could do it every time. When we traded in the old car for a newer one it too came with power windows, but the buttons that activates them were in a different position. Summer struggled with them for a long time, finally she got her paw in the right place and the window opened. When it happened, I swear that she turned and smiled at me. Maybe there is some truth to those bumper stickers that read: “My dog is smarter than your honor student”.

During those first days of Summer’s arrival at the shop I tried to hitch her to the railing post out front of the shop. The result was two leashes being chewed in half. I finally gave up on the idea; however, Summer got the idea that she was not to leave the porch and will not to this day leave unless accompanied by one of us. The building the shop is located in also has a pizza shop. Summer knows very well what the boundaries are and will not wander into the restaurant even when enticed by some well-meaning dinner offering pizza. This does not stop her from accepting the occasional hand-out. Her one flaw may be that she lies like a rug. Anyone leaving the pizza shop gets a sad story of how she is abandoned and has not eaten in over a week. If there is ever an Oscar for the best sob story, Summer will win hands down.

Summer is an accomplished fly fishing dog. For a breed of dog that was practically born in the water Summer has always know that you do not go into the water while someone is fishing; something that most spin fishermen don’t know. From the first time she accompanied me on a fishing trip she instinctively knew that swimming was off limits until all the lines had been reeled in. At which point it is expected that someone will throw a stick until that gets boring and it is time to go home. I have heard of other shop dogs that actively take part in the fishing. Some dogs, I am told will spot fish much like birds and even show some excitement when a fish has been hooked. Summer’s idea of a good fishing trip is to explore the river banks, chew up the occasional stick and make sure that she keeps an eye on me or more importantly my wife should she accompany us. I have on several occasions allowed her to inspect a trout that I have caught. After a quick sniff she walks away probably wondering why we bother with such a worthless critter.  RB-tales-2

The great tragedy of owning and loving a dog is that they just about always pass on before we do. At twelve years I know that day cannot be that far away. Her muzzle and her paws are almost all white now. A lady in the shop the other day asked her if she had been in the sugar bowl. She spends a lot more time sleeping in her bed behind the counter and occasionally fails to wake up for a customer. However, when on a fishing trip she shows no sign of slowing down, but she is always glad to get back to the truck and pays for it the next day. I know how she feels. Every dog I have ever had is still in my heart and I know this one will be too. In the mean time we still have a lot of fishing to do.

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