Dog takes her tips from patrons

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- It's Monday night at the Midnite Mine and bar owner Bob Moloney is keeping a sharp eye on his patrons. So is his yellow Labrador, Sam.

''Watch your fingers,'' Moloney yells across the bar at a man who is preparing to feed Sam a dog biscuit. ''Feed her like you would a horse, from the palm of your hand.''

It's too late. The man is new to the bar and doesn't know about Sam. Fortunately, he escapes with his fingers intact, jerking his hand back as the dog grabs the biscuit.

Moloney walks over to apologize to the man for Sam's behavior while at the same time instructing him on the finer points of feeding the dog. After all, if you're going to hang out at the Midnite Mine you had better get used to the Sam and Bob Show.

While the affable Moloney, who has owned the Midnite Mine for three decades, is a popular fixture behind the bar, it is his yellow Labrador, Samantha, or Sam for short, who is the star of the bar.

Sam retrieves dollar bills for treats. Leave a $1 bill -- or $5, $10 or $20 bill -- sitting on the bar and Sam will come by and swipe it. Then she'll take it behind the bar and turn it over to the bartender on duty, who in turn provides the previous owner of the bill with a biscuit to give Sam.

It is a trick that Moloney perfected with Jazz, his first yellow Lab who passed away four years ago, and a tradition that has become a fixture at the bar for more than a decade.

The way Moloney tells it, a woman from Wyoming came into the bar one day and spotted Jazz. She asked Moloney if the dog would retrieve and after several tries, got the dog to hold a $1 bill in her mouth and return it to Moloney behind the bar.

''She dropped it about 10 times,'' Moloney recalled.

Then the woman asked for a pepperoni stick, which she cut up into pieces and fed Jazz as a reward. A couple days later, Moloney was counting money in his office and he felt Jazz nudging on his arm. A bar tradition that still survives today was born. Moloney said it wasn't hard to teach Sam to carry on the legacy.

''If there's food at the end of the line for a Lab they'll be there,'' Moloney said with a smile.

Sam definitely earns her keep. Moloney estimates the dog retrieves somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 a year at the bar.

''I pay for all her (dog) food, biscuits, vet bills, collars and anything else with that money,'' Moloney said. ''Usually if we don't have any major vet bills we can take a trip south to go pheasant hunting.''

An avid bird hunter, Moloney loves to hunt waterfowl and grouse and usually makes at least one trip Outside each fall to hunt pheasants. He will head to North Dakota for a pheasant-hunting trip in a few weeks and he's also planning a bird hunting trip to Oregon in December. After more than a decade of trying, Moloney finally bagged his first Dall sheep this summer in the White Mountains.

''My dad wasn't a hunter or outdoors person so I don't know where I got it from,'' Moloney said of his passion for the outdoors. ''I love it.''

A minute later, Sam is standing behind bartender Jayla Gentry, chomping on another $1 bill. The bartender orders the dog to sit and extracts the wet bill from the dog's mouth and stuffs it into Sam's tip jar.

''She makes more money than the bartenders,'' Moloney said with a chuckle. ''Sometimes I hear a little grumbling about that.''

Gentry, who started working at the bar more than a month earlier, doesn't have a problem handling slobbered-on dollar bills.

''I think it's pretty cool,'' she said.



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