by Megan Eaton
When it’s 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon after a long week at the office, there’s nothing I’d rather do than cut out a few hours early and go play with my dog (don’t tell my boss!). If you can sympathize with wanting a little more wag in your workday, you’re in luck this week: Friday June 21st is the 14th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day! The event was started by Pet Sitter’s International “to celebrate the human-canine bond and promote pet adoption by encouraging [participants’] employers to support TYDTWDay.” The idea is to spread the love that companion animals bring to their people, and promote adoption with best advertising strategy I can think of: puppy snuggles! At work!
Some of the cutest stories of employed pups I found featured dogs helping other animals. A formerly overweight dachshund named Obie has been making the rounds with his guardian Nora Vanetta to educate about obesity prevention in humans and dogs. Obie’s lost over 40 (40!) pounds and has so far spread the good word about healthy habits to high schoolers and future veterinarians in Oregon. Vanetta believes that Obie connects well with young people and can help serve as a way to get them interested in nutrition. The news coverage on Obie points out that dogs love carrots just as much as other snacks, and I can attest to that! My Jasper doesn’t need a diet, but he sure loves his veggies - especially kale and carrots.
Across the country on South Padre Island, TX, a Cairn terrier named Ridley works with his owner Donna Shaver, Ph.D. to locate the nests of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. Shaver trained the little Cairn, a breed known for its incredible scenting abilities, to locate nests that human conservation volunteers miss. The Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program is working to keep these small turtles from extinction, and Ridley’s spectacular sniffer can find nests of turtle eggs after all surface traces have washed or blown away. I loved Dr. Shaver’s descriptions of how excited Ridley gets to do his job and how gently he marks the nests. When Ridley finds the hidden nests, the scientists can collect and incubate the eggs in the safety of a laboratory. The Kemp’s Ridley species is on the upswing again in recent years, and I think it’s a sure thing that Ridley the Cairn terrier is going to keep the trend going!
Dogs’ noses are indeed so extraordinary that scientists are trying to create a nose that mimics them, though they’ll probably never be able to truly replicate the pooches’ powers. A pair of black labs (my favorite!) named Lucky and Flo made a career for themselves in Asia in the service of intellectual property. The pups can detect hidden shipments of DVD’s that may contain pirated films and other illegal content. Lucky and Flo even visited New York in 2007 and met Mayor Bloomberg to publicize anti-piracy laws.
Cliff the Beagle uses his nose in the service of medicine. Cliff can detect people infected with Clostridium difficile, a dangerous intestinal bacteria that occurs in hospital patients, with over 80% accuracy, and can tell who’s not infected with over 98% accuracy. He can sense the disease in samples almost 100% of the time! Cliff’s nose-test is faster than a lab test (too bad he’s not a lab!) and only requires that he can get close to the patients. C. diff can be life-threatening, and canines like Cliff have the potential to help lower the rates of infection and death and keep patients safe. Since many dogs also work as hospital therapy dogs, reading about Cliff put me in awe of the power of pooches: bringing stress relief to patients while also “testing” for diseases only a they can smell.
Spending time with a furry friend can also have emotional and psychological benefits, which I as a pet parent would attest to; caring for and spending time with my shelter pet made a huge difference in my anxiety. Service organizations such as Service Dogs of VA and New Leash on Life USA are leveraging the benefits of interacting with dogs by bringing canines together with humans who are struggling, albeit struggling in very different ways. In Virginia, trained autism service dogs work with children who find communication and human interaction difficult or nearly impossible. The dogs, including Robin, a golden retriever, keep the children physically safe, and also obey commands from children, which encourages kids with autism to speak to them.
New Leash on Life USA is a Philadelphia-based charity that hopes to “improve the lives of inmates and save the lives of dogs” by pairing up prisoners with shelter dogs who do not have a good chance of being adopted due to behavioral issues. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a truly amazing piece about New Leash’s program at Philly’s Alternative Sentencing Detention Unit. Each prisoner in the program took full responsibility for a troubled dog, 24 hours a day -- even sharing a cell. It’s an incredibly moving piece of writing and really speaks to the wonders dogs can do for humans and vice versa. The first part of Melissa Dribbens’ series is here, and if you sign up for free access to Inquirer.com, you can read all the installments.
Finally, I’ll leave you with two helpful hounds that left a smile on my face: Xander, a blind pug in Oregon, was so unshaken by an accident that left him with no eyes and difficulty breathing, and so appealing to children, that his adoptive family began working with him as a therapy dog. He helps children overcome their fear of dogs (adorable!) and works in service of the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Project. Oh, that face!
And finally, speaking of taking your dog to work, we all know paperwork can be a drag. I really wish my Jasper had a big cozy bed under my desk and could take over some of my filing duties. And word processing. And timesheets…but I don’t think that my office would go for it. Maybe they should, though: Elaine Prickett began taking her dog Misty to work at a quarry in Kirkby-in-Furness, England, as a puppy. Misty was so beloved and came to work so often that she started to imitate the employees! Now she collects and returns paperwork and credit cards on her own. I love that the article notes that sometimes the cards need to be wiped off after Misty has “handled” them. She’s still a dog after all! And doing what a dog does best: helping her human.
So get out there and talk to your boss. If they aren’t convinced that TYDTWD is right for your workplace (and of course, it really won’t be for everyone’s), tell her about Misty. And Ridley, Lucky and Flo, Cliff, and Robin, and Xander – oh sweet Xander! Who couldn’t use a helping paw -- or four -- around the office?
And let us know: Does your workplace participate in TYDTWD? Does it allow pets every day? (Lucky!) How do you spread the word about shelter pets?
Megan Eaton lives in Brooklyn and dreams of owning a home with a big yard full of rescued shelter dogs. She is thrilled to be writing for Mighty Mutts. Don’t shop, adopt!