It's a dog's life


Irene Torres and Danna Webster, KP News

Smokey Olson, as he is known to the mail carrier and his veterinarian, was born in Longbranch to a mother dog owned by Stephanie Zampini. As a pup, he was adopted by Don and Shirley Olson, with whom he and Nipper the cat share a home in Key Center.

Smokey begins most mornings taking a proper, on-leash, three-mile walk with Shirley and her daughter, Claudia Loy. After morning exercise, he is released to his own quarters out back of the house. From here, he begins his surveillance as the unofficial “mayor” of Key Center.

Smokey makes tracks around the community nearly every day, to meet his constituents and his friends. On his rounds, this mayor accepts handouts, a practice not usually considered acceptable for his human counterparts. Several eyewitnesses report that when Smokey crosses the Key Peninsula Highway, he looks both ways. But Lisa Larson, who can see his travels around town from her workplace at the Key Medical Center, cautions drivers, “Watch out for Smokey because I don’t think he is watching for cars.”

Smokey appears to enjoy his visits to the Close to Home espresso stand by the Peninsula Market. The espresso operator often comes out of the stand to escort Smokey safely across the highway.

He has often been seen around Nimrick’s Furnishings and near the KC Fire Station. At Nimrick’s, where he is considered their “best customer,” Smokey paws at the door, until the owner opens it and gives him cheese treats. Another of his stops is Sound Credit Union, where Smokey sometimes receives his treats by standing at the counter, like a bank client.

Lisa’s Deli Express has long been one of Smokey’s favorite stops. Connie Harris was ordering at the deli one day, and was told, “Here, give that to the dog outside,” as owner Lisa Marshall handed her a piece of lunch meat for Smokey. Harris said on warm days Smokey would just pass through the outside diners as if saying hello to customers, and then be on his way.

Back across the street at the Sunnycrest Nursery, one of Smokey’s favorite people is Jan Drury, who cared for Smokey during his owners’ extended vacation. Since then, Smokey often visits Drury at work, where he naps contentedly at her feet. Sometimes he makes himself comfortable inside the sliding door of her van, even though Smokey has his own couch to sleep “all stretched out” at home.

One of Claudia Loy’s favorite stories is of a family vacation in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. Shirley Olson was giving a Minnesota polka dance demonstration to Mexican music, which led to the participation of many other visiting Americans. One of their newfound American friends overheard that the two women were from Key Center, Wash. He mentioned that he had done some work in this area. On inquiring about possible mutual acquaintances, it turns out that the one they have in common is Smokey. They figure that makes Smokey an international celebrity.

Smokey has learned the shift schedules for employees at the Key Center Saloon. He arrives at the front door at 11:00 a.m. to greet the bartender and receive a morning treat. He then circles around the building to the back door, where the cook usually offers a cheese snack. Smokey returns to the tavern at 5:00 p.m., just in time for shift change, and repeats his rounds.

One of Shirley Olson’s favorite stories is about the time Smokey came up with a lame foot. Smokey managed to call attention to his problem to Tracy Manning at the Saloon. No doubt he knew that she has excellent veterinarian connections. That evening Manning called the Olsons to bring Smokey to the Saloon because her veterinarian was there. When they arrived, Smokey was given a thorough examination. The vet determined the injury was not serious, with no broken bones.

Olson said, “He’s getting arthritis and that has slowed him down. He is so gentle…not a barker. He’s just the greatest dog.”

Mayor Smokey, who usually has little to say, was not available for comment. He is a lucky dog, to be so loved and spoiled. It is clear that he has left his tracks on the hearts of his owners and his fans. Not bad for a 12-year-old.