MAN’S BEST FRIEND, BUSINESS PARTNER: Destin’s shop dogs double as ‘salesmen’ and greeters

Jordan Swanson

For some Destin business owners, their furry friends are the best salesmen.

The Log met up with local shop pets and their owners to find out more about these welcoming dogs that join them at work mainly because the customers look forward to seeing them.

When you walk up to End Zone Apparel, rescue dog Layla, a Great Pyrenees lab mix, may be there to greet you at the door. She proudly serves as the store’s greeter and even “babysitter” for parents who come in with their kids and let them play with Layla while they shop.

“I have customers that come in just to see her and bring her treats,” said owner of End Zone Apparel and Layla, Kristal Roberts.

Layla is named after the Eric Clapton song “Layla.”

To fit in with the store’s sports theme, Layla has special attire.

“She’s got an LSU jersey that she wears on game day,” Roberts said.

About a half mile down the road, Friday at The Doggy Bag can be found carrying toys around in her mouth and helping customers choose items to purchase for their pups.

“She’s a good salesmen,” said her owner and owner of The Doggy Bag, Carol Gentemann.

Gentemann said that when Friday was just 5 months old, a woman dropped her off at Gentemann’s store, asking her to look for someone to take her in because she could no longer afford her.

“I never got around to looking,” said Gentemann, adding that the day they were introduced was Friday the 13th, hence her name.

Another one of Friday’s favorite things to do around the store is to break down the cardboard boxes that the store items come in.

“She’s very environmentally aware,” said Gentemann, adding, “She’s just a good feeling in here.”

Back to the East there is a Shih Tzu named Valentina Bella ready to seat you at Cuvee Bistro.

“When I got her I wanted her to be an Italian puppy,” said her owner Tim Creehan, who co-owns Cuvee Bistro with Pam Wellborn.

Valentina Bella, or “Tina” as Creehan and Tina’s other owner and “stylist” Wellborn call her for short, is great with adults and children. She stays in the hostess stand at the restaurant most of the time, donning her Cuvee Bistro attire that matches the cocktail servers’.

“She even has her body double for nights off,” Creehan said, holding up Tina’s look alike in stuffed animal form.

“People bring her outfits, toys, and treats,” said Wellborn, adding that one customer even tried to buy her a cocktail.

Over on Destin harbor at Dockside Watersports, Rudy the Bernese Mountain dog enjoys sitting on the steps of the bar area during evening hours and staying indoors at the rental area during the day.

“People come back year after year to see him,” said Bruce Belser, Rudy’s owner and owner of Dockside. “Especially, the kids.”

He’s made such a name for himself around the place that even the Dockside T-shirts have his picture on them.

Belser bought Rudy as a Christmas present for his daughter. His name derives from an incident that happened the day that he was brought home. Rudy managed to get up on the roof of their home and fell off, breaking his leg, thus, providing inspiration for his name.

“Rudy is short for Rudolph,” said Belser.