While waiting in line at their local Lowe’s on Sunday, Judy and Brian Rose did a double take.
Behind them, a golden retriever sauntered by wearing one of the home improvement store’s red-and-blue employee vests.
The dog didn’t seem to be accompanied by anyone at the time. And the vest looked so . . . official.
“What’s up with the dog?” Brian Rose asked the cashier, laughing.
The Abilene, Tex., couple was told the dog belonged to a store employee, a disabled veteran who had been hired for a part-time job a couple months before.
“I’m a retired vet myself,” Brian Rose told The Washington Post. “So I was actually impressed, one, that they hired a disabled vet, but also [a vet] with a dog. Because the dog could be a liability if somebody tripped over him or if something happened to a customer . . . and they took the chance on him anyways, and I thought that’s pretty awesome.”
Around the corner, Judy Rose spotted the employee in question. The dog, Charlotte, had since returned to his side.
Not wanting to disturb them — but touched by the sight — Judy Rose snapped a photograph of the pair from the back. While leaving Lowe’s, she uploaded the picture to her Facebook page, intending to show it to her circle of friends.
“I love Abilene Lowes, way to go!” she wrote on Facebook. “This is a disabled vet who struggled to get a job because he needs his service dog! Lowes hired them BOTH!!”
The couple drove two blocks away to watch a movie. By the time they emerged from the theater, hours later, Judy Rose’s Facebook notifications had gone berserk.
“That phone is going ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding,” Brian Rose said.
Her post would be shared tens of thousands of times, with accolades pouring in for Lowe’s, the veteran and Charlotte.
Soon, the Lowe’s employee — an Air Force veteran named Clay Luthy — would also be inundated with media requests and attention.
A Lowe’s spokeswoman said Luthy was not available for an interview Wednesday, but said that hiring him, along with Charlotte, was simply a matter of accommodating a qualified employee.
“We were interviewing people for his position, and he was one of the applicants,” Jay Fellers, a Lowe’s human resources managers, told KRBC News. “And so he showed up for the interview and he had Charlotte with him.”
According to the station, Luthy asked during the interview process if having Charlotte at work with him every day would be a problem. The people at Lowe’s said no, then offered him the job weeks later.
“I can’t stand sitting at home,” Luthy told the station. He noted that he had multiple deployments with the Air Force — once to Uzbekistan and twice to Qatar — and had to have multiple knee surgeries. “Instead of medications, I have Charlotte. . . . They schedule me in an area at least for a few hours where Charlotte can get a good break.”
Luthy didn’t elaborate on his medical conditions, but Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb said reports that the dog helped him avoid falls were not true.
Because 10-year-old Charlotte may soon need to retire from her service-dog duties, Luthy has been training a new golden retriever, 7-month-old Lola, she said.
Most Lowe’s branches allow non-service dogs in their stores anyway.
“We welcome well-behaved pets and, obviously, service animals,” Cobb said.
Lowe’s does not keep statistics on the number of service dogs who work with their owners at stores.
Lowe’s officials said bringing Charlotte on board has not only benefited Luthy but also delighted customers. In many news stories about Luthy and Charlotte, the retriever can often be seen at the center of people’s attention.
“Everybody loves Charlotte,” Luthy told the Abilene Reporter-News, noting that she is especially good at keeping children entertained while their parents shop.
It helps that she has her own Lowe’s vest — which Luthy made out of an old Lowe’s apron, according to Cobb.
“Clay has been so friendly to allow Charlotte to sit down and [be] pet and enjoy our customers that are coming in on a regular basis,” Fellers, the human resources manager, told KRBC.
Shortly after their photo of Luthy and Charlotte went viral, Judy and Brian Rose returned to the store to meet Luthy in person — and to apologize that they had brought so much unexpected attention to him.
“We were not trying to make a spectacle of him,” Brian Rose said of the photo. “We never expected it to go past friends.”
He said Luthy told them not to worry about it.
And Charlotte seemed equally unfazed.
“The dog is actually incredibly well behaved,” Brian Rose said. “The few minutes that we spoke to him, the dog just laid there.
“She laid there and just kept her eyes on him everywhere he went.”