Reporting to work every day, Pearl is the latest in a proud line of puppies learning their manners at Mosher’s Jewelers in Port Huron, Mich. When she has her basics down, Pearl will move along to Leader Dogs for the Blind about 50 miles southwest in Rochester for more rigorous training.
Emily Mosher Wallace, owner of Mosher’s and volunteer puppy raiser, will miss Pearl just like the two Future Leader Dogs she trained before Pearl. For Emily and adoring customers alike, it’s a sad but sweet farewell, knowing that the dogs are headed for a noble cause.
“The customers love watching the puppies grow, and we are all proud of their accomplishments,” Emily says.
Pearl is 6 months old and belongs to Leader Dogs for the Blind. Emily has nurtured Pearl since she was 8 weeks old, bringing her to Mosher’s every day. She will keep her for a year, then Pearl will return to the Rochester school.
“I teach the dogs good manners like come, sit, stay – basic dog obedience, and also some special things like how to greet people and how to go in and out of doorways,” Emily says. “I provide a jump-start for when the trainer takes over, teaching them basically how to be a good dog. I give them experience with people, children, other animals, fire trucks; you name it! So they’re not scared; they’re socialized.”
Emily says she used to bring her family pet, a beagle named Tucker, to work. “He was sweet and cute and howled – the customers just loved him,” Emily says. A therapy dog for a nursing home, Tucker lived a good, long life of 14 years and paved the way for Emily’s volunteer work with Future Leader Dogs.
Puppies named Baxter and Sadie were Emily’s first two trainees. “They’re now living with their blind handlers, helping them navigate the world,” she says. Baxter lives in Lansing, and Sadie traveled all the way to Spain to assist a woman who’s attending college.
“For the first two puppies, I held a contest and let customers vote on the names as a fundraiser for the leader dog school,” Emily says. “Pearl came to me at the last minute when someone else couldn’t take her, so there was no time for a contest.”
Emily’s staff named Pearl, who’s the color of a golden South Sea pearl. She’s a tall, slender golden retriever/lab mix. “Leader Dogs for the Blind uses a lot of goldens and labs, and sometimes crosses,” Emily says. “It gives a variety of temperaments and sizes. People aren’t all the same either. So when people apply for a dog, they fill out a questionnaire and are interviewed. The school considers activity levels, etc., to get a profile of which dog will be best suited for them. They match the person, then call them and say, ‘We have the perfect dog for you.’ ”
Puppy trainers like Emily make a commitment to take their wards to weekly obedience classes and to attend seminars regularly. “The dogs are not being trained to obey, but to think and to make good choices. It’s a whole different way of training. You have to think the way he’s thinking, and help the dog choose the right thing to do.
“I’m not a professional dog trainer; I’m a gemologist! But having a therapy dog and doing the training and certification for that was helpful.”
Four Generations Strong
Mosher’s itself traces its roots way back to the turn of the 20th century. With the construction of a tunnel linking Michigan and Canada, business was booming when Emily’s great-grandfather, watchmaker Clarence W. Mosher, opened up shop in 1898 and later serviced watches for the crews of Grand Trunk and Pere Marquette railroads. C.W.’s son Seeley joined the business, and Seeley’s son George came on board after he returned from World War II, expanding into fine china, crystal, silver, watches and gems. In 1965, Mosher’s purchased a larger building, where the store remains today under the ownership of Emily and her brother William.
Among its services, Mosher’s restores heirloom jewelry and creates new pieces using CAD/CAM technology. The store has clients in all parts of the country and does a good amount of shipping. Along with a nice variety of fine jewelry, Mosher’s still offers clocks, watches, fine china and baby gifts.
For customer appeal, however, it’s hard to top a puppy.
“Our customers love Pearl,” Emily says. “People come in just to see her. She’s cute, friendly and pretty docile for a puppy. But she’s still a puppy!
“It’s hard to let them go, but you go into it knowing you’re raising a dog for someone who can’t do it themself. One of them asked me how I could say goodbye to the dog, and I said, ‘I raised her for you!’ I’d be lying if I said it’s not hard, but it’s part of it.”