COLONIE — Every so often, shoppers do a double take as they walk past.
That guy has a dog with him. In the mall!
But other shoppers and mall walkers at Colonie Center — and they seem to be in the majority — pay no attention to the furry visitor ambling down the main hall on a leash, ears flapping and tail wagging.
The mall has been gradually moving in a dog-friendly direction, first dropping its ban on pets a few years ago. But recently they’ve begun actively encouraging guests to bring dogs into the mall.
“This year we really wanted to amplify that welcome,” said Jensen Akey, marketing and business development manager. “Our goal is to connect more to our community. We realize how important dogs are to people in our community.”
There are limits. Canine visitors must be well-behaved and well-controlled.
But the policy is working out, Akey said, with more dogs coming into the mall and more into individual stores, about 30 of which display the welcoming pawprint sticker on their front windows.
The Daily Gazette sponsored an expenses-paid trip to the mall this week for Haggis Cropley, a semitrained black Lab puppy with paws like snowshoes and a bark like a howitzer.
Surprisingly, amazingly — thankfully — our junior newshound kept that voice quiet and kept those monster paws where they belonged as he sniffed out the story, behaving as a fine ambassador for his species.
Take it away, Haggis.
“Going in, those glass doors were a little confusing, and that moving staircase — terrifying! But it was fascinating, too, almost hypnotizing. Glad my leash kept me from putting my nose into the moving parts.
“Great experience, otherwise!
“I never knew so many people were so friendly, never knew so many grownups carried around cookies.
“The lady at the card shop was sweet, I think maybe she has a dog of her own.
“And L.L.Bean — all the puppy toys were at my eye level!
“Some neat insulated water bowls were stacked up there, too.”
Those are Yeti bowls, Haggis, and they cost 50 bucks each. You’re not getting one, not now, not ever.
“OK, John, OK.
“You know what was funny, though? I didn’t see any other dogs.
“It was pouring rain outside, maybe that’s why. I never see any dogs when you make me walk in the rain.
“Anyhoo, fun times — glad I got to go.
“Back to you in the newsroom, John.”
The merchant Haggis referred to is Sydney Sprung, manager of Scott’s Hallmark.
She is, as Haggis suspected, a dog lover, sharing her home with a Chihuahua named Noodles.
Sprung has long allowed dogs in her store, but only recently did she formalize that invitation.
“We just got our pawprint last month,” she said. “We’ve got several visitors: A greyhound, two Great Danes, a chihuahua, a St. Bernard, and a golden retriever. Those are like mall dogs that visit all the time. I love it!”
Some of the gifts are fragile and sit on low shelves, and would seem vulnerable to a wagging tail when Sprung dips into her stash of biscuits. But she’s not worried.
“I’ve never had any of these babies throw up on anything, break anything, destroy anything, but children? I had this one kid when I was doing the Stuyvesant Plaza Hallmark years ago, the little boy just put his arm out and wiped out a whole shelf of [hand-painted] wine glasses and his mom was just like, giggle, ‘Can you believe it?'”
L.L.Bean assistant manager Janice Nash said her store wasn’t subject to the mall’s previous dog ban because it had its own external entrance.
“We’ve always allowed dogs that were leashed and well-behaved,” she said. “We love our dogs at L.L.Bean.”
There hasn’t really been a culture clash in the store, she added. Shoppers who dislike or fear dogs typically just pick another aisle when they come upon a dog, rather than protest the dog’s very presence.
“Most times if people bring dogs in, the dogs are well-socialized and are people-friendly,” Nash said. “In today’s world, people love when puppies come in. Because it’s a de-stressor and it makes people smile. I wish I had one as a greeter all the time.”
Susie Colandrea, assistant manager of Francesca’s, said she would have a dog of her own, if she had the time and money to care for one.
Instead, she dotes on dogs that shoppers bring into the small shop. The manager has a rescue dog who is a frequent visitor, she added.
There isn’t much risk of breakage, she said, because most of what’s for sale at the women’s fashion boutique isn’t breakable, and that which is at risk gets displayed on higher shelves.
And anyway, Colandrea said, “most of the dogs that come in are more interested in the people and sniffing the floor.”
Shoppers with allergies occasionally voice displeasure at the state of affairs, but dogs aren’t everyday visitors to Francesca’s, she said.
Akey, the marketing manager, said parent company Pacific Retail Capital Partners has other dog-friendly properties but Colonie Center’s decision was made locally, and stemmed from the number of in-house dog lovers and the prominent place dogs hold in visitors’ lives.
The mall is taking steps now to spread the word.
“I think some people in the community definitely didn’t know that we are dog-friendly,” Akey said. So the mall is hosting events that have included a Yappy Hour social outside P.F. Chang’s on Memorial Day weekend and a Woofs and Wags Pup-Up Shop last weekend, the latter event a fundraiser for the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
A full list of dog-friendly shops and rules for bringing dogs into them is posted on the Colonie Center website.
Doggie cleanup bag dispensers are posted at several locations in the mall itself, and The Gazette confirmed that they are stocked with bags.
“Oh, hey — John?”
“I’m sorry about that accident in the mall.”
That was no accident, it was intentional — you squatted and squeezed. I was mortified!
“Well, you said never do that in the house.”
That’s right, I did!
“Well … it wasn’t our house.”