Years ago, back in the ’80s or early ’90s, one of the local TV stations featured Cindy the Weather Dog. This talented canine belonged to a local family who claimed that she could predict the weather. What station was Cindy on, who owned her and what became of her?
— Risa Lapidow, New Carrollton
Paul Harris apparently didn’t get the memo never to work with animals.
Paul was the morning drive host on WCXR, a Washington classic-rock radio station that once broadcast from 105.9 FM. He arrived in December 1986 from Philadelphia, after previous stints in Hartford and New York.
Although music was played on his “Harris in the Morning” show, Paul did not consider himself a DJ. Rather, he was a personality whose job was to create an environment that listeners want to spend time in, to conjure a cast of characters they want to mingle with.
Paul had one bit called the Marching Weathermen. In the guise of “Sgt. Peter Driller,” he delivered the weather forecast in the sing-song cadences of a basic-training drill instructor: I don’t know but I been told, tomorrow it’s gonna get mighty cold.
“In the summer of 1987, the first summer I was there, I got a call one day from a listener named Doug Griggs, who said he had a dog that could predict the weather,” Paul told Answer Man. “I said, ‘Sure you do.’ He said, ‘Really, I do.’ ”
The dog was a golden-retriever mix named Cindy. In 1987, Doug and his then-wife, Nancy, lived in Alexandria and worked at the Federal Reserve in the District. Cindy loved being outside, but only on dry days. If the weather forecast called for sun, Doug would put her outside before the couple left for work. Cindy would frolic in her fenced dog run and nap in her dog house.
One morning, as Doug went to put Cindy out, she put all four paws down and refused to leave the house. He couldn’t shift her. He left her indoors, even though the forecast indicated only the slightest chance of rain. That afternoon, there was a tremendous thunderstorm.
“That got us thinking,” Nancy said. “What did she know that we didn’t know?”
They decided to let her choose each morning. If they opened the back door and Cindy went out, it meant it wasn’t going to rain. This was the news that Doug shared with his favorite radio personality.
“If you’re a good broadcaster, you recognize this is something you can play with,” Paul said. He added Cindy to his morning mix, telling listeners what the mutt-eorologist predicted. If Doug was late in making his daily a.m. call to the station, listeners would phone in demanding to know what the dog had said.
“Cindy was remarkably accurate,” Paul said. “I would say better than 90 percent.”
She was so good that he challenged the local TV weatherfolk — Gordon Barnes, Sue Palka and the rest — to a contest.
“All turned her down,” Doug said. “After all, if you beat a dog, so what? But if a dog beats you . . . .”
Cindy was strictly binary: rain/no rain. How did she do it? Doug isn’t sure. Paul figures she may have been sensitive to slight changes in barometric pressure.
Cindy the Weather Dog was on the radio for about six years, following Paul when he moved his morning show to DC 101. She wasn’t needed when he moved to afternoons at WARW. Fifteen years ago, Paul relocated to St. Louis, where he hosts programs on KTRS and has a syndicated show called America Weekend.
Doug and Nancy moved to Roanoke in 1997. Cindy developed cancer and died in 2000 at age 16. The Griggses divorced but remain friends. Everyone who knew Cindy remembers her with affection.
“When we would talk about her on the air, that was the magic of radio,” Paul said. “People could picture this dog. Nowadays, the dog wouldn’t need a radio guy. She’d have her own Cindy the Weather Dog YouTube page.”
Squirrel Week is just around the corner. This year, we’re throwing a squirrel photography contest. To upload your entry — one per reader — go to wapo.st/squirrelcontest.
I’ll post my favorites online, and the grand-prize winner will receive a $100 gift card. To read the complete contest rules, go to wapo.st/squirrelcontestrules.
The deadline is March 28, so get snapping.