EAST MAHONING TOWNSHIP — Sid, an 8-month-old Brittany spaniel, makes quite the goodwill ambassador for Paula and Bob Riddle.
Sid is there with a happy tail wag and a curious sniff for visitors pulling into the driveway at the Riddles’ out-of-the-way home just off Pickering Run Road, about two miles on the outskirts of Marion Center.
But there’s one daily visitor that Sid is most eager to greet.
Whether it’s bred in him as a hunting dog, who knows. But Sid keeps a daily watch and quickly beats a path to the car when Charlie Porter pulls up each afternoon to drop off the newspaper for the Riddles.
[See video of Sid retrieving The Indiana Gazette from delivery driver Charlie Porter and returning it to Bob and Pauline Riddle.]
This spaniel is more than a companion to the Riddles, retirees who moved in just a few years ago and bought him over the past winter.
Is his run for the daily paper some kind of innate payback for what turns out to be the reprieve the Riddles gave him?
Under the circumstances, Pauline considers Sid a “rescue” dog.
“Nobody else would buy him. … He was the runt of the litter,” Pauline Riddle said.
They had gone to a dealer, whom she wouldn’t identify, meaning to buy a Labrador retriever.
“There were a lot of yellow labs there and I saw something brown clear in the bottom of the cage. Those labs were all laying on top of him!” Pauline explained. “So I said to the guy, ‘what’s the brown thing on the bottom?’ He said, ‘oh, we’re getting rid of him tonight.’”
The Riddles refused to let him face that fate. For something less than the going rate for purebreds, the Riddles brought him home and named him Sidney Crosby.
Soon, Sid’s routine became a bit more than ordinary good behavior tricks rewarded by treats.
Sid became the Riddles’ link to the daily paper, dashing across their snowy yard to bring the paper from Porter’s car to the house, rewarded with a bacon snack or a pepperoni stick.
With Bob recuperating from open-heart surgery and Pauline on the mend from an operation on her shoulder, Sid’s new trick was more than a novelty — it was a necessity.
“The truck with the snow plow piled all the snow up, and Charlie couldn’t get in, and I couldn’t get out,” Pauline said. “So he would just reach out and hand it to him.”
And the Riddles credit Porter, an Indiana Gazette motor route carrier for almost 10 years, with teaching Sid the drill.
“It took probably about a week. He took his own time to train that puppy,” Pauline said. “Charlie has been such a big help to us. And I just want people to know that.”
The snow is gone and the Riddles have gotten over their medical issues. Either could pick up the paper from the red box at the roadside now, but they’re more than content to see Sid on the fly, running out and back with their Gazette.
“And he does it in all kinds of weather, too,” Bob Riddle said. “Sid sits and waits on top of the couch, watching. Just like a cat! And I don’t know how he knows what time it is. Every day about 3:30 or 4 o’clock, he’s up there and he hears him coming. And he goes crazy, running back and forth in the house!”
The Riddles say Sid clearly enjoys doing his retrieval trick every afternoon but the dog’s favorite run has become the Sunday morning delivery, when Porter’s wife, Shirley, accompanies him.
“She puts a treat in there with the paper, and he knows it,” Pauline said.
“It’s been something for him to look forward to. He’s been a good dog,” Bob Riddle said.
Indiana Gazette newspaper carrier Charlie Porter handed off Friday’s edition to Sid, a Brittany spaniel, to take to owners Bob and Pauline Riddle, of Marion Center.
Bob Riddle and his wife, Pauline, say they are grateful to carrier Charlie Porter for training Sid how to fetch the daily newspaper.