Meet the furry faces that greet customers and clients each day at local businesses around the lake –
For some businesses around Lake Oconee, every day is “Take Your Dog to Work Day.” Like many of us, these business owners understand that life is better with dogs, and so it follows that work would be too.
The presence of canine co-workers can be calming and motivating and infuses an extra bit of joy into the regular 9 to 5. They understand the value of teamwork and never ask for extra vacation days.
Customers and clients have been trained to expect the familiar furry faces around these shops and offices and here, we introduce a few of these hard-working employees.
CONWAY & DOLLY – Crowe Marine
There’s a large painted portrait framed on the wall of Crowe Marine, a stately yellow lab with a shiny name plate below. Bo Crowe was the first of a long line of canine co-workers at Crowe Marine when Bill Crowe began bringing him into the showroom he opened at Lake Oconee more than 20 years ago. A third-generation business that began in 1959, Crowe Marine is steeped in tradition and love of family, and so you can still find furry family members at work each day alongside Brian Crowe, Bill’s son, Beth Crowe, his wife, and Courtney Crowe, his daughter.
Over the years, customers have become accustomed to seeing Corgis lounging about the showroom floor among the boats, jet skis, kayaks, and lake toys. Bill and Julie Crowe fell in love with the breed after dog-sitting for their son Brian. “My grandparents kind of stole him,” says Courtney Crowe. “My dad went on a trip and they never gave him back.”
One Corgi turned into two, and when one passed away a few years back, Courtney’s grandparents went looking for a companion for the remaining pet. They came back with two – Dolly and Conway – named, of course, for Country music crooners.
The two are calm and unobtrusive while shoppers look for the perfect boat and happy to get attention from customers, if, of course, they are awake.
“They’re usually passed out in the middle of the floor,” laughs Courtney.
On Saturdays when the doggie day care is closed, Courtney brings her own dog, a Shih Tzu named Emmy, to work with her.
“We always have dogs around because they make work so much better.”
GEORGE – Lakeside Millwork
George prefers the playroom above the noise of the saws and machinery out back in the workshop where they make custom doors, mouldings, timbers, and furniture at Lakeside Millwork. His designated human, Ella, is sometimes there, along with his buddy, a black lab named Rosie.
The ten-month-old Sheepadoodle – part sheepdog, part standard poodle – also likes to go to Lake Oconee Ace Hardware or out on deliveries with his owner, Phil Everett.
“Of course, everybody wants to know where George is. They aren’t interested in me,” laughs Everett who co-owns Lakeside Millwork with Rick Lanzarone.
But George will grow up to become more than a shop dog. He will soon be trained to become a service dog for his daughter.
Ella, who turns 13 in December, was born with a rare chromosomal disorder. “She had delayed development, was a late walker, and is still non-verbal,” explains Everett. “All of our other kids had left the house, so we wanted to get someone to keep her company.”
Everett says that George’s main duties would be to keep close by her side when they’re out and about in public spaces. She won’t be able to keep control of him or lead him with a leash, so he will be trained to “herd” her when needed.
“So far he’s been great with Ella,” says Everett. “Let’s just say she loves roughly, but he just keeps coming back for more, so he’s been great.”
SADIE – DreamBuilt
Sadie the yellow lab, keeps a tight schedule – up every morning with her owner Paige Ruhl and ready in the front seat for the drive into the office of DreamBuilt, a design and build firm at Lake Oconee. She usually checks in with Chelci Roberts, the office manager, first since she often brings in breakfast for the office. Then she spends some time with Ann Welch and hangs out with “the boys” after lunch – Derek Welch and Jim Ruhl. The foursome have worked together for 20 years at the lake, and Sadie has joined them for the last seven. A lot of her work is spent sleeping in the sunshine in front of the office, and toward the end of the day, she heads to Paige’s office to start the clock on quitting time.
“She has come here since day one,” says Paige Ruhl. “I was only planning to bring her for a few months because I didn’t have anyone to take care of her, but she’s been here ever since.” As a puppy, she would sit in Ruhl’s lap while she drew up house plans and quickly grew to become the office greeter.
“We have clients who stop by just
to bring her a treat or a toy, even if they don’t have a meeting scheduled,”
says Ruhl. When they do have meetings, Ruhl says that’s when Sadie earns her
“We can be in the conference room going over design selections or listening to budget stuff, which can be long and tiring, and you’ll see the clients’ hands drop under the table and I know Sadie is there,” says Ruhl. “She just kind of appears when needed to say, ‘Everything’s okay,’ and that’s why we love having her here every day.”
SKYE & FINN – The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee
The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee welcomes four-legged friends each and every day. The resort ambassador Dooley, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, greeted hundreds of guests with playful licks and a wag of his tail for six years. He was an icon at the resort leading many exciting initiatives while promoting health and literacy among the resort’s youngest guests. With a new season brings new faces and paws to the resort grounds; Dooley has now extended the keys of the resort to his new friends, Skye and Finn forming the elite Dooley’s Crew.
Guests will find Skye and Finn exploring the backyard, smelling the flowers, and hosting meet and greets next to the concierge desk daily from 10-10:30 a.m. and 2-2:30 p.m.
MOLLY – Morgan County Citizen
Lake Oconee Living shares its offices in Madison with its sister publication, the Morgan County Citizen, and thus, shares its space with Molly the toy poodle.
For the past seven years, Molly has come to work with her owner, Monaray Powers, who has worked for the newspaper since its inception, handling legal ads, copyediting, and generally knowing everyone’s stories in the community.
It’s rare for someone to walk through the door who Monaray doesn’t know. If she doesn’t, she drills down on their family members until she finds a commonality – sort a “Six Degrees of Monaray.”
Molly, always by her desk near the front door, is the perfect conversation starter, and that’s all Monaray needs to begin connecting dots.
Molly is the latest in a long line of poodles. “I’ve had one of almost every color,” says Monaray, who also admits Molly might be the most spoiled of them all. Molly goes to the beauty shop more often than Monaray, always sporting brightly polished nails and perfectly coiffed fur above her brushed ears.
“She’s my pretty girl,” Monaray gushes, almost daily, and everyone in the office agrees.
TITO – The Oconee Cellar
When Matt Garofalo, owner of The Oconee Cellar, noticed the Oconee Regional Humane Society setting up next door in front of Publix, he decided to go take a look at the available animals at the adoption event. He and his wife, Daniela, had been talking about getting a dog, a big dog. But it was an eight-week old chihuahua mix that captured his heart.
“I wasn’t planning on taking him, but I grabbed him up and asked if I could take him into the shop and let him hang out and see how he is,” says Garofalo.
He says the puppy approached people easily, gave them some licks, never barked, and was friendly to every person who came in.
“So, I sent Daniela a selfie and said, ‘This one’s coming home with me!’”
To keep up with the tiny dog, who still wears a cat collar with bells to signal where he is, Garofalo blocked off a corner of the shop with Tito’s Vodka boxes.
“I looked and thought, ‘That is a perfect name.’”
Now, five-month-old Tito greets customers nearly every day.
“People look for him now and are disappointed if he’s not here,” says Garofalo. “Or if someone’s in a bad mood, I can bring him up for them and it’s an instant boost. He’s just perfect.”
SNICKERS – Southerndipidy
Before moving to Georgia and opening the casual women’s boutique, Southerndipidy, in downtown Milledgeville, Cindy Eppich lived in Boseman, Montana, where she worked as a veterinary technician. Late one cold night, after everyone had gone, Eppich was finishing up at the vet clinic when she got a phone call from a police officer needing to bring in a dog he found in an abandoned house to be placed in a cadaver bag. “We were way too late for this one,” she remembers him saying when he brought in the animal wrapped in a dirty, tattered blanket. It was 27 degrees below zero. Eppich asked him to place the blanket on the floor and she went back to cleaning the clinic and organizing pharmaceuticals for the next day. Before locking up, she took out a cadaver bag to do the task she hated to do.
“As I undid the blanket, I thought, ‘Poor thing,’” says Eppich. The dog was completely emaciated, had a compound fracture on her back leg, and an obvious broken jaw.
“As I went to push her into the cadaver bag, she opened an eye. That actually happens a lot because of involuntary muscle movement, but as I kept pushing her in, I saw her tail wag, ever so slightly,” says Eppich. “I dropped everything and said, ‘Good God, it’s still alive.’”
She immediately called the vet and asked him to come back into the clinic. “He told me no at first, and said I needed to go ahead and euthanize her, but eventually I got him to come back,” says Eppich. The vet took one look at the dog and convinced Eppich there was no hope. The dog was too far gone and in too much pain. He plunged a syringe into the dog’s heart to put her out of her misery.
“As he went to push down on the syringe, she started whining,” says Eppich. “He looked at me, then looked at her, and yanked the needle out.” He told Eppich to grab some warm blankets and get some fluids ready, but Eppich was one step ahead. She already knew he was going to save her.
The first four days were touch and go. The dog couldn’t eat because of the broken jaw. She could stand, and she was only 7.5 pounds even though they guessed she was around two years old. She had a feeding tube placed directly into her stomach and had to be fed every 15 minutes. But Eppich didn’t give up. She bought a baby sling that wraps around the waist and holds the baby to the chest and kept the dog with her at all times for about six weeks. She named her Snickers, and after a couple of months, she was able to crawl, eventually was able to eat, and today weighs 39 pounds.
“She’s definitely a miracle baby,” says Eppich. “She is the most loving darling thing and everything has been completely worth it.”
It’s been eight years since that cold night in the vet clinic and even still, Snickers rarely leaves Eppich’s side.
“She’s never been on a leash, but she goes everywhere with me,” says Eppich. “She comes to work with me and people come in specifically to see her, especially the college students. She has her own fan club and they come in and sit in the middle of the floor and group around her.”
Eppich loves sharing Snickers and her story with anyone she can. She has visited children’s hospitals and VA hospitals across the country and is looking forward to doing similar visits in the local community.