Charley Poodle visits our local book shop. And the hardware store. And the church. Not to shop or worship, but to keep up his skills as a visiting therapy dog. Charley needs to be able to take everything in stride no matter where he goes, and as his keeper, trainer and social secretary, I ensure his abilities stay honed by taking him various places, including all of the above and then some.

During his travels, Charley has formed some clear preferences as to his favorite spots to visit, so I’ve developed a “1 to 4 paws” rating system on his behalf.

1 Paw goes to places that welcome dogs only on special occasions. A minister friend’s church offers an annual Blessing of the Animals service, but it’s held outside except in bad weather. Charley lives indoors at home and feels slighted that his curly backside is not welcome on padded pews. Nevertheless, he enjoys howling a yearly hallelujah along with the choir.

2 Paws go to businesses with drive-through windows and a stash of dog treats. When we pull up to our bank, Charley emits a single, gentle “woof” to remind the tellers he’s in the car. That’s my cue to say, “I’d like to deposit one check and withdraw one biscuit, please.” Charley has learned that most local fast-food joints don’t cater to his species – but there is one that does, and he has memorized its scent and location.

3 Paws go to places that allow dogs but otherwise pay them no attention. One local store has a “pet friendly” policy, but no one fusses over Charley’s arrival. No treats and no petting. Such failure to admire a handsome and charming animal is not “pet friendly” by Charley’s reckoning. It is barely “pet tolerant”. Fortunately, Charley’s bruised ego is distracted by searching out the bacon-scented novelty treats amid the overwhelming miasma of patchouli.

4 Paws are awarded to stores with staff who know Charley on sight and are quick with ear rubs and dog biscuits. The people who own our favorite bookstore always remember Charley’s name, even though they have to ask mine. He is also on a first-name basis with the folks at our local shipping store – other pups may slobber like Pavlov’s pooches at the sound of a can opener, but Charley dances around the living room in ecstasy whenever I break out the packing tape.

The coveted “4 Paws and Tail” prize still awaits some lucky entrepreneur. Maybe someday we will find a furniture store dealing exclusively in canine couches, beds and pillows, where a dog can try out the merchandise over the course of a few naps, and perhaps bring along his close friends Squeaky Bunny and Disgusting Ball too. Or maybe a dog masseuse or a cheese store will set up shop nearby. Then again, maybe it’s better such places don’t exist here yet. Charley only has four paws and one tail, after all!