The shop dogs of Seward Street

One greets, another lies there, and yet another passes judgment on applicants

Posted: Monday, November 07, 2005

Getting a haircut on Seward Street means an encounter with a hairy greeter.

The same applies to those who shop for art, cameras or office supplies on the 200 block of the downtown Juneau street.

"It's the street of the retired mutts," said Art Sutch, whose photography and digital imaging business bears his name at 221 Seward St. If people ask him for directions, he suggests they look for the big yellow dog in the window.

Kutya isn't the only dog that comes to work on the odd-numbered side of the block. Up the street from Sutch, Fudge hangs out at Copy Express. Down the street, Hogan is the new dog on the block at The Urban Eskimo, and Bear hangs out at Sportsman Barber Shop.

"He's a friendly, easygoing dog," barber Rhonda Adams said of Bear, who generally sits in a pillow not far from her chair when she's working. "Not every dog can come into work."

Fudge actually has two jobs at Copy Express, a digital copying center and business supply store, business owner Chuck Collins said.

"She greets everyone who comes in, and she sits in on interviews," he said. He considers the six-year-old dachshund a good judge of character when he's considering prospective employees.

"If they can't get along with Fudge, they can't get along with us," Collins said.

The dogs generally have it easy, although Sutch sometimes jokes with customers about putting his to work.

"She's a pretty mellow dog," he said of Kutya. She usually sits in the front window sill, against the glass.

Even the dogs with less-prominent perches get noticed.

"Bear's got his fan club," said his owner, Adams. Sometimes people bring him biscuits.

John DelGado, who opened The Urban Eskimo art and antique shop at the end of September, said people have dropped dog biscuits through the mail slot.

After making a delivery to Sutch, Jeff Gregory of United Parcel Service said, he will sometimes give Kutya a biscuit. He carries biscuits in case he needs them to fend dogs off, he added.

It isn't unusual to see dogs at work in Juneau, he said.

Hogan would find it unusual to stay home, DelGado said. The 11-year-old boxer, with both hind legs scarred from knee surgery, has gone to work with him since he was a 6-month-old pup. He said he would bring Hogan along when he worked in plumbing, both at the business and on the road.

"Here he's most visible," DelGado said. The window at his storefront displays art hanging on the walls, and when the business is open Hogan is usually sitting on a pillow in the middle of the room.

Collins said Copy Express usually makes a place for Fudge to sit in the window and get some sun in the summer, but this year she didn't take the visible spot with work being done on Seward Street.

"She did not care for the construction," Collins said.

Fudge generally comes into work whenever Collins does, he said. His niece got Fudge as a puppy, but about five years ago moved out of the county and could no longer take care of the dog.

"She's barked at some people," Collins said. But Fudge has become one of the faces of the business. A drawing of the dog and the likeness of a paw print show up on some of the things Copy Express prints, Collins said.

"We have people coming in to see her and not me," Collins said.

Kutya, though, is the veteran dog of the block.

Sutch said she is "like a modern-day Patsy Ann," the English bull terrier dubbed Juneau's "official greeter" in the 1930s and now remembered with a waterfront statue.

Kutya started coming to his old location around the corner on Second Street, Sutch said, before he moved to his current location eight years ago. "There she didn't have a window to sleep in."

People think she's a big golden retriever, but her lineage is a bit more exotic, Sutch said. Kutya was born in the Chichagof Island community of Pelican about 40 miles west of Juneau, the product of a purebred Tibetan Mastiff and, he said, "the rogue dog of Pelican."

Kutya is mellow enough that people ask if she's real, Sutch said. Some people knock on the window even though he has put a sign on the glass telling people not to knock. There are a couple of "nemesis dogs" that sometimes find their way up or down Seward Street and get Kutya riled. "She doesn't like dogs in the back of pickup trucks."

At his shop, he takes donations for the Gastineau Humane Society. He said Kutya has probably inspired $2,300 in donations over the years.

Adams said she has brought Bear to work since she adopted him three years ago, after a customer asked if anyone wanted a dog. "My first dog," she said, suggesting more people should become dog owners.

Adams said she understands Bear was born in American Samoa, and scoffed at the idea that he is a mixed-breed.

"He's a Rhodesian ridgeback," she said, stoking his self-esteem.

"I keep an eye on him," Adams said. And Bear is there for her when she is alone in the shop, she added. "He'll get up and say hello. He can tell if people like dogs."

One recent afternoon, Bear got up and greeted regular customer Gary Murdoch, who came in to see when Adams would have time to cut his hair.

He said there was nothing strange about a dog in the barber shop. "I think it's cool," he said. "It's Juneau."

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