LEWISTON, Maine — As a receptionist, Billy has his pluses and minuses.
He’s a good judge of potential clients. He’s loyal to the boss. He looks dapper in a tie.
Yet he does try to eat the office manager’s lunch.
And since Billy is a great Dane, it’s pretty easy for him to get his paws on it, wherever it is.
“When he gets on his rear legs, he can look down at the top of a full-sized refrigerator. So that’s not a good hiding spot,” lawyer Bill Cote, Billy’s owner, said.
Luckily, there isn’t a lot of food to hide in the law office.
Cote got the dog — named Billy by a friend — from a breeder two years ago when the great Dane was a 7-week-old ball of blue-gray fluff that fit in the palm of Cote’s hand.
Billy now stands over 3 feet tall, so tall that his head reaches at least to the bellybutton of most adults. He’s still growing.
Billy’s size might deter some owners from bringing him to work, but not Cote. The dog often has free roam of Cote’s downtown Lewiston law office. He’s even been known to dress for the occasion.
“Sometimes he wears a tie. Sometimes he wears shirts. He loves to dress up,” Cote said.
When Billy is in the office, he serves as greeter, paws on the reception counter so his is the first face people see when they walk in. He seems to have a talent for judging which clients are good and which “might be advancing an agenda I can’t support,” Cote said.
Billy keeps his distance from those he dislikes. He has no problem cuddling up to everyone else.
“He’ll sit on my clients’ laps,” Cote said. “The rear quarters go in your lap, his front paws are still on the ground.”
Because not everyone likes a lap full of great Dane, Cote sometimes corrals Billy behind the counter, where the dog will nap or keep an eye out for lunch. But more often than not clients appreciate having Billy around.
“I’ve had clients say to me when Billy’s not here that they miss him because he’s a source of comfort for them at a very difficult time in their lives,” Cote said. “They don’t come to see me because it’s all joy and love in their lives. They’re facing prison or they’re about to have all their property and their children separated. Or perhaps they’re in the middle of some kind of failure to abide by the rules of their profession … all of those people look forward to coming here to get the comfort that this dog naturally exudes.”
Billy is just as well-known outside the office. He can often be seen towing Cote on his skateboard or galloping alongside as the lawyer rolls through Lewiston.
“At the Bates Dance Festival, as we’re traversing campus, I’ll hear calls from various groups, ‘Billy, come on over!’ He’s been informally adopted by all the dancers at the Bates Dance Festival,” Cote said. “We’re not able to run our usual training circuit. He’s always stopping and being fawned over.”
Billy is a gentle giant at home, as well. He loves children and small dogs, playing in the water and, well, eating.
“It seems like every time I turn around, the [dog food] bag’s empty,” Cote said.
He guesses Billy weighs about 180 pounds but isn’t really sure. The dog is afraid of the scale at the vet’s office.
Cote has always had an affinity for large dogs. Billy is the largest Cote has ever had, though he may not remain the largest for long.
Cote is considering a second dog.
“I think an Irish wolfhound would be a terrific younger brother or sister for Billy,” he said.