Backyard Unemployment Report: Cattle Herding Canines Face Job Cuts, Winery Dog Sector Holds Strong

It's been a rough year for cattle herding dogs.

The good news is that the winery dog sector in California is still going strong. Even in a flat economy, a winery still needs a pooch to lounge in tasting room chairs and bark aimlessly at grapevines.

Modeling opportunities are also occasionally available. At Cru Vin Dogs, co-owner and resident pooch Picasso Jay Snellgrove regularly features dogs, including retired K-9 bloodhound Yogi, on wine bottle labels. And if you need further proof that the American Dream is still alive, albeit on life support, a small regional publisher specializes solely on Napa and Sonoma winery dog books.

The job duties of an on-site winery dog vary. A. Rafanelli in Sonoma employs two yellow labs to greet guests. Groth Vineyards & Winery in Napa appropriately gives its crew of pugs, named after neighborhood Chinese restaurants (China Moon, Joy Luck and Chow Fun) floor-level tasks, such as chewing on discarded wine bottle corks and visitor's sandals. At Gargiulo, Lily spends much of her day in the garden sniffing roses. When duty calls, the Maltese politely permits visitors to rub her belly.

But none of these dogs has a global presence quite like Tucker and Tanner, the yellow labs who live at Shafer Vineyards. Their recently launched Facebook page has more than 200 friends. According to winery publicist Andy Demsky, the golden retrievers' business cards must be re-ordered more often than any others at the winery, although Demsky notes that the dogs certainly earn their keep by defending the winery from delivery trucks.

Vineyard dogs
Vineyard dogs
Photo credit: Shafer Vineyards

Proof that you don't have to earn a Masters in Viticulture and Enology - or pass Herding 101 - to land a job at a cult winery.


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