They’re all around town: Dogs that snooze in the middle of the floor while you pick up flowers, browse at a boutique or get a haircut. Cats sprawled underfoot as you taste a new IPA at a brewery. A scaly reptile that watches you insert your MasterCard into the chip reader. What’s the deal with all these animals in businesses around Tampa Bay?
Shop pets don’t just come to work with their owners. They’re practically part of the staff. Let’s meet some of them.
Roscoe at Shettle Family Eye Care
Roscoe may look grumpy, but don’t let this English bulldog’s underbite fool you.
Shettle Family Eye Care employees call him the boss of the office. Delivery drivers know to grab a treat from the front counter to feed him. Children crouch on the floor and squeeze his cheeks.
“We have so many patients that adore him, that come in just to see him," said office manager Nicole Shettle. “He sits there like the hambone that he is and soaks up all the attention."
Dr. Scott Shettle always wanted an English bulldog. Nine years ago, his family adopted Roscoe as a five-month-old puppy. He’s been a regular part of the practice ever since.
From time to time Roscoe takes naps tucked away in the office, but patients often find him snoozing by the front entrance.
“He likes to be where the action is," Nicole Shettle said. "He smushes his face up against the door and our patients will take a picture from the outside.”
Meet Roscoe: Shettle Family Eye Care & Eye Wear, 4200 4th St. N., St. Petersburg.
Bentley at the Tampa Theatre
Seven years ago, Anthony J. Gonzalez started working at the Tampa Theatre. The senior house manager has brought his dog Bentley with him to work every day since.
Bentley, a rescue Pomeranian from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, now acts as a morale booster to the staff. He enjoys the company far more than staying home alone while Anthony works long hours.
Theatre guests don’t see Bentley often. The 13-year-old pup spends most of his day sleeping in Gonzalez’s office.
“Pretty much anywhere I go, Bentley likes to tag along,” Gonzalez said.
Visit Bentley’s workplace: 711 N Franklin St, Tampa
Bookstore cats at Haslam’s
It all started with Honey Bun.
Nearly two decades ago, the sweet alley cat used to poke around Haslam’s waiting to be fed. When Honey Bun got pregnant, the bookstore’s owners created a “kitty palace” in the back of the shop and cleared a table of paperbacks near the front to hold a play pen.
Customers went nuts for the kittens.
“At eight weeks when it was time for them to find a home, they all were spoken for," said Haslam’s general manager Raymond Hinst III. "I think Honey Bun had five litters of kittens, and every cat in Kenwood is related to them.”
Two cats from Honey Bun’s final litter still reside among the shelves: siblings Teacup and Beowulf, now about fifteen years old. Two others — former strays named Emily Dickinson and Tom Clancy — joined the family.
Tom Clancy is the clever one, wily enough to escape two food traps before his ultimate capture. Teacup, once small enough to fit inside her namesake, is known for lounging by the register. Beowulf usually acts as a pillow for Emily Dickson, a cat so shy “you can only pet her if you don’t look at her... if you turn away or close your eyes,” Hinst said.
Employees used to push cats around the shop on carts at Christmastime and call it a kitty parade. Hinst only recalls one mouse, but it was chaos, with cats knocking over displays and books falling everywhere.
“Eventually Teacup caught it," he said. “But she didn’t know what to do with it.”
Customers from over the years approach the Hinst family all the time with their own memories.
“College kids will come up to us in movie theater and restaurants and say, ‘You used to give us treats when we were kids to give to the kitty cats,’” Hinst said.
Meet cats at Haslam’s Book Store: 2025 Central Ave, St. Petersburg.
Franklin the Schnauzer
Franklin the miniature schnauzer can be spotted among handmade jewelry and vintage clothing at ARTpool Gallery & Vintage Boutique in St. Pete. Usually, he’s wearing his own fun outfit or accessory.
Local artist and ARTpool owner Marina Williams shows off her dog’s looks on Franklin’s Instagram and Facebook pages. The pup even has a website: franklintheschnauzer.com.
“Franklin is like our son," Williams said. "He is our next generation of customer service.”
A trained agility dog, Franklin has 25 tricks that he shows off for shoppers.
“It just makes our days a little bit more bright and fun," Williams said.
The schnauzer also likes to visit his neighbors at Haslam’s across the street.
“He comes over and vacuums over all the cat treats that the kitties drop," Hirst said.
Meet Franklin: ARTpool Gallery, 2030 Central Ave., St. Pete.
Lizards and more at Dysfunctional Grace Art Co.
Tampa shoppers can browse taxidermy, vintage relics, antique medical supplies and more oddities at Dysfunctional Grace Art Co. It only makes sense that the shop pets would be a little out there, too.
There’s Lilbit, a three-pound rescue that’s missing a bottom jaw and loves to trail owner Liz Furlong around the shop.
There’s Opal, a rhino iguana nine inches long, who is usually found perching on a cage by the register. She enjoys munching on blueberries, greens and hibiscus flowers.
“The customers love holding her," Furlong said. "The ones that don’t love lizards are like, ‘She’s so sweet!'”
Then there’s the footlong red tegu Nubbins, named after the fact that she is missing a few fingers.
“I have to defrost a dead mouse so she can eat it,” Furlong said. "It’s gross, not going to lie.”
Dysfunctional Grace first opened in St. Petersburg about 10 years ago. Back then it was primarily an art gallery that made its own light fixtures. The shop’s vision shifted after owners bought their first taxidermy.
It was free of live animals for a bit, with the exception of a raccoon and possum that each made a brief appearance. Furlong started bringing pets in consistently about five years ago.
“We have a lot of dead things in the shop you know, taxidermy, wet specimens," Furlong said. "I think seeing the live creatures, [customers] see we love live ones as well.”
Meet Lilbit, Opal and Nubbins: 1903 E 7th Ave, Tampa.
Eddie Mullally opened Neptune Cyclery and the attached bar, The Neptune Lounge, 23 years ago in Tarpon Springs. He’s always had a few dogs around.
Currently two of his five rescue pups hang out in his building. Clawto, a Cane Corso, came from a man in St. Petersburg who could no longer take care of an animal after he lost his house. Boots, a Perro de Presa Canario, was rescued when she was just a puppy left at a shelter in Miami.
Both dogs weigh more than the 30-pound limit set by Mullally’s homeowners association, so they hang out around the shop. While Clawto and Boots are “massive," they’re also docile.
“People are intimidated, but they’re so calm that people end up loving em," Mullally said. “The door can be wide open and things can be going on but they’ll just lay there."
If the dogs aren’t out in the front of the shop, repeat customers often ask Mullally to bring them out.
“There’s so many dogs that need to be rescued that this is just such a tiny little drop in the bucket, but at least I know these five have good lives, and I’ve got homes for quite a few dogs through here," he said.
Meet Clawto and Boots: Neptune Cyclery, 13 S Safford Ave, Tarpon Springs.
Brewery cats at Crooked Thumb in Safety Harbor
Stop for a drink in Safety Harbor and you might make a new friend... or three.
Crooked Thumb’s beer garden and brewhouse are home to a trio of cats: Luke, Leia and Vader. Luke and Leia, both white, are sisters. The cats came to Crooked Thumb about four years ago as kittens.
To get a good idea of their escapades, visitors can follow the felines on their Instagram page, @catsofcrookedthumb.
“You can often find them curled up in the lap of a patron," said Sherri Kelly, Crooked Thumb’s marketing director. "They are friendly and a part of our culture.”
Meet the brewery cats: Crooked Thumb Brewery, 555 10th Ave S, Safety Harbor.