CRESTVIEW — Wal-Mart's loss was Walgreen's gain.
When handler Angie Nousiainen offered the services of Dozer the Therapy Dog to the local branch of the world's largest retail store, management was suspicious, she said.
"Wal-Mart couldn't understand why somebody would offer to do something without getting something in return," she said. "They couldn't comprehend it and I just gave up. But Walgreen's jumped on it and said, 'Come here, come here!'"
Dozer is now a monthly greeter at the drug store — and customers love it, Nousiainen said.
Many residents know the friendly black-and-white Great Dane from his visits to nursing homes and as a children's reading dog at the Crestview Public Library.
Now, every second Thursday, Dozer and Nousiainen greet customers inside the drug store’s front door.
"We've had a very good response," Ed Kiefer, the store’s assistant manager said. "We get a lot of people coming in and getting pictures with him."
Having a greeter dog was a local arrangement, not something organized at the chain's corporate level, Kiefer said. When an employee suggested bringing Dozer to the store, management was glad to try it, Kiefer said.
Dozer, who recently started his third year as a therapy dog, is certified with the nationwide Therapy Dogs Inc. organization.
Dozer had to pass four levels of obedience training at a local canine training facility and take a "pretty strict test” for certification, Nousianen said. He also passed the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen course.
‘A regular dog’
Most customers' reactions have been positive, Nousiainen said.
"A lot of fans can't get to the library on Saturdays, or nursing homes aren't open to the public, so this is another opportunity for fans to say hello to him," Nousianen said.
However, once, a woman cruised through the drug store’s door in a motorized wheelchair and surprised Dozer, who jumped in Nousiainen's lap for comfort. His anxiety was short-lived, she said, and provided an opportunity to add power chair training to Dozer's repertoire.
"The woman and him became best of friends in about two minutes," Nousiainen said.
She describes Dozer as "definitely a people person," though when he's not letting a child read to him, visiting a nursing home or greeting his fans at Walgreen's, "he is a dog.
“When he's not working, he's a regular dog laying around the house doing regular dog stuff."
Want to go?
Dozer the Therapy Dog greets customers at Walgreen's, 2350 S. Ferdon Blvd., noon to 2 p.m. every second Thursday of the month.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.