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Pet ambassadors help welcome customers at retail businesses

| Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, 11:03 a.m.

Retail therapy has extra meaning.

An increasing number of shop owners in Western Pennsylvania are bringing their pets to work, and some actually reside at their respective business.

Although the pets may not punch a clock or earn a salary, they are paid with treats, affection and hugs.

Think of the animals as customer service ambassadors.

Sparkles the 'Christmas Cat'

Customer Diane Crawford of Vandergrift (left) says goodbye to Sparkles, the resident cat. Sparkles is held by Linda Ban, manager at Kiski Plaza Garden and Feed Center in Allegheny Township.

Photo by Joyce Hanz

 

Take Sparkles, for example.

Sparkles is a petite black feline with a penchant for rolling happily on the ground while visiting with customers.

She resides full time, cohabiting with another cat, Peat, at Kiski Plaza Garden and Feed center in Allegheny Township.

During the holidays she sports a tricked out Christmas collar designed by manager Linda Ban. Sparkles is known as the "Christmas Cat."

Customer Diane Crawford of Vandergrift has shopped at the garden center for seven years.

"I like seeing (the cats) and they are like a part of the family," Crawford says.

And yes, there's science on pet therapy

A 2012 Virginia Commonwealth University study on dogs in the workplace backs up what humans already figured out — pets in the workplace, it's a win-win.

The study said employees who brought their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol.

Gretchen Young, LCSW and a senior oncology social worker in Kittanning, says her past experience working in a psychiatric unit where pet therapy was utilized reinforced studies showing the comfort factor animals provide.

"Animals are known to decrease blood pressure, have a calming effect on people, decrease anxiety and increase the happy hormones (endorphins)," Young says. "It's a win-win situation and animals love the attention and we reap the rewards of their affection."

Zoie the cavalier

Meet 9-year-old Zoie, a King Charles cavalier. She visits with customers at the Hole In The Wall Gallery in Lower Burrell weekly.

Photo by Joyce Hanz

 

Zoie, a 9-year-old King Charles cavalier, rules the rooms at Hole in the Wall Gallery in Lower Burrell.

Sporting a blinged out shiny Swarovski crystal collar, Zoie has a following.

"Zoie is more popular than me here," says Hole in the Wall owner Christine Dymkoski. "I've actually had customers pull up here (to the store) and come in to see if Zoie was here."

Skye the mountain dog

Judy Fair, a licensed acupuncturist, co-owns Back to Balance in Freeport and brings her 9-month-old Bernese mountain dog Skye to work daily in Freeport.

Photo by Joyce Hanz

 

Skye, a 9-month-old Bernese mountain dog, has basically grown up at Back To Balance, a chiropractic/acupuncture practice in downtown Freeport.

"Skye has been in our office since she was 8 weeks old," says owner Judy Fair. "She is a favorite of all of the patients, especially our pediatric and adult patients who I think look forward to seeing Skye in the office more than they look forward to actual treatment in the office."

Rori and Archie do beauty

Layla Fetterman, owner of Layla Marie Salon in Greensburg, often wears Rori, her 12-year-old blind teacup Yorkshire terrier, in a cloth sling while she tends to her clients.

Photo by Joyce Hanz

 

Lyn Emrick of Greensburg is a regular at Layla Marie Salon and she scoops up little Rori, a 12-year-old blind teacup Yorkshire terrier each time she visits, snuggling with her nestled underneath her salon robe.

"(Rori's) little feet should never touch the ground," Emrick says. "The bonus coming here are the pooches."

Archie, a two-year old French Bulldog, loves to receive treats from customers and watches for arriving clients from the giant salon window overlooking South Main Street in downtown Greensburg.

Archie, a French bulldog, peers from a storefront window, waiting to greet customers at Layla Marie Salon on South Main Street in Greensburg.

Photo by Joyce Hanz

 

Layla Fetterman, salon owner, says when she opened in 2014 she made pets in the workplace her priority.

Customers may bring in their own pets, and she says one client ushered in a pig. Fetterman often wears Rori in a soft cloth sling while she tends to her clients.

"It was important to me to have dogs in here because to me they bring so much joy and enrich the work environment," Fetterman says. "Most of our clients really love to come in and play with them, and we love being able to spend every day with them."

Rufus rules the roost

Westmoreland Mall's lower level is where you'll find Rufus, a four-year old Teddy Bear ShihTzu Bichon at Barbara Ann's Country Home Furnishings.

Rufus was the runt of the litter, say owners Barbara and Randy Day, so they decided to give him a "strong" name.

Rufus rides around the mall in a red doggie stroller and is trained to remain in there.

He loves to be called "handsome" says Barbara, and the couple consider him to be their baby.

Rufus dresses up for events, such as a giraffe costume this week for Halloween night at the mall.

"I tell Rufus, 'We are going to work today,' and he jumps up and loves it," Barbara says. "He puts his front paws up on his stroller and loves the attention."

Playground for cats

Punkin and Yoda are feline siblings that reside full time inside Stanford Home Center in Leechburg.

Punkin, one of two resident cats at Stanford Home Center in Allegheny Township, relaxes on stacks of bird seed while Raidyn George, 4, of Parks Township gets a closer look while shopping.

Photo by Chaz Palla

 

Both are excellent mousers, always a plus in hardware stores stocked with feed, seed and such, says employee Sherry Nadolny of Leechburg.

Nadolny manages the paint department and keeps treats at the ready for both cats. Yoda is more shy and Punkin is more outgoing, she says.

"They greet us every morning and having them here while we work is a great benefit," Nadolny says. "The store is like a big playground for them."

Christmas season is the cat's favorite says Nadolny, due to numerous Christmas trees and decorations that are on display.

"We will find ornaments and stuffed animals in other parts of the store," Nadolny says.

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Customer Holly Hyzy of South Huntington gets a smooch from Rufus, a 4-year-old shih tzu-bichon at Barbara Ann’s Country Home Furnishings in Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield.
Joyce Hanz
Customer Holly Hyzy of South Huntington gets a smooch from Rufus, a 4-year-old shih tzu-bichon at Barbara Ann’s Country Home Furnishings in Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield.
Punkin, one of two resident cats at Stanford Home Center in Allegheny Township, relaxes on stacks of bird seed while Raidyn George, 4, of Parks Township gets a closer look while shopping.
Joyce Hanz
Punkin, one of two resident cats at Stanford Home Center in Allegheny Township, relaxes on stacks of bird seed while Raidyn George, 4, of Parks Township gets a closer look while shopping.
Archie, a French bulldog, peers from a storefront window, waiting to greet customers at Layla Marie Salon on South Main St. in  Greensburg.
Joyce Hanz
Archie, a French bulldog, peers from a storefront window, waiting to greet customers at Layla Marie Salon on South Main St. in Greensburg.
Layla Fetterman, owner of Layla Marie Salon in Greensburg, often wears Rori, her 12-year-old blind teacup Yorkshire terrier, in a cloth sling while she tends to her clients.
Joyce Hanz
Layla Fetterman, owner of Layla Marie Salon in Greensburg, often wears Rori, her 12-year-old blind teacup Yorkshire terrier, in a cloth sling while she tends to her clients.
Rufus rides in style in a signature red doggie stroller. Rufus is a certified therapy dog and when he is “working” at Barbara Ann’s Country Home Furnishings in Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield. He is frequently found greeting customers from this cozy perch.
Joyce Hanz
Rufus rides in style in a signature red doggie stroller. Rufus is a certified therapy dog and when he is “working” at Barbara Ann’s Country Home Furnishings in Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield. He is frequently found greeting customers from this cozy perch.
Customer Diane Crawford of Vandergrift (left) says goodbye to Sparkles, the resident cat. Sparkles is held by Linda Ban, manager at Kiski Plaza Garden and Feed Center in Allegheny Township.
Joyce Hanz
Customer Diane Crawford of Vandergrift (left) says goodbye to Sparkles, the resident cat. Sparkles is held by Linda Ban, manager at Kiski Plaza Garden and Feed Center in Allegheny Township.
Meet 9-year-old Zoie, a King Charles cavalier. She visits with customers at the Hole In The Wall Gallery in Lower Burrell weekly.
Joyce Hanz
Meet 9-year-old Zoie, a King Charles cavalier. She visits with customers at the Hole In The Wall Gallery in Lower Burrell weekly.
Judy Fair, a licensed acupuncturist, co-owns Back to Balance in Freeport and brings her 9-month old Bernese mountain dog Skye to work daily in Freeport.
Joyce Hanz
Judy Fair, a licensed acupuncturist, co-owns Back to Balance in Freeport and brings her 9-month old Bernese mountain dog Skye to work daily in Freeport.
Evelyn Higginson of Kittanning visits with Skye, a 9-month-old Bernese mountain dog, at Back to Balance  in Freeport.
Joyce Hanz
Evelyn Higginson of Kittanning visits with Skye, a 9-month-old Bernese mountain dog, at Back to Balance in Freeport.
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