At first glance, the sign by the entrance of The Village Restaurant &Lounge doesn’t grab attention.
It’s not catchy like the green-and-blue “No Vaping” placard or the fluffy pie on the Marysville restaurant’s logo.
It’s just a simple white piece of paper with black text printed on both sides so it can be seen by people coming in for the lunch special or ogling the pies by the register on the way out.
It reads: “Per the Snohomish County Health Department, no animals of any kind are allowed except registered service dogs or miniature horses with the proper identification.”
What’s up with that?
Miniature horses have to start carrying an ID? Since when?
OK, to be serious, horses as service animals?
Finally, I had my shot at some investigative journalism. I called Heather Thomas, the county health department spokeswoman. She laughed, then she did some digging. What she found was news to her.
“That’s correct,” she said. “This provision is aligned with the ADA.”
Even then, not just any old tiny horse gets an invite: The horse must be housebroken (horses can be housebroken? That was news to me). No horseplay allowed. No horses allowed in the kitchen. Stuff like that.
Mini horses are about the same size as big dogs but have advantages as service animals. They live to be about 30. They sleep better in a barn than a bed, so you don’t have to listen to them snore. They have hooves, perfect for shoes … shoes as in sneakers and boots. For real — Google it.
Thomas said she doesn’t know of any mini horse sightings in restaurants around the county.
“It’s like a mythological unicorn,” she said.
The Village might be one of the few places posting a sign welcoming horses.
Hostess Jonnie Finley said customers get a kick out of it.
“Mostly they want to know if it’s for real,” Finley said, “and if we’ve ever had one come in.”
So far, it’s been dogs only.
The homestyle diner is a local landmark. It started out as a “pie house” on old Highway 99 in Marysville in 1937. Lines would form around the restaurant to have a slice of pie, which was featured in the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
The Village now sits next to a motel off I-5 by exit 199. In addition to the dining area with booths, there’s a banquet room with statues and a bar with tall tables.
“They’d fit better in the bar,” Finley said of the miniature horses.
Lunch regular Lillian Henry said the horse inclusion clause is fine with her, though “I wouldn’t want to sit next to one,” she said.
Linda Paterson dined recently at the Village with her service dog, Noel, a European lab that alerts her if she’s going to have a seizure.
Henry said her pooch would accept a horse as a dining neighbor under the next table.
“She’d probably just sniff noses with it,” she said.
Does anyone around here have a miniature horse as a service animal?
Give me a call. I know just where to take you to lunch.
— Andrea Brown (@reporterbrown) March 8, 2016