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Shop Dog: Blondie from Mimi 

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In an upscale Magazine Street boutique, a canine Cinderella whiles away her days. Blondie, the resident apricot poodle at Mimi (5500 Magazine St., 269-6464; www.miminola.com), came from humble origins at a shelter and later became royalty. "There is a parade called Mardi Paws," owner Rae Matthews says, "and (Blondie) was the royal scepter bearer to Her Majesty The Queen."

  Matthews and her ex-husband previously had rescued a dog, but Matthews had to give it up when they divorced. "I hadn't really gotten that upset about the husband being gone, but when the dog walked out the door, I sort of fell apart," Matthews says. Matthews' friend and coworker Erica Geldersma suggested she check out some Internet rescue sites.

  Searching on PetFinder.com, Matthews had a few criteria for her future pet: No shedding, an approximate weight of 50 pounds, and the ability to keep up during her 4 to 5 mile daily walks. She fell in love with Blondie, who had been living in a poodle shelter in Texarkana, Texas after her previous owners fell on hard times. Matthews adopted the dog right away.

  She brought Blondie in to Mimi on the dog's first day in town, where she was an instant hit. "She was just a natural," Matthews says. "She's so well-mannered." Customers, even grown men, ask to take pictures with Blondie, and Blondie loves them right back. "Because she's around women all day long ... when a man comes in here, oh my God, she becomes a flirt," Matthews says.

  Blondie's favorite pastime is playing catch in the store, especially with store owner Mimi Robinson, who is known for her strong right arm. Occasionally, the game can be a little risky. One unlucky customer had the misfortune of walking in the front door just as Robinson hurled the ball in that direction, accidentally striking the customer. Nobody was hurt, but the woman was a bit taken aback. "It was just a small problem," Robinson says, laughing. "We've had to curtail the ball-throwing just a little bit," Matthews adds. "We have to make sure the coast is clear."

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  Mimi specializes in designer apparel and also offers a denim bar, hair salon, manicures and pedicures, and a Vera Wang bridal shop. The store has existed for more than 40 years and has been at its current location for 10 years. Robinson plans to keep the store there for another decade. "They're going to take me out of here toes up," she jokes.

  Blondie has brought such a happy, homey vibe to Mimi that she is now the shop's official greeter. "She's exuberant. All the time she's happy, and it's contagious," says Matthews, who encourages aspiring dog owners to give rescue sites a chance. "I think so many times people are afraid of going to (animal shelters), because you don't know what you'll wind up with, but look what we got."

  Matthews feels like she won the lottery in finding Blondie, but Blondie is just as fortunate to have found Matthews. "She has landed in the lap of luxury," Matthews says. "She was living in a trailer, and now she goes shoe shopping at Saks." Blondie looks forward to returning to Mardi Paws next year, maybe this time as Queen. "Nothing is written in stone," Matthews says. "We have high hopes."

My Favorite Things ...

Playing catch with my tennis ball

Animal print

Beggin' Strips

Meeting new people

Spa days

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