POPULAR PET
Saber welcomes custoemrs to the gift shop in building 5302 of the Sparkman Center at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Retail therapy. For some people, it comes in the form of a trip to a favorite little boutique, or a do-it-yourself super store. For the employees who work in the Sparkman Center, it comes in the form of a big, friendly, furry English labrador named Saber.

Saber is the seeing-eye dog owned by Sparkman Center Gift Shop owner Bill Tucker, and he is as much of a fixture at the store as, well, the fixtures. He accompanies Tucker to work daily, and remains at Tucker's side, unless he is asleep on his bed in the corner, or doing what he does best -- greeting the customers. Unlike many service animals, Saber is a working dog, but he is also a pet. And his friendly face and loving disposition make him a favorite of the customers at the gift shop.

"He's a big flirt," said Tucker, laughing. "We call him our version of the Walmart greeter."

Tucker has owned and operated the gift shop since 1996, in compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a federal law that mandates priority to blind persons operating vending facilities on federal property. His staff includes himself, one clerk, and of course, Saber.

Saber, who will turn 6 in October, came to the Tucker family from Oregon. He was named after the town where he was born. He has served as Tucker's guide for the last four years. Guide dogs generally work for 8-9 years, and Tucker says his daughter has already claimed Saber once he retires.

For now, though, he seems content to live a dog's life: eating, sleeping, going for walks around the Sparkman Center, and an occasional Rice-Krispy Treat, his favorite snack. And of course, he serves as a faithful companion to Tucker, and a friend to everyone who ventures into the gift shop -- so much so that some employees at the Sparkman Center are planning a birthday "party" for him.

"He's a big attraction here. I think some people come in here just to see him and to pet him," Tucker said. "Saber himself is a form of therapy."

Page last updated Fri August 27th, 2010 at 16:06