In-Store Pets

Alison Morris - June 23, 2008

Rivendell Books in Montpelier, Vt., has a REAL LIVE tortoise (not a giant one!) making its home in the bookstore. How cool is that? If you walk to the children’s section, at the back of the store, you’ll find Veruca under the "Vermont Authors" section, with a sign above him explaining the following:

Rivendell Mascot
Russian Desert Tortoise
Central Asia
He’s a male

You can spot Veruca’s bin on the bottom shelf of the bookcase below.

I don’t know Veruca’s history at Rivendell or how long he’s put up with the curious stares and over-eager hands of Montpelier’s children and adults, but each time I’ve popped in to take a peek at the guy, he’s been surprisingly lively. I’m amazed at the speed he can pick up as he crosses the sandy gravel that lines his plastic bin!

When I first started working at Wellesley Booksmith over seven years ago, our store had been in existence just a year and a half. In its previous life the space had been a bookstore that was part of the Lauriat’s chain AND at one time or another it had been home to a cat. Frequently customers coming into our reinvented store space would ask if the cat was still there. "Alas," I would tell them, as I secretly thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to break out in hives at work each day. I love cats, but I’m highly allergic to them, so the presence of a store cat would be bad news for yours truly.

I do love the idea, though, of a store pet (who may or may not also be the store’s mascot). A store dog would be especially welcome in our space! We allow dogs to come into the store with their owners and have many a shaggy visitor stopping in on a VERY frequent basis, knowing full well that at either point-of-sale counter they can (and do) receive a biscuit from one of our booksellers. (Talk about a clever way to get your customers in the door — this way their dogs literally DRAG them in anytime they’re walking around the neighborhood.)

Of course having a few furry friends traipse through our store on short visits doesn’t even begin to put us in the same animal-loving camp as Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, which is home to an impressive menagerie of critters, both of the furry and feathered variety. Their newest co-workers are two chickens named Pimento and Olive!

Have you been in/worked in/known about a store that had a living critter or two on staff (though presumably not on the payroll)? If so, please enlighten us readers as to what you thought of that arrangement. And/or tell us whether or not YOU would want to bring your pets with you to work.

11 thoughts on “In-Store Pets

  1. Julianne Daggett

    In south Houston there’s a used bookstore that has a cat. It’s a very friendly cat, and apparently world famous, the bookseller at the counter said a couple from Germany once came to the store just to see their cat.

  2. EM

    I have visited Wild Rumpus many times, including once when I had to help herd the chickens back inside, after a wee patron (thankfully not one of mine) had left the front door open too long. I am amazed at how clean that store is, given the array of animal-excrement possibilities it houses.

  3. Kate G.

    Cats are the clerk of choice here in the foggy city, but I have heard there’s a boa constrictor about. That said, I’m curious about Veruca’s Picks. John McPhee? Emerson? Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods? What would a tortoise pick to take to a desert island?

  4. maya

    I went to a used bookstore in Seattle that had several cats. The owners insisted that customers check their bags b/c they had experience CATNAPPINGS in the past. Maya Escobar Cambridge Public Library

  5. VICKI

    There’s a feed store by my house that has a store cat, and the clerks can also bring their dogs to work–IF they are feline-friendly. I too am allergic to cats, so would hate to have to work around them, but I do think it’s a fun idea.

  6. Spellbound

    We have a bookshop dog, Seymour, who is somewhat of a mascot. He has been featured in many print ads and also headlines our MySpace page. He’s a bit of a curiosity–half Bassett and half Huskey. Mostly the reaction is very positive. Occasionally a baby will be freaked out by his bark and then ensues a battle of the lungs as he, in turn, gets upset. But not too often. A lot of kids (and some adults) immediately look for Seymour before saying Hello to us or looking at any books. Alas, he’s getting older and I’d say he’s semi-retired at this point, so he’s spending more time holding down his bed at home than holding down his bed at work. I generally don’t encourage customers to bring their dogs inside, because I can’t vouch for their shot record, cleanliness, and temperament as I can with Seymour. We do have a nice place just outside the door to “park” them and always offer water on warm days. And yes, it is definitely worth all the extra vacuuming to have Seymour around!

  7. Liz Mills

    I worked at Wild Rumpus for several months a few years ago, and I was in charge of some of the birds. They were so much fun! Teddy, a particularly friendly bird, would ride around on my shoulder as I helped customers. A few times, I’d forget he was there and answer the phone! He’d contribute to the conversation, of course. With rats in a haunted shack, doves, hidden fish, Manx cats, and more, what a wonderful store Wild Rumpus is!

  8. Sheila Ruth

    I have a family member who is highly (seriously) allergic to both cats and dogs, so unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to visit any store with a cat or dog. A tortoise is a good idea, though!

  9. Kellie Olsen

    There’s a used book store (more of a compound now) in Niantic, CT called The Book Barn. At their main location they have several cats, as well as several goats (that stay outside). At their smaller location more in-town, they have some guinea pigs. This idea seriously makes me so happy. My biggest passions (for now, at least) are children’s books, cupcakes, teaching/education, and animals. My ultimate dream would be a children’s bookstore that had pets, a cupcake bakery (like at Books of Wonder in NYC), and a space for educational opportunities, like after-school and summer classes and activities. Obviously, the cupcake cafe would have to be wayyyy far away from the animals, but in my head it works beautifully.

  10. Sara Hoagland Hunter

    Hi Alison, I’ve always loved the quirky film documentaries of funny fact collector, Gary Roma, who chronicles everything from door stops to dental floss. His film about library cats living in libraries all around the country is a joy. (


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *