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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Workday for dogs

Tips on taking your dog to your workplace

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

If you're like a lot of folks, you probably figure you've been "workin' like a dawg." But how hard do dogs actually work these days, now that most of us don't use Fido to herd sheep or hunt birds?

At the Hawaii Mail Box Service shop, miniature sheltie Keo hangs out while his owner Kelly Shimada, right, gets his work done. Keo often gets treats from the shop's regular customers and, says Shimada, has a friendly, outgoing nature that makes him comfortable with the comings and goings of strangers. At Christmas, Shimada adds, Keo even wears a Santa hat at work.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

For companies that would like assistance in establishing a dogs-at-work policy, call 946-2187, ext. 222.

Most dogs — your own, probably — spend the day lying around the house, taking occasional bark breaks or scratching an ear, turning in circles and flopping back down on the carpet.

Have you ever wished your dog knew how hard YOU work all day? Here's your chance: Friday is "Take Your Dog to Work Day (Because Who Ever Heard of Working Like A Cat?)."

This idea, which began in 1999, is the work of Pet Sitters International, an association of professional pet sitters based in King, N.C. It has caught on in companies across the nation, and, in its third annual incarnation, has finally made its way across the Pacific Ocean.

"This is the first year we are promoting the idea here in Hawai'i," said Eve Holt of the Hawaiian Humane Society.

For some, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Keo, a 6-year-old, 28-pound sheltie, "works" weekdays at the Hawaii Mail Box Service on Cooke Street in Honolulu.

Keo serves as the store's ambassador of aloha. His job description includes greeting customers, keeping kids occupied while Mom is addressing packages, and making sure the counter stays shiny by sitting on it, wagging his tail and polishing the surface with his luxuriant coat.

New customers walking through the door have been known to do a double take when what they thought was some kind of angora shawl — or maybe a fluffy blanket — stirred in its sleep and revealed a wet nose and two bright eyes.

"Keo has the right disposition for this," said the dog's boss and master, vice president Kelly Shimada, who added that Keo's only employment blemish was the time he tried to bite the vacuum cleaner.

"He's friendly, calm and relaxed. At Christmastime, Keo wears a little Santa's hat. People really love that."

Keo's wages are room and board at the Shimada residence, plus on-the-job perks.

"Customers bring him treats," said Shimada. "His favorite is beef jerky." The down side? "He's a little overweight."The purpose of taking Rover to work, according to Pet Sitters International, is to enhance relations between dogs and humans and to encourage people who don't own dogs to consider adopting one from an animal shelter or humane society.

"We think it's a wonderful opportunity for people to experience their animals in the workplace," said Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, pointing out that the society's stated policy is to promote the human-animal bond.

"The more we can bring dogs into the workplace the more they'll become socialized and the more they'll become companions."

At the Hawaiian Humane Society, taking your pet to work is a fringe benefit for employees, and there's pretty much always a cat sleeping on someone's desk, or a bird perched somewhere.

Working dogs have been around for thousands of years, guarding territories, dragging sleds and leading the blind. But a main role of the modern dog, as Burns sees it, is that of companion. And, she adds, "Dogs make good feet warmers."

Burns and Holt say businesses that have participated in the Take Your Dog to Work Day have been surprised to find that the pets didn't interfere with productivity, but actually seemed to enhance it, while decreasing stress levels and absenteeism.

• • •

Tips on taking your dog to your workplace

The Hawaiian Humane Society, which allows pets at work, offers a few guidelines for participating dog owners.

  • The best candidates for work dogs are those that have been command-trained (meaning they'll respond to "sit," "come," "down" and "stay," especially in emergency situations) and that have calm dispositions.
  • Make sure the workplace allows dogs and that the management is aware of the dog's presence.
  • Sign a release accepting all risk and liability in bringing the dog to work.
  • Be especially considerate of those around you, or on elevators (ask for permission to enter with the dog).
  • Confine the dog to your working area, either on a leash or behind a door or child's safety gate.
  • Take the dog for a walk at least every four hours.