The Fuzzy Faces of Main Street

By Virginia Kovach                                                              

           I met my favorite coworker at Everts Flowers before I even interviewed for the job. He was looking at me as I came to the counter to inquire about any openings. I noticed his friendly – but not too friendly – demeanor, his quiet confidence, and his complete ease with his surroundings. Just knowing he was there made me even more certain that I wanted to work at Everts.

            I’m speaking, of course, of Remington, the great, respectable (if unpredictable) shop cat. Nobody is better at reminding me that I am lucky to work at a beautiful downtown business like Everts. Nobody is better at making me smile. And nobody is better at driving us all crazy sometimes!

            One day, we noticed Remington approach the water cooler with a curious look on his little face. He stood on his hind legs and tapped the water handle with his paw. The ensuing “splash!” was so delightful to him that he repeated the action. Then he repeated it again… and again. We all laughed (I even got a video on my cell phone). The customers got a kick out of it. Remi got so hooked on that little “splash!” that he started hanging out by the water cooler for most of the day. It wasn’t long before I started to notice a damp patch forming at the base of the water cooler when I opened the shop in the morning. Then the damp patch became a bigger damp patch, and we noticed the water level descending rapidly. We tried to outwit Remi by placing baskets or boxes in front of the water cooler at night, but somehow, he always got through. Finally, we had to get rid of the thing. Remi had defeated us. No more cool water for us! Like I said, nobody is better at driving us all crazy. But we love him. How could we not?

            I asked Brian Smith, the Everts owner, why he has a shop cat.

            “We like to be around animals,” he said. “We grew up with cats. I think people enjoy coming in to see a cat, especially people who used to have a cat that can’t have one anymore. It’s like therapy for them.”

            If you walk up and down Main Street in Ames, you will meet our Remington, but you might be surprised to find which other shops have furry employees. I took a walk downtown and I found, among others, a chihuahua at a salon, a cat in a bike store, and a black lab in a jewelry store!

            I met Violet the Chihuahua at Valor and Violet, a salon on Main Street. She was, like most shop pets, friendly and curious. Kari, one of the salon owners, said Violet was initially a little standoffish but has since opened up to the customers. Except people with hats. For some reason, people wearing hats really make Violet nervous. I theorized with Kari about whether this was because Violet, a rescue dog, had a bad history with someone who wore hats, or whether it’s just hard for her to read people if she can’t see their faces very well. Either way, I have a feeling she will get used to all kinds of people soon enough. When I met Violet, Kari had only just gotten her three weeks ago.

            Another famous Main Street pet is Willow, the Basset Hound who comes to work with Michael and Barb Morris at Treats on a Leash. Treats on a Leash is a gourmet dog treat and pet toy store, so it makes a lot of sense for the Morrises to share their beloved dog with her adoring public. The logo for Treats on a Leash is a Basset Hound, so in many ways Willow is the shop’s mascot.

            “Our customers love Willow. They come in looking for Willow and they’re disappointed when she’s not here,” Morris said. Willow was rescued from a poor breeding situation, Barb said, so Willow doesn’t always trust people easily. Barb and Michael have been sending Willow to Doggy Day Care to try to strengthen Willow’s confidence. The Morrises have a heart for rescue animals. They host adoption events at their store, bringing in animals from rescue organizations to meet and greet potential owners.

            Moving down that same block of Main Street, you will find two more furry faces in separate jewelry stores. Kota, the two-year-old yellow lab at Ames Silversmithing, is still learning how to handle himself in the store, said owner Gary Youngberg.

            Kota replaces Tucker, their previous yellow lab, a “big, strong, barrel-chested dog,” who would lie around on the floor in one spot without moving, and let people pet him. Kota is a pointing lab, bred smaller than Tucker.

            “He gets plenty excited to come into work and see everybody,” Youngberg said. When Kota comes in to the shop, he’s often sitting next to owner Karen Youngberg, with a leash on, observing everybody. Eventually, Youngberg said he envisions Kota hanging out in the shop without a leash.

             Gilger Designs has Durbin, an 8-year-old black lab. She is very well-mannered, almost shy at first, but friendly if you want her to be. Michael Gilger said he believes dogs should be with their masters during the day, not at home alone. If you ask him, Gilger will show you Durbin’s tricks (which include rolling over, playing dead, and dancing). Like many dog owners, Gilger is proud of his pet’s intelligence. “She understands about 600 words,” he said.

            The last shop pet on our tour is Rover, the tuxedo cat who lives at Skunk River Cycles. He’s mostly black with a white “bow tie” under his chin and a white tip at the top of his tail. Ronn Ritz, the owner of Skunk River, told me Rover likes his head “mauled.”

“If you are interested in being friends with a cat, you can just do this to them” – here Ritz stopped and mussed up the hair on the top and sides of Rover’s head with one motion – “and they just sort of turn into putty.”

I’ve been a cat person all my life, and I’m just learning about this. Better late than never, I guess!

Thanks for coming along with me on this Main Street critter tour. Now, next time you visit Main Street, you can: buy some flowers at Everts and meet Remington the cat, have your hair cut at Valor and Violet and visit with Violet the Chihuahua, pick up some dog treats for your own dog at Treats on a Leash and met Willow the Basset Hound, purchase some gorgeous jewelry at Ames Silversmithing and pet Kota the Yellow Lab, purchase some more gorgeous jewelry at Gilger Designs and meet Durbin the Black Lab, and buy a new bike (or fix your old one) at Skunk River Cycles and meet Rover the Cat. Sounds like a perfect day to me!