On any given day, lawyers, judges, police officers, the destitute and people accused of crimes all wait patiently in line for one man – Douglas Bickford, the self-proclaimed Dog Father.
The white-haired, 61-year-old Air Force veteran owns D&D Dogs and has been serving hot dogs in front of the Spokane County Courthouse since 2009.
“Oh, I’ve got Al French, Ozzie, various judges,” Bickford said of his clientele.
“Everyone comes here. It’s like the meeting place,” he said. “I see the poor people. I see the rich people. I see the people who are in trouble and I see the judges who are overseeing the cases.”
Frank Powell works at the Spokane City Public Defender’s Office as a clerk. He eats at Bickford’s cart two to three times a week.
“You get a good mixture of people,” he said while waiting in line Monday. “People from all walks of life out here. He’s a staple. He’s known around here.”
Behind Powell, Laurie Kennedy also waited in line. Recently, she said, a homeless man was there with his dog. Bickford fed them both.
That’s something Bickford likes to do – feed people, often for free. In 2015, he dished out free dogs to veterans in commemoration of Veterans Day. He gives jurors discounts and often feeds homeless men and women for free.
“I want to do the right thing and I’ve been blessed with my business,” Bickford said.
In 2009, Bickford moved to Spokane to be closer to his grandchildren. Prior to that he drove ice cream trucks in Portland. Being his own boss has its benefits, he said.
“I have a hard time working for people,” he said.
Bickford interacts with his customers easily, flipping between lighthearted chitchat and more serious topics. He asks one man about his cat’s health. Then, he listens as the next customer relates how his minor in possession ticket was waived. The man had gotten into a car accident that nearly killed him.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” Bickford marveled after the man left.
His customers, especially the regulars, notice the diversity.
“You’ll be standing in line with an attorney, a criminal and somebody just walking downtown,” Fallon Holder said.
Holder, who works in civil court, jokes with Bickford as she waits for her lunch.
“You’ve got your guitar out here, too,” she said. “Food and a show.”
It’s true. Often while waiting for customers Bickford will play his guitar and sing a bluesy song he wrote about his life as a courthouse hot dog slinger.
“I’m the hot dog man. Downtown Spokane. Dealing dogs to criminals,” he sings in a YouTube video he recorded.
And then later, “Rain sleet or snow, come to see their POs, pay their traffic fine or sue you blind I’m the hot dog man.”
Bickford sums up his philosophy this way: “Just have fun.”
“You’re happy if you have the right attitude,” he said. “Because if you worry about all the stuff going around you you’re going to be a basketcase.”
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