Pet Tales: Edie retires as Fairmont Pittsburgh ambassador




Human friends and co-workers sipped champagne and munched hors d’oeuvres and cupcakes to mark the retirement of Edie, canine ambassador at the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel. Among the four-legged guests chewing dog treats on Tuesday was River, a golden retriever who started “work” Oct. 7 as Pittsburgh’s new canine ambassador.

Edie, 6, a white boxer-Labrador retriever mix, has greeted hotel guests and accompanied them on Downtown walks since 2011. As the hostess of her birthday parties, she has raised money for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

She also raises awareness about shelter dogs. That’s fitting because as a puppy she was a street stray who ended up in an Ohio animal shelter, then spent time in a prison where inmates did the preliminary training for Circle Tail, Inc. The agency near Cincinnati trains service dogs for people with disabilities, including hearing loss.

By day, 2-year-old River works in the office of Mayor Bill Peduto. At night he goes home to Morningside with Katie O’Malley, the mayor’s assistant communications manager. River also was trained by Circle Tail. Like Edie, he was deemed “too social” to work with a handicapped person. 

“River was not meant to serve one person. He was meant to serve the whole city,” said Ms. O’Malley, who brought him to Edie’s retirement party.  She hints that we will be seeing more of River in the future. He’s already on Twitter and other social media.

We can thank Julie Abramovic Kunes, public relations manager at the Fairmont hotel, for helping to get both dogs to Pittsburgh. When the pet-friendly hotel was looking for a canine ambassador, Ms. Kunes found Circle Tail, where they make sure all of their dogs end up in good homes. Because Edie has been such a big hit at the hotel, the service dog agency contacted Ms. Kunes in August to ask if she knew anyone else who could use a friendly dog. Ms. Kunes mentioned the offer to  Ms. O’Malley.

Is it fate that a golden dog is the ambassador for a city where many bridges are painted gold and the professional sports teams wear black and gold? Circle Tail thought it was a nice touch that the dog they named “River” was going to the city with three rivers.

Cute, exuberant River made the rounds at Edie’s party, wagging his tail as he met people land pets. He looks like he has what it takes to be a canine ambassador.

Edie lives in Garfield with Ms. Kunes, her husband, Adam, and Huckleberry, a black Labrador retriever mix that was adopted from the shelter operated by Circle Tail. They’re all moving to California, where Ms. Kunes has a new job with Claremont Club & Spa, a Fairmont hotel in Berkeley. 

“How do we say goodbye to the heart and soul of our hotel?” Matthew Sterne, general manager of Fairmont Pittsburgh, said at the retirement party.

He said they will take their time finding a special dog to be the hotel’s new canine ambassador.

In honor of Edie, Mr. Sterne presented a giant $1,000 check to Dan Rossi, CEO of the recently merged shelters -— Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center and Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Party guests also contributed money. 

There were dozens of human guests and about 10 dogs.

Gail Harrison lives in Plum and works in Robinson, but she came to the retirement party because she has come to all of Edie’s birthday parties. She used to work Downtown, and like many office workers she regularly visited the dog. She said she made the multicolored paw-print bandanna that Edie wore in a photo in Pittsburgh Magazine”s July issue when she was named best office pet.

Pam Palmer of Brighton Heights is another regular at Edie parties. Ms. Palmer said she’s the reigning Ms. Allegheny County, and “my platform is animal rights.”

Dogs that Edie and River socialized with included Loki, 3, an American Eskimo dog who lives with Josh Troger and Sonora Miller of the South Side. They adopted Loki from an Ohio animal shelter where Mr. Troger used to work.

Annabelle, 12, a Maltese, came with Dan and Darlene Oshop of Robinson. 

“Annabelle has met Edie before,” Mrs. Oshop said. “I work in town, and I often stop in to visit Edie.”

Edie was happy to see a familiar canine face — Adora, 9, a white pit bull who looks a lot like Edie. Adora the Bull, as she is known on social media, makes a lot a public appearances, including Edie parties. Adora works at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with Sarah Shivley, program manager of obedience training and internal events.

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.





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