A website devoted to the Democratic National Convention pointed out a troubling fact Tuesday: While 25,000 people have registered as volunteers to help out during the Denver event, only 4,000 have signed up to help during the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. While in Denver, organizers are warning volunteers that there won't be much for them to do, in Minnesota they are looking for more people to organize -- 6,000 more, in fact.

The bloggers writing about the issue assume that the difference in volunteer numbers says something about the respective popularity of the two parties and their candidates. If they're right about that, it's too bad -- though it is worth wondering what sort of enthusiasm a Democratic convention might generate in this blue state.

While the conventions themselves are by definition partisan, the opportunity facing Minnesotans is not. It is a grand exercise in civics and a chance to participate in a bit of history. It is also a chance -- like the Super Bowl, or the Final Four, or a visit from Mikhail Gorbachev -- to show the world what these towns are made of.

Recent research shows that people who have been here are more willing to come than those who haven't. A corporate recruiter we checked with yesterday confirmed that a prospective hire might like the sound of a particular job and the company doing the hiring --right up until he or she hears the job is located in Minnesota. Then, more often than not, the prospect says no.

The Republican Party said yes. Anybody who'd like to help vindicate that choice, and help the metro region make the most of this opportunity, should go to www.msp2008.com.

Welcome to Caribou. Now, speak.

Starbucks just launched a rewards program to keep its caffeinated customers coming back, but Twin Cities-based Caribou Coffee may have the upper paw -- er, hand when it comes to brand loyalty. You've heard of Pavlov's dog? Call this the Caribou canine.

Many Caribou shops around the metro area have figured out that the way to customers' hearts is through their pets. Humans now aren't the only ones expecting a treat at the window. Dogs supervising the caffeine run from the backseat get a doggie biscuit. For one spoiled border collie in Andover, the scratchy intercom exchange to order a latté is a cue to lean as far out of the window as possible for a Milk-Bone and a crack at the daily trivia question (no dime discount won yet, but it's just a matter of time). A recent treatless trip through a coffee competitor led to a bewildered pup and an owner who felt genuinely bad and vowed to go to Caribou next time, even if it's out of the way.

Starbucks' free flavorings and two hours of free wireless for card-carrying customers are enticing. But there's something endearing -- and astute -- about Caribou's catering to our ever-expanding definition of family.

When it comes to building business, it's not always enough to think outside the box. Sometimes, you gotta think outside the species.