EVERETT — Watching this doting couple push a stroller, you’d think it’s their first kid.
Actually, the pudgy tyke is their tenth.
What’s up with that?
John and Lorna Landis rarely leave the house without Auggie Doggie, an 11-year-old Shih Tzu-Pomeranian mix. On this day, it’s a trip to the mall.
After a fill-up at the Starbucks kiosk, the couple put their drinks in the stroller cup holders and make the rounds.
The pooch sits upright in the stroller, aloof to the adoration from passersby.
“Gentleman canine,” reads his nameplate. He sports a bow tie.
The dog has gray hair. Not the couple.
Auggie Doggie looks more like an old man than John, who is 84. Lorna, almost 83, wearing a bright red jacket and stylish black sweater, is at the helm. She taught aerobics and he retired from Comcast. They’ve been married 66 years and raised nine children.
The dog is their only kiddo at home now. And there’s nothing they like better than sharing him with strangers.
“He doesn’t act like a normal dog,” Lorna says. “He acts like you’re very privileged to be able to pet him.”
He’s not a service dog in the official sense.
“We got a hit,” John says with excitement when he spies two women posed to fawn over Auggie Doggie. He can see it in their eyes that the irresistible dog has reeled them in.
The conversation is reciprocal.
Those who say “Hi, Puppy,” are soon telling the couple all about their dogs. Auggie Doggie just sits there, ever the good listener. He doesn’t bark, wag or fidget.
“Stoic. That’s what someone called him,” John says.
He’s about 10 pounds overweight. The dog, not John.
The pair doesn’t plaster Auggie Doggie on social media, only in the fur. If you don’t catch him at the mall or WinCo or Costco, well, you haven’t had the pleasure.
I hadn’t had the pleasure, either, until John called the newsroom a few weeks ago to tell me about this dog wonder.
“I thought you might lighten someone’s day out there in paperland and give them a good laugh,” he said.
That was a dare I couldn’t refuse.
Hence the trip to the mall so I could see Auggie Doggie in action.
Or, in this case, inaction. All he does is sit there and fans spring out of everywhere. John and Lorna ask them about their pets and friendly chat ensues.
Some remember the original Augie Doggie, that rambunctious dachshund son of Doggie Daddy in the 1959-62 cartoon “The Quick Draw McGraw Show.” The couple liked the name and added a “g.”
Their Auggie Doggie is not always so chill at home.
“When we tell him we’re going to go he gets excited,” Lorna says. He pouts if they leave without him.
The field trips on wheels began four years ago when a daughter got them a pet stroller for Auggie Doggie. That’s when the bow ties started, too.
To take it up a notch, Auggie Doggie celebrity cards with his photo were printed listing his talents such as “journeyman squirrel chaser.” After all, he doesn’t sit around and look pretty all the time.
“How many people do you know that their dog passes out business cards?” John says.
Better yet: How many dogs do you know that wear bow ties every day?
The cards aren’t handed out willy-nilly.
“We wait until someone comes up,” Lorna says. “Usually, here’s the conversation: ‘Oh, he is so cute.’ And my husband raises one eyebrow and says, ‘Oh, you mean the dog?’”
The couple met as teens at Arlington High School. She was 16 when they married and he was 18. They had nine children in 15 years.
“We still have a crush on each other,” Lorna says.
He gives her sticky love notes, “J.L. + L.L.” in a heart. After doing a Herald puzzle every morning, she uses the pen to write him a message on the paper.
They have outlived four of their children. Two sons and two daughters died from various illnesses in the past three years, the last suddenly five months ago at age 59.
Their faith and the healing powers of Auggie Doggie helps them deal with the grief.
The couple are members of Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Madison Street in Everett. Auggie Doggie joins in at the end of the Zoom sessions when other members’ pets join in. He’s not one to hog the limelight.
In public, it’s not his fault that he’s so doggone adorable.
“I think all dogs are cute, but he was wearing a tie,” says mall shopper Cindy Jensen of Seattle. “How could you not love that face? I wonder if he’s looking for a Mrs. Auggie Doggie. I bet he could get one with that tie.”
This gentleman canine has no interest in ladies with four legs. He stays busy enough entertaining those on two legs.
“Look at you,” says a Macy’s cashier sprinting from behind a counter to pat his head.
“I’m his manager,” John says. “He has authorized me to give you his business card.”
“Oh, Auggie,” the worker says. “You just made my whole day.”