Shop dogs: Service with a woof |

Shop dogs: Service with a woof

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyStella Blu takes a break during her work day Thursday at Verbatim Booksellers, where she greets customers as they enter.

VAIL ” There weren’t any movie stars or performers putting on a show that made people gather at The Moose’s Caboose. But there were local celebrities of sorts that had everyone’s attention.

As people walking on Bridge Street noticed Isis and Lily, some called out to them by name just to say hello. Others made their way over to talk to them.

“Hi doggie,” 3-year-old Helen Morrison said as she pulled her father along to get a closer look at Lily. Without noticing, the girl passed right by a toy store and said, “Daddy, look. The doggie has two different eyes. I want to go in and see it.”

Isis and Lily, Australian shepherds whose owner is also the owner of the gift shop, have become well known around the valley for the work they do every day. They don’t operate the cash register, or stock merchandise, but Isis and Lily do get paid to be a visitor’s best friend and brighten people’s day.

Passers by can donate money in the dogs’ “puppy tips” jar, and all proceeds go to the Humane Society, said Candi Knox, Lily’s and Isis’s owner, . They collect about $2,000 a year laying in the front window of the shop, just being friendly.

“Isis started two years ago when she was 9-months-old, and Lily started about a year later when she was a puppy too,” Knox said. “It was amazing how much joy they brought to people in the shop and on the street, and how it affected those people to donate.”

Raising money for the Humane Society was the right thing to do, as the pair are the first dogs Knox has owned that weren’t adopted, she said.

The dogs also bring many customers into the store who otherwise may not have come in, Knox said.

Across the village at Verbatim bookstore, Stella Blu has the same affect on shoppers.

“When people come walking by most think she is either a rug laying there or a stuffed dog,” Verbatim owner Robert Aikens said. “When she moves they all yell and start laughing. Then they just kind of end up in the store.”

Stella Blu, an English sheepdog, was rescued after she was abandoned by a skier, and she has been coming to work with Aikens every day since she recovered, Aikens said.

Having your dog at work makes rough days seem easier, and the love they have for you can make the whole day better, Knox said.

When she tells Lily “I love you,” Lily responds with a resounding “woof.”

“Isis and Lily are family, and having them here has helped us all grow into a big, happy family,” Knox said. “There’s a nice comfortable feeling that comes with having them here.”

The shop owners and employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from having the dogs around, Aikens said.

“Blu makes coming to work more fun, but she is also an unexpected surprise for visitors,” Aikens aid. “It’s funny because we have people who come in and read to her, some offer to take her for walks, and some just spend time petting her.”

The energy and comfort that comes from Blu’s presence at the store is necessary to her happiness and Aikens’ own well-being, he said.

Can dogs really make people happier and healthier?

Dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than non-dog owners, and just petting a dog has been shown to reduce blood pressure, The American Heart Association reports.

Pet owners also have better emotional health than people who don’t own a pet, according to the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists.

Isis, Lily and Stella Blu have all been trained, but even the most well-behaved dog has its limits when it comes to being in the public eye.

“I always stress that children should not put their faces in the dogs’ faces, or pull on them,” Knox said. “They do love kids, but no dog wants to have their personal space invaded.”

After Stella Blu was heard growling at a child who poked her in the eye she was trained to go into the office when children come near her, Aikens said.

More common than a lack of patience with children is a desire to roam free, and Stella Blu, Isis and Lily have all been guilty of running, their owners said.

As a puppy Lily was a free spirit who liked to wander off, especially with other dogs, Knox said. Now that she is an adult, Lily no longer runs away to play.

“Once, Blu and her boxer friend ran off together and were gone for eight hours,” Aikens said. “People kept telling me they saw her but nobody questioned why I wasn’t with her. She was found though, and that mostly happened when she was younger.”

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or

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