One of novelist Clyde Edgerton’s more memorable Southern characters is a bulldog named Trouble.
In “Where Trouble Sleeps,” the people of Listre, North Carolina, can determine the weather forecast by the spot where Trouble decides to snooze. For example, if he naps inside his owner’s store, expect rain.
Although Trouble’s meteorology skills may be extraordinary, dogs are an integral part of the retail sector in the South. Their ranks vary from snarling junkyard Doberman to friendly Labradoodle greeter.
The proprietor at Werner’s Trading Co. in Cullman, Alabama, appreciates the skills of a good canine. The official store dog, Mazzie, was famous locally for greeting customers, when she wasn’t napping at the shopkeeper’s desk or the cash register.
Sadly, Mazzie died earlier this year. But her memory endures through her own page on the store’s website.
Presently, my favorite retail canines are the two outside pups that welcome bicycle riders, farmers, cotton-gin workers and diners to the Oakland Café, a rural gas station/restaurant. When you’re hot and exhausted — and don’t think you can keep going — the Oakland dogs are there to encourage you with wagging tails and wide grins. They also gladly accept tips in the form of snacks purchased from the store.
We bicycle riders have a love-hate relationship with dogs. Pets that are allowed to run loose are a hazard. Most are not vicious, but the wheel chasers can cause crashes and serious injuries. So, if you own a dog, please keep it confined to your yard. Or better yet, buy a store and put the mutt to work.
Dogs can provide all types of valuable services in a retail setting. But can they really predict the weather?
For cost and accuracy, I’d say they’re a better value than a TV meteorologist.