Telluride Daily Planet
Monday afternoon saw main street’s Brown Dog Pizza bustling with activity as workers put finishing touches on the inside of the popular restaurant in preparation for its reopening.
But something — or more accurately, someone — was missing for Jeff “Smoke” Smokevitch, the restaurant’s co-owner.
Smokevitch lost a longtime friend and Telluride lost an iconic resident last Saturday, when Smokevitch’s chocolate lab, Boone, died of old age at 14.
“More people knew him in town than (knew) me,” Smokevitch said during an interview at the restaurant. Even friends, Smokevitch joked, would ask after the dog before they asked how his owner was faring.
Smokevitch met Boone in Montrose when the latter was six weeks old. The puppy had “a certain swagger and mojo about him” that immediately drew Smokevitch to him. The two spent the rest of Boone’s life together.
In many ways, Boone was the quintessential Telluride resident, taking in everything the town and the surrounding San Juans had to offer. He leapt at any utterance of the word “park” and loved swimming in the San Miguel River. He joined Smokevitch in hiking Telluride’s trails and skiing Bushwacker, Kant-Mak-M and the Plunge.
In a tribute posted on social media, Smokevitch recalled how Boone and a bevy of other chocolate labs inspired the name for the popular restaurant.
“In the spring of 2004, we were about to open a sister restaurant to Pacific Street Pizza. A week before opening, we still did not have a name that we liked,” he wrote. “The day was a beautiful spring bluebird offseason day. We were painting the exterior of our new restaurant the color brown. Both chocolate labs, Boone and Phlounder (who belonged to co-owner Dan Lynch), were lolling on the sidewalk, watching us paint. An entire litter of chocolate labs had recently been born in Telluride, and many were walking around town that day. The decision came easy, and Brown Dog Pizza was born.”
During his long life, Boone watched as Smokevitch followed the trajectory from new arrival to successful entrepreneur. A 25-year-old Smokevitch had four jobs when he moved here, and Boone had a total of five canine roommates (some are pictured in a photo album Smokevitch has put together on Facebook).
“In a younger day,” Smokevitch wrote, “(Boone) would meander about the restaurant, visiting customer tables. He came to work with me every day” and gained both front-of-house and office experience. Cheese and pepperoni were his compensation.
Smokevitch said he flew home from the World Pizza Championships in Italy to be with Boone during his last days. He praised the care Telluride’s veterinarians — who told Smokevitch that it would be inhumane to keep Boone alive any longer — provided the dog.
“He was ready to go; I could see it in his eyes,” Smokevitch said through tears.
The restaurateur said that after a period of grieving, he expects another brown dog to take up the tradition that started with Phlounder and Boone. That pup will have big tracks to follow.
“I could not have ever asked for a more loyal and devoted companion,” Smokevitch said.