Liquor store owners Mary Lee and Bobby Shen have an employee so willing to help that he whimpers and cries when his offers of assistance are refused. Saki, the snow-white five-pound, three-ounce Maltese who had his fifth birthday this week has been working his tail off to service the store’s customers since puppyhood.
Enter the store tucked in to Fann’s plaza on Route 32, and chances are that Saki will be curled up on his little doggie bed like a plush stuffed animal. Within moments, however, Saki springs to life and heads over to see if he can be of any help, bell jingling around his neck.
The typical greeting he gets from customers with wine bottle in hand at the counter is, “Hello little guy! Aren’t you cute?” But they don’t even know the half of it.
“Saki, do you want to work?” Lee or Shen will ask, to which Saki excitedly wags his tail, rebounding from floor to chair onto the counter. The typical transaction goes like this: A customer reaches into her pocket book to take out her credit card to pay for purchase and hands it to Saki, who scurries down the counter with card held gingerly in his mouth to deliver the credit card to Lee or Shen. Saki expectantly waits at the register for the credit card slip to appear, and carefully delivers the slip of paper for the customer to sign. He then retrieves a pen from the pen caddy next to the register, and delivers this to the customer, and waits for the customer to sign. The customer hands the credit card slip back to Saki, who carries it back to the cashier and awaits the final printed receipt. (If you pay in cash, Saki drops the money off to Shen or Lee, and returns with change.) And of course, it wouldn’t be good customer service if he didn’t return the pen back to its caddy, and thank his customers for their patronage by bidding farewell with a wave or high-five with his front paw. If you know Saki, you can even ask for a kiss. Yes, it’s that cute.
“People have gone out and bought a Maltese dog after meeting Saki,” mused Lee. “One customer even posted a video of Saki on Youtube — it hasn’t gotten many hits, but he’s there.” (The video is entitled “Sake the Amazing Dog!” and indeed shows the pup doing his thing for an appreciative customer.)
Saki is now putting his skills to a constructive use — Lee explained that she and her husband, natives of China, have floor cushions on which they sit for meals. Saki developed a stealth skill of “picking pockets” of those seated. “He would take the money out of my pockets and I wouldn’t even notice,” recalled Lee. “But he never destroyed the money. He would just pull it out.”
Lee said that sometimes Saki will find dollar bills on the floor and promptly deliver them straight to her at the register.
Some of Saki’s other skills include jumping through hoops and racing to the back of the store to press a giant, oversized button which rewards him with a pleasing buzz.
“We get people from all over who come to visit Saki,” Lee added that Saki also has multiple “girlfriends” who visit the talented pup regularly as well.
Antonio Stenta, owner of Antonio’s Pizzaria in Rosendale loves his kisses from Saki, and summed him up thusly: “Saki doesn’t know he’s a dog. He treats humans better than humans treat humans.”