One doesn’t usually equate the seemingly mundane chore of picking up mail or a package at the post office with a bit of tail-wagging entertainment.
If you think standing in a noontime postal line couldn’t possibly bring a smile to your face as you clutch a yellow card or have buying stamps as your intent, you are in for a surprise.
At about 12:15 p.m. every Monday through Thursday, without fail, longtime resident Bob Stuart brings his Labrador/border collie mix pooch, Phoebe, to the Maple Way post office. Once there she enthusiastically receives doggy treats from head clerk Penny Jones.
It’s a happy ritual that has been going on for more than three years, ever since the dog was about a year old.
The nearly daily routine begins with Stuart opening the post office door with an eager Phoebe making a beeline for Jones’ station at the far right end of the counter. She proceeds to spring up, paws touching the edge of the marble.
“She’s kind of partial to Penny, who’s sort of the alpha gal there,” Stuart said.
Phoebe goes right to Jones regardless of who’s waiting there.
“We call her a ‘line jumper’ because she doesn’t wait her turn,” Jones said. “She leaps so high we’re surprised she doesn’t jump over the counter.”
After trying to get Jones’ attention with another high hop, Phoebe then stands back expectantly on her hind legs until Jones throws her one of her special, fairly gourmet organic treats. Recently the dog enjoyed a sweet potato fish snack. Sometimes the treat is grilled bison jerky.
Stuart provides the box of canine goodies appropriately labeled “Phoebe only.” It’s located in a small cupboard only about seven steps away from the counter.
“Phoebe had no training whatsoever to dash in and go to Penny,” Stuart said. “It was just instinct, but once it happened the first time — they have treats for other dogs and one must have been tossed to her — Phoebe was hooked, so I figured, OK, this is going to be happening every day, I better bring in some of my own treats.”
Typically, Jones tosses Phoebe one or two yummy morsels a day.
After this special “postal” transaction, Stuart — who stands well away from the counter — will call for Phoebe, and off they go, leaving bemused customers in their wake.
“I try to stay sort of incognito,” Stuart said. “I stand in the background to observe, so I suppose it looks like she is there on her own. People in line will ask, ‘Whose dog is that?’ and the only way to know she is with me is because we leave together.”
Stuart said just about everybody seems to enjoy his dog’s antics.
“Most people find it amusing,” he said. “And she’s a pretty adorable, cool dog to look at.”
Man meets dog
The first time Stuart and Phoebe laid eyes on each other was more than four years ago at the Animal Adoption Center in Jackson. She was part of an abandoned litter of six puppies discovered in a box on the side of the road in Star Valley. Two of the furry tykes — Phoebe and her sister — were brought up to Jackson.
It was love at first sight.
“We chose each other, I think,” said Stuart, who despite living in the valley for 25 years had never owned a dog here, although he has had cats for a long time.
Once he decided to get a puppy he told a friend of his that he was looking. When the friend heard a couple of young man’s best friends had arrived at the adoption center, she let Stuart know right away.
Phoebe was the runt of the litter and as such endeared herself to her prospective owner.
“It’s definitely a love story,” Stuart said. “She’s the most important thing in my life, really.”
Stuart takes Phoebe everywhere — to work, hiking, biking and more.
“We’re rarely apart,” he said. “We’re inseparable.”
Stuart is semiretired and works part time at Whitechapel Ltd., an upscale brass and iron hardware supplier located a block down the street from the post office. He brings Phoebe to work with him year-round.
The duo live across from Snow King, and during the summer Stuart rides his bike to his job, with the dog running right alongside him.
When it’s warm their routine is to go straight to Flat Creek behind the post office after Phoebe’s visits. Once there she gets to leap into the creek after a stick, Stuart said.
“It’s hard to say what she enjoys more: the treats or the creek,” he said.
The biscuit-begging boogie, however, is most assuredly a favorite of the denizens of the post office.
“Phoebe’s a cutie, and no one can resist her big, brown eyes,” Jones said. “She’s a crazy little dog and we love her.”
A furry regular
Resident Cindy Zamora witnessed Phoebe’s antics for the first time on a recent visit to the post office.
“She’s gorgeous and very smart,” Zamora said. “She just made my day, brightened it up. Animals do that.”
Another customer agreed.
“She’s great,” William Jacquet said. “It’s my second time seeing her, and she’s fun to watch. The first time I saw her do this it just brought a smile to my face.”
If Jones is busy with a customer when Phoebe shows up, the pup has to wait until the transaction with the human is complete. Jones said Phoebe is not always happy about that, so she will go to another clerk, who then gets her treats.
“She’s a constant; she’s just the best,” Jones said. “At most post offices it’s a no-no to bring a dog in, but not in Jackson.”
Asked if anybody ever complains about the dog snagging a few minutes of the clerk’s attention, Jones laughed.
“Oh, people complain. Just not about Phoebe.” ￼