Erin patiently waiting at door
From an early age Erin was actively socialized and being molded into the special dog whom would eventually be canine ambassador to the world. Enrolled in numerous obedience courses at the tender age of six month; they were all passed with relative ease thus I felt comfortable enough to venture out in public places with an adolescent dog attached to my side. The Gallery Espresso in downtown historic Savannah was discovered on a leisurely stroll and it became a regular haunt for over a decade after being informed the establishment allowed obedient dogs inside if they remained leashed at all times. Erin quickly became a common sight on the premise and the friendly staff took a special interest in her; she loved the attention heaped upon her whether from an employee, customer, or a fellow canine. There was little doubt when another dog wandered inside with its owner as my outstretched arm felt afire by the overly excited kid at the other end of the leash; with unlimited endurance and the instinct to socialize we had to say hello to all four-legged friends.
This independent coffee shop was the first establishment to welcome Erin with open arms thus was most beneficial to the early development of her social and obedience skills. Much credit is given to the bustling environment as it accelerated her tolerance of large crowds, undisciplined children pawing her, and loud abrupt noises; all of which she mastered on the way to being a certified therapy dog. The owner and employees became part of our extended family and along the way they shared in her many achievements and milestones, wacky adventures, and expressed concern when a medical issue arose. Newspaper clippings featuring Erin and her therapy dog bookmark somehow became attached to the fridge for all to see; that made me very proud and happy. She showed up to brighten the life's of the employees and customers alike and the feeling was quite mutual as that beaming grin told everyone she was a girl who came to socialize and maybe gain a few dog biscuits in the process :) In jest it was said she was the Gallery Espresso's mascot and that was probably true as no other creature had such admirers or a profound effect upon the establishment as a whole.
Over the years many dogs trod indoors upon Erin's turf but most never returned after their initial appearance; they would bark or whimper, leap upon the couches, counter surf, or perform other undesirable behaviors. Whenever a dog acted unruly the owner (Judy) and I would exchange glances as if to say "that animal must go" meanwhile I was glowing inside with pride as my girl lay near my feet napping or patiently waiting for attention or food from a soft-hearted tourist. Erin attended many art exhibits on the property; she was invited as her social reputation was beyond pristine and in truth, she usually behaved better than most humans including myself. We scoped out the hanging pieces of art while taking advantage of the free wine and platters of food, when nobody was looking I'd toss her chunks of cheese or a variety of meats that disappeared in an instance; we were the live action version of Scooby and Shaggy. There were always friends at these gatherings and none were surprised to see Erin whom ventured where other dogs only dreamt of; the mental image of her knocking over a table of food thankfully never occurred and everyone went home fat and happy.
The weather in Savannah could be judged by whether Erin and I were sitting indoors or outside with a group of friends who made the Gallery Espresso a second home. In decent weather conditions we would all sit together near the doorway where we attempted to solve the world's problems through political discussions while Erin greeted the hordes of tourists with her million dollar smile and an enthusiastic tail wag. The hearts of so many were won after gazing into her eyes; these visitors would pet her while speaking of their dog left behind in a kennel, etc...Erin was content being a surrogate dog if that meant lots of loving for her. Over the years many regular customers became friends to us, they showed much concern when we didn't make an appearance for awhile and it was very worrisome when a visit to vet was the primary reason since they had witnessed her grow from a youngster to a senior citizen.
In Loving Memory
The morning following Erin's passing I went to The Gallery Espresso but for the first time I had a heavy heart walking through the doorway; my happiness was replaced with sorrow and grief. Wearing dark shades and in obvious emotional distress I stumbled to the counter. "Where's Erin?" inquired Judy. Unable to speak I shook my head as if everything was a bad dream. "She's gone" is all I could manage in reply. "She's gone" I reiterated and then it hit home for the staff whom came around for a tearful embrace. What a somber scene it was as the events of the medical nightmare were retold; Erin visited less than 48 hours before thus it was a shock that she was now deceased. It was my desire to inform Judy and her staff before anyone else since they had been so good to her and made us most welcome for almost a decade; from the cradle to the grave sums up the relationship very nicely. In one final gesture the staff prominently displayed the tribute article to Erin in the Savannah newspaper; it was hung for all who entered to see and it was touching in many ways. These days every hint of her physical existence is gone but not in the hearts of those she touched and those numbers are many. For myself, the visits aren't as frequent without Erin but I still make appearances to say hello to our friends and friends they'll always remain... RIP Erin!!