CLEARWATER — Cody the convenience store dog has secured his place in cyberspace.
A Facebook group supporting the chocolate Labrador sprang up over the weekend, quickly rising to nearly 3,000 members by Tuesday morning. The group's goal: Find a way for the endearing dog to return to work drawing smiles from customers at the Clearwater BP gas station where his owner, Karim Mansour, has been bringing him for months.
On Thursday, Mansour was told by inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture to stop bringing Cody to work, or all of his food items — mostly things like canned energy drinks and Slim Jims — would be declared unfit for consumption.
The group, called "Let Cody Stay!!!," includes links to news stories about the dog.
One group member, Jennifer Seagraves Gray, commented on the Web page's message board: "Cody is my HERO!!!! I would drive an extra hour to be greeted by this smiling face. Let Cody stay :) ."
Mansour said he was surprised when he saw the Facebook page, but he more than welcomes the support.
"I think it's absolutely amazing how people take the time and make the effort to back up something like this. There's a lot of causes out there on Facebook — and I never think about joining them," he said.
Although it doesn't appear that food codes will change anytime soon to allow the dog to return to work, many Cody supporters suggest the dog should be certified as a service animal, and thus exempt from normal food inspection rules. Mansour said he is considering the idea.
Until then, Cody will have to get used to the unemployed life.
"He hates it. In the mornings when I go to leave, he's waiting there at the door for me," Mansour said. "He's mopey and not energetic."
Dominick Tao can be reached at email@example.com.