This article originally appeared in the Friday, August 19, 1988 edition of The Washington Post on page E1.
She’s a little like Gordon Barnes but with a wet nose. She has the instincts of Willard Scott, though only one of them is known to chase squirrels.
Since last summer, morning listeners of WCXR-FM radio have been informed whether Cindy the Weather Dog, the four-footed forecaster, predicts a rainy day.
To the cynical listeners out there: Yes, there is a real Cindy — she’s a golden retriever — and yes, there is a method to her prognostications.
It’s a simple system, said owners Nancy and Douglas Griggs of Fairfax County: If Cindy wants to go outside in the morning, it won’t rain before 6 p.m.; if she wants to stay in the basement instead, there will be precipitation by 6 p.m.
They claim only 10 misses in the last 13 months, though the Griggses acknowledge they give Cindy a certain amount of leeway.
“People will call from Gaithersburg and say, ‘She was wrong, it rained here,’ “ mimicked Douglas Griggs. But Cindy’s win-loss record is determined by the how the weather turns out in her own neighborhood, a few miles south of Old Town.
Paul Harris, the WCXR (105.9 FM) morning host who became Cindy’s ticket to fame, said that fans have developed a dogged loyalty to her.
“If I don’t have a report on the air by 7:35, people will start to call,” Harris said. When Cindy is on vacation or calls in sick, listeners phone the station, wanting to know what to wear. Harris has developed a Solomon-like reply: “I always tell them to wear their slicker. You can always take it off.”
Cindy was a stray who appeared at the door of one of Nancy Griggs’ relatives on election eve 1984. The Griggses took Cindy in soon after that, but her putative powers of prognostication were not revealed until June 1987.
The forecast that day was for “variable cloudiness,” but it was a beautiful morning. Douglas Griggs called Cindy to come outside, but she refused. In mid-afternoon, a thunderstorm erupted. Strange.
Two weeks later, another forecast of “variable cloudiness.” Again, Cindy balked at going out.
“This time it looked like she’d blown it,” Douglas Griggs said, recalling the cloudless day. But as he and his wife were coming home from their jobs with the Federal Reserve it started to drizzle, and by the time they got to National Airport it was raining cats and ... well, you know.
“I called Paul and said, ‘I have a dog that can predict the weather,’ “ said Douglas Griggs, a WCXR fan who had never met Harris. Harris’ enthusiasm was unrestrained: “I said, ‘Yeah. Right.’ “ But deejays are a notoriously game breed, and he went along with a trial run.
After Cindy hit it right the first day (no rain, despite an official 30 percent chance), Harris became an instant convert. Now Douglas Griggs calls in each day between 7 and 7:30 a.m. with Cindy’s report.
Scientists occasionally are reported to be studying animal behavior to predict phenomena — the cattle in China, for example, know when earthquakes are on the way, we’re told (without explanation of why American cows stay mum about impending disaster).
But neither Harris nor the Griggses know of any other weather animal that makes its own predictions. They sniff at a purported “weather cat” from Oregon featured recently in People magazine, calling it a dressed-up prop for a standard two-legged forecaster.
Her fame spreading, Cindy has started doing feature drop-bys at events across the area. Named the local Cystic Fibrosis Foundation poster dog, she attended a volleyball fund-raising event sponsored by WCXR last Saturday.
Specializing in precipitation only, Cindy’s task may have been easier with this summer’s drought. Humidity tends to confuse Cindy, however, so the dog days of summer held a special challenge.
On very humid days, Harris lets her off easy by telling his listeners, “Cindy says you’ll get wet indoors or out.”