by Kirby Lindsay
This column originally appeared, in a slightly different version, in The Seattle Press, published July 26, 2000. More updated information follows the column.
Fremont was a black cat. Born deformed, she was abandoned under the Fremont Bridge where I first met her. Many workers in the adjacent Industrial Center(now the Quadrant Lake Union Center) fed and looked after her for years until Delores Neumiller, bookkeeper at Fremont Dock Company, took her into the office to live. She slept on a pillow on Delores’ desk and evaluated visitors with a wary, suspicious eye for the many happy years remaining in her long life.
Today Max, a 9 year-old boxer, guards Loud Music Company (223 N 36th), but he is anxious to befriend everyone. The sign on Rob Skinner’s place of business, “Dog In Shop”, understates just how much dog there is. Max accompanies Rob nearly everywhere and Rob is designing ear protection/headphones for Max so he can even tolerate low frequency noises and sit in on Rob’s band rehearsals. At Loud Music, Rob repairs and sells instruments, while Max sits in the window and watches the comings and goings of the 7-Eleven across the street. Rob likes having a dog because “he forces me to be responsible. I have to be on my best to tend to his needs.”
Meet Bubba, Colette and MushMouth
Bubba, a 5-year-old Staffordshire-Terrier mix, is neither as large as Max nor as overwhelmingly friendly. In fact, Karen Mountain admitted that “some days he ‘says’ he doesn’t want to go” to work at Bark Natural Pet Care (513 N 36th.) Otherwise you can find him examining passerby on the sidewalk or visiting with Colette and MushMouth inside. These two cats live in the shop and interact with customers, or watch them from high perches or inside a display case where they have beds.
Customers often drop in the store, just to visit their favorite furry friends, and many peek in the windows at night to see the cats playing. It was reports from customers, of mice dining on dog biscuits in the bakery case that prompted Karen to offer the cats a home. There hasn’t been a mouse about the building since.
There isn’t a mouse problem at Fremont’s Twice Sold Tales(now Ophelia’s Books, 3504 Fremont Ave N,) either. And birds had best beware. Ophelia, who has been a shop cat for all of her four years, hunts flies as well. She also practices yoga and bowling, and drinks Odwalla SuperFood to keep in shape. “She is a round, and well-rounded cat,” proclaims Lisa Gayton (now Perry), the shop’s owner. Ophelia also leaps on to the window ledge, then cries for Lisa’s help to return. Lisa has two cats at home, but Ophelia may see more of her. “I spend more time here than at home, if you don’t count sleep.”
Meet Sam & Hugo, & Friends
For Sam, a pure-bred Labrador, and Hugo, a mixed breed, playing with canine friends, Cash, Jake and Zack, is part of the work day. The offices of Flip Builders Inc.(then at 469 N 36th), are located in a small converted house that can get very cozy between 19 employees and five dogs. Dave Wheeler decided to get a dog after enjoying the other dogs and knowing “I could bring him to work and see him all the time.” Plus, all day Hugo, 8 months old, exercises with the other dogs, and enjoys the outdoors in the small front yard.
Sam, at age 3, has experienced the drawbacks of an office, where new things always need examining. When the mail carrier accidentally dropped his canister of pepper spray Sam, ever on the alert, picked it up for him and punctured the can with a tooth – gaining a mouth full of pepper. Dave, unsure what to do, took Sam in a headlock into the bathroom and sprayed him down – an exercise Sam ALWAYS detests. Dave left to get Sam’s papa, Matt Brown, and a co-worker called the vet. Sam was unwillingly getting his mouth sprayed with more water when Matt returned. “He seemed to be saying, ‘If you only knew what I have been through,’” Matt recalled. Of course, Sam bounced back quickly. Later that day when Matt carried the ruined spray can to the trash, Sam eagerly bounded over to investigate what neat new toy he had.
“No lack of entertainment,” summed up Matt’s feelings about having the dogs in the office. Certainly his opinion is in the majority. A casual straw poll gave names of 20 businesses in Fremont that have pets, plus, many businesses, like Frank & Dunya and Rain City Video, who enjoy and give treats to visiting animals. Fremont the Cat was not the first provider of love and entertainment at work, and the tradition continues as many animals thrive in our business district. After all, the Fremont community has always embraced citizens of every background - even those who walk on all fours.
UPDATE: Loud Music Company moved from its location (most recently home to Azzurri) shortly after the publication of this column. Karen Mountain sold Bark Natural Pet Care, which became Railey’s Leash & Treats and closed in 2009. Twice Sold Tales converted into Ophelia’s Books, after the passing of its namesake in 2005. Flip Builder’s moved from its location described above to 1311 N 35th, and is now becoming E*SMB Contractors. None of the animals mentioned above remain in the neighborhood, but others continue to come and reside – and we welcome them all!
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.