When shoppers come to Estate Treasures (2014 Magazine St., 679-6600) in the Lower Garden District, they sometimes find it difficult to leave. "If customers go to walk out the door, (Pepper) will stand in front of them (and) put her head right on their hip, as if she's saying, 'Don't leave,'" Sean Matthew says of his red Doberman pinscher, who spends her days at the store.
In 2008, Estate Treasures owner Ken Harper purchased the shop, a former antiques mall. He turned it into a consignment shop offering goods ranging from furniture and household items to art and tchotchkes. It's where 12-year-old Pepper spends her days.
Pepper, or Miss Pepper as Harper likes to call her, was rescued by Matthew's father when she was a pup. Her mother had been abandoned while pregnant. Perhaps fear of a similar fate is responsible for Pepper's relentless drive to socialize. If left alone, Pepper will find a way to seek out company. "She can open doors," Harper says. "If I leave her upstairs, she'll open the door and come down herself." She also loves to go to work and mingle with customers. "That's all I've got to say early in the morning, I say, 'Wanna go see the people?' and she gets excited," Matthew says.
While Pepper loves people, she is also an effective guard dog. "If someone comes in and tries to get behind my counter, she'll bark and she won't let them," Harper says. "She's a protective dog."
Though hostile toward intruders, Pepper gets along well with other animals. She has her own feline companion, Harper's Siamese cat Westbank. "They get along real well," Harper says. Pepper enjoys frolicking with the other dogs at Coliseum Square Park. She does not, however, care too much for the two birds Harper recently acquired that now reside in the store. "I think she's jealous of them," Harper says, laughing. "She's not getting all the attention."
Pepper is both attention- and water-seeking. "If she sees water, even the Mississippi River, she'll jump right in," Matthew says. "I had to go into the Mississippi River one time and get her because she wouldn't come out." Because she likes water so much, she finds regular baths a treat rather than a nuisance. "I bathe her about once every week or so, and she gets right in the bathtub," Harper says. "She likes to get baths."
Pepper does have one slightly odd pastime: "She likes to strip tennis balls," Matthew says. "She'll tear the skin right off the tennis balls, and she'll sit there for hours until she gets that thing." Pepper goes through a bag of 50 tennis balls in about a month.
Ever the lady, Pepper often can be found wearing beads or modeling a pair of sunglasses. She also sometimes wears a "sold" tag on her collar — just to keep things clear. "People say, 'How much is the dog?'" Harper says. "I say, 'She's already purchased. She's not for sale.'"
My Favorite Things...
Mardi Gras beads
Dog treats from Frances' Bakery