Shawn and John Color Our World

BOARDMAN, Ohio — His smiling face appears on company trucks and business cards. His presence at job sites guarantees happy customers – especially if they’re children. And on mornings when his boss buys supplies, he earns his reward.

Meet Shawn, a 13-year old Golden Retriever, and John Himes, the sole proprietor of Himes Painting Co. in Poland.

“Everybody knows me for my dog,” says Himes. “When I go to bid a job, a lot of people ask me, ‘If you get the job, will you bring the dog?’ I say yes, and I get the job!”

As his company’s slogan promises, “John and Shawn will go anywhere to color your world.” And on this day, they brighten our world as we just happen to observe their morning rituals.

John and Shawn begin their workday at the Sherwin-Williams store on Tiffany Boulevard .

“Shawn walks in carrying a paintbrush – sometimes a roller brush or a bucket – and he starts barking and nuzzling up to the customers so he can be petted,” says store clerk Kalyn Midkiff. ”He’s so lovable, one of a kind, and he always gets our day off to a good start.”

Once Shawn is satisfied (temporarily) with the level of attention he receives at the paint store, and John has completed his transactions, Shawn picks up whatever he carried inside Sherwin-Williams and walks next door to greet his fans at Classic Bakery.

“He barks at our window and I say, ‘It’s time for his cookies.’ So I run outside and give him his cookies,” says Christine McCain, a bakery store clerk.

“After he gets his cookies, he gives me his paw so he can be rubbed and petted. Our customers love it. They think it’s cute when he comes to the window and starts barking for his cookies.”

McCain says Shawn reminds her of Duke, the Golden Retriever in the Bush’s Baked Beans commercials. This lovable dog, privy to the company’s “secret family recipe,” is actually a stand-in for the original Duke, gone to his reward after inspiring an Atlanta advertising agency 15 years ago to feature him in the company’s TV spots.

No one knows how many centuries ago man discovered how to use for economic advantage the emotional engagement canines evoke. Dogs attract our attention and engender our trust.The Humane Society of the United States estimates that Americans own 83.3 million dogs, which makes for a gigantic affinity market.

Just as Duke sells millions of cans of Bush’s Baked Beans, Shawn brings positive attention to Himes Painting. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when Diane Less, founder of Angels for Animals, encountered John and Shawn that this Golden Retriever became the company’s mascot.

“John stopped out here and had his dog with him,” Less remembers. “He wanted his trucks painted so I went to his business. The dog was walking around with a paintbrush in his mouth. So I told him, ‘I can paint that dog’s picture on your truck.’ ”

In addition to being one of the region’s strongest advocates for dogs and cats, Less is an artist who co-owns Spotted Horse Studio in Greenford, which specializes in painting signs.

“One thing led to another and John ended up entering his dog’s picture into the Angels for Animals calendar contest,” Less continues.

Shawn is among the canines and felines featured on the organization’s 2013 and 2014 calendars, and both of the dog’s calendar pictures are proudly displayed inside Classic Bakery.

“I got the dog when he was six weeks old from a breeder in Grove City, Pa.,” Himes says. “When I started walking him, he would always try to put the leash in his mouth. From there it went to a towel and all sorts of things. I could put anything into his mouth and he would carry it. He’s just an amazing dog.”

So that answers how the paintbrushes and rollers got in Shawn’s mouth. But what about the cookies?

“I always brought Shawn with me to Sherwin-Williams,” Himes begins. “Then one day, about four years ago, a young lady who worked at the bakery saw us and brought a cookie out to him. He never forgot that. So every time we would come here, he would bark outside the bakery until they brought out cookies. They could be real busy in there – but no matter what, they would still bring him cookies.”

Shawn is the only animal, human or canine, who never pays for his cookies at Classic Bakery, McCain confirms. “He likes the butter cookies. I know because that’s what the tray he looks at through the window,” she says with a laugh.

Shawn will turn 13 in September, says Himes. “I used to walk him quite a bit – about three miles in the morning. But now that his hips are bad, he can’t walk as far as he used. But he still has to have something in his mouth.”

Pictured: Shawn, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever, and John Himes, owner of Himes Painting Co.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.