In Fell's Point, it's a dog's life

Goodbyes: Molly, a storefront fixture, counts the days until her owner closes up shop.

November 26, 2001|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Go ahead, take more pictures of me. I'm used to it. You say I'm going to be in the newspaper? Well, you know what dogs do to newspapers.

My name is Molly, and I've been a fixture on Thames Street in Fells Point for a dozen years. Usually wrapped in a blue blanket, I sit outside a children's store that won't be around by the end of next month.

My owner's days in business are numbered. "Mama Bear" - what some folks call her - plans to retire Dec. 24 from Grrreat Bears and Childhood Delights. You know, the bear place with the bubble machine outside the second-floor window? Next to the Admiral's Cup on Thames Street. Our bubbles land on their customers sometimes.

Mama Bear's name is Cathy Crymes, a former high school typing teacher from Ohio. For 19 years, she has been selling stuffed bears and other children's toys - 12 years here and seven at Harborplace.

This month, people have been noticing the sign over our store window: "Thanks Baltimore! For 19 Years. Owner Retiring. Everything." Mama Bear removed the words "Must Go" after "Everything." A city licensing inspector dropped by to inquire whether she had a "going-out-of-business license." Seems it's getting harder these days to go out of business.

Rather than pay a $50 fee, she decided to remove the "Must Go" from her sign. "Technically, I can't go out of business, but I can retire," I heard her tell a customer.

So, Mama Bear will retire. My days are numbered, too. I'm 13 - "going on 14," my owner likes to add. I get cold easily, and I've had two strokes. Drinking water is embarrassing because I drip all over the place. I can barely take a half-block walk anymore. Same old story: big dogs and their hip problems.

But I'm not sitting around belly-aching. I still have my appetite - pretzels, spaghetti, ice cream - anything you have handy. I don't beg. That's rude. I simply inch closer and closer to the mark. I once followed a man six blocks to get my fair share of his pit beef.

You should have seen the two businessmen from Korea last week. They bent down to pet me, and I took a swipe with my tongue at one of the guys' ice cream cones. The other guy laughed so hard he bent over, and I slimed his cone, too.

"She's not a picky eater," says my next door neighbor, Debbie Rykiel, who works at Brassworks. She calls me "girlfriend." She makes liver snacks for me, and I do prefer them to fingers. She likes to tell stories:

About the time I made the cover of the community newspaper East Baltimore Guide. Hollywood never followed up.

About the time I was such a regular at the Admiral's Cup, the folks who feed me scraps there presented my owner with my bar tab.

About the time a woman came into our bear store with a 3-year-old girl. While the mother was looking around the store, her daughter found me napping by the doll house. A mild panic occurred when Mom couldn't find Daughter. She was fast asleep - thumb in mouth - alongside me. Actually, her head was on me.

"There are pictures of Molly all over the world," Debbie says.

It's true people can't walk by without stopping. I must have a "Pet Me" sign pinned to my back. I will bark at an inline-skater or skateboarder, but otherwise I don't have much bark left in me.

After this year, we'll still live upstairs from the store, but somebody else will eventually rent the first floor. Just give me a blanket on Thames Street and some pit beef to go.

We're looking forward to retirement. We're going to camp our way to Key West next spring, although Mama Bear worries I won't make it to then. She worries too much. There's talk of bringing her husband, Joe, which is fine with me. I'm told Key West has ice cream.

Life is good.

I'm going on 14.

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