Farewell to Our Friend Bear

Hello, friends. We, the shop dogs of Parnassus Books, have some sad news to report today. Our good friend and the oldest of our shop dogs, Bear, has passed away.

As you may know, Bear belonged with shop person Sissy, who took him in as a senior dog six years ago when her neighbors could no longer care for him. Sissy had never had a dog, and at first, she did not know quite how to care for one. What do dogs eat — cheese? Where do dogs sleep — on the people bed? Yes and yes, in Bear’s case. (Sissy soon learned that dogs eat dog food, and while Bear’s cheese dinners dried up after that first week, he did get to keep sleeping on the people bed.)

Bear transitioned to his new life relatively well. The only thing he couldn’t handle was for Sissy to leave the house. She tried setting up an outdoor dog-run, but he climbed out and escaped the bounds of the fence. She made the walls higher; he dug under. She tried putting him in the guest bathroom during the day. He ate the wall. It became clear that Bear could not be left alone. He needed to go where Sissy went, and where Sissy went every day was the bookstore. So Bear got a job as a shop dog.

Bear with his human. (And books. Always books.)

Things went great at first. Bear made a handsome and loving impression on customers of all stripes. He especially tolerated babies and toddlers, who often wanted to bury their hands in his luxuriant brindle fur, close their fists, and yank. He never minded.

But it turned out Bear had boundary issues at work, too. After the shop people found a few mysterious puddles around the store, they realized Bear was attempting to mark his territory. Sissy tried tying his leash to the front table so he couldn’t wander unattended, but … well … he had good aim and impressive distance, even from there. What bibliophile could blame him for wanting to claim all the books as his own? But we can’t have soggy copies of Pride and Prejudice lying around. Humans have a real thing about dry books.

Sissy loved Bear, and Bear loved Sissy. Sissy loved Parnassus, and Parnassus loved Sissy. Bear loved Parnassus, and Parnassus loved Bear, too, except for the wetting-the-inventory thing. It was almost perfect how much everyone loved each other — if only love were enough to make an impossible situation work. It looked like Bear was going to have to give up his post. But Sissy couldn’t leave Bear any more than she could leave her job. What to do?

Bear gets a visit — and some pets! — from Jodi Picoult.

Sissy fired up the internet and researched. Maybe love + Google could save the day.

She found a product called a tinkle belt — a diaper, basically — and when Bear showed Andy and Karen how nicely he could wear his belt in the store, they agreed he could have another chance. So from then on, every morning when they arrived, Sissy hung up Bear’s leash and put on his belt, and off he went into the shop. The books stayed dry, and he never missed another day of work.

Dashing in his belt and colorful neckerchiefs, Bear became a customer favorite. He followed readers around quietly, and it wasn’t uncommon to see someone holding a book in one hand and absentmindedly patting Bear’s head with the other. He also followed the shop people into the employee restroom, because he knew that’s where the dog biscuits are kept — and that the newer booksellers wouldn’t yet know the just-one-biscuit rule.

When Bear began to lose his sight and hearing, he stuck extra close to Sissy. Because Sissy works up near the register, Bear became the de facto greeter at the front of the store. He’d stand on the welcome mat, gazing into the middle distance with his cloudy eyes and jaunty underbite, and lean gently against each new visitor who walked through the door. When he got tired, he curled up on the dog bed under the front desk (a gift from writer Elizabeth McCracken) and napped.

He was never going to do toothpaste commercials, but you have to admit there was a certain crooked appeal to his smile. Those TEEF!

Working alongside Bear made us all better dogs. If you think that’s a weird sentence, let us remind you that you’re currently reading a blog post co-written by animals. We canines are a big part of what happens around here. We spend our days together, like siblings. Each of us belongs to one shop person, but all the shop people are like our aunts and uncles.

To lose a dog from our ranks changes the dynamic of our family, but he changed us first. Bear taught us about persistence, gentleness, and making fresh starts as often as necessary. We have all learned to be careful around the blind and deaf, to yield the softest furniture to our elders, and to live and let live when it comes to what others wear. (Any of us could end up in a diaper belt one of these days.) So please join us in raising a biscuit for Bear today. Lean on someone you love. Have a bite of cheese. Find a great book and proclaim it yours. But don’t pee on it.

In loving memory of our friend Bear,
Sparky, Opie, Mary Todd Lincoln, Marlee, Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Goober, Frankie, and all the extended members of the Parnassus family, both canine and human (and some cats)