Berwyn, a golden retriever/Labrador retriever mix, commutes to A.K.A. Stella Gray (2105 Magazine St., 504-208-2300) every week from Clinton, La. — a three-hour drive each way. It's a long journey, but Berwyn seems to find his job worth the trip.
"He likes to assist people," says his owner, Kim Bice, who works alongside the store's owner and her friend of 23 years, Dianna Knost. "He stands beside them while they're looking."
There's a lot to browse in the year-old store's bohemian-luxe inventory of unusual jewelry, furniture, pottery, lamps, chandeliers, candles, art, curiosities and more. When he is not allowed to accompany customers as they shop, Berwyn sulks by turning his back to everyone. His sullen demeanor gives new meaning to the expression "hangdog."
Nine-year-old Berwyn's name is Old English for "best friend, bright friend." The dog originally belonged to Knost's son, Gunnar. When Gunnar was 8 years old, his teacher found a puppy roaming the streets and brought him to school. Gunnar took the pup home and a close boy-and-his-dog relationship was born.
After Gunnar went off to boarding school in Massachusetts in 2011, Berwyn became attached to Bice, now his primary caretaker and spoiler. A former vet tech and current pet sitter, Bice is a veritable animal magnet, Knost says. But Berwyn is still very much a part of the Knost family. During the week, Bice and Berwyn stay with Knost. This Christmas, they traveled to Wyoming with the Knosts for a holiday vacation. "He loves the snow," Bice says.
Attending to shoppers, waiting for visits by special friends, accepting deliveries and going for walks are all part of his daily activities. "He doesn't nap; he works all day," Bice says of her 90-pound coworker, whom she describes as gentle, sweet and protective. With so much to do, he wisely devotes his days off to catching up on much-needed R&R. From 10 a.m. to noon, he suns himself, and from noon to 5 p.m., he naps. He also spends a lot of time chasing squirrels in the large yard he shares with four cats and three dogs (all rescues).
Though well-behaved and professional at work, Berwyn occasionally gives in to temptation. When commuting, he relishes going to drive-throughs with Bice for bits of burger and fries. He also loves baked goods, which became obvious when Bice walked him past Starbucks on Magazine Street one day.
"A woman was about to take a bite of her muffin, and he swooped in and took the whole muffin," she says. "We had to buy her another one."
Mischief aside, Berwyn looks forward to going to work in the morning, and his loyalty and enthusiasm never wane. "He likes to be in front of the counter where he can see people come in," Bice says.
my favorite things ...
The other dogs and cats in my family
Carrying my leash in my mouth when it's time for a walk
Rides in the car