Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Lifestyles

June 17, 2012

Dogs at work

Four-legged office workers bring relaxed atmosphere to local businesses

BLUEFIELD —  Meet Fergie. The English Bulldog turns heads with her fashionable collars. She wears a different one to the office every day, according to Dawn Addison, who works with Fergie at Autrey and Toler, an accounting firm in Princeton. She wants to look nice for all the clients.

And then there is Maggie, a 13-year-old corkie-mix. She works under Rita Kidd’s desk at Princeton Insurance Associates. Maggie helps run errands; she visits the post office and the bank. In Tazewell, attorney Fred Harman brings his dog Hawaii Fido to the office. But he said Fido isn’t much of a worker. He prefers to sleep on the job. The cats in the office — LuLu, also known as LS, and Lucy Bell, hiss at Fido.

These are just a few of the dogs and cats who make the morning commute. They can’t make coffee, file papers or answer the phones, but they give their owners something better.

“He takes away the tension,” Harman said about Fido. “I have been bringing him for the last couple of years.”

Harman said Fido is one of those dogs who gets into a waiting car at every opportunity. One day, Harman decided to take him to work. The lawyer and dog team clicked and Fido became a part of the office.

“It is right for me,” Harman said. “I had other dogs I haven’t brought to work. Fido is the right one.”

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On June 22, Fido, Fergie and Maggie will lead the way for Take your Dog to Work Day. Celebrated by Pet Sitters International, pet owners are encouraged to bring their dogs to work to promote pet adoptions and companionship. The organization offers promotional tools to help businesses find homes for many dogs and even cats.

Harman’s office adopted two cats from Main Street in Tazewell a long time ago, before Fido’s first day of work.

“Lucy Bell has been here for 15 years,”  he said. “She was a stray on Main Street and people took her under their wing. They found homes for her kittens too. Lucy has been here ever since.”

The feline has made a mark on the town, Harman said.

“When Tazewell did the time capsule, we put in a picture of Lucy and a letter from Lucy to all the other animals on Main Street,” Harman said, laughing.

Lucy’s paw prints can be also be found in the sidewalk in front of Harman’s office. LuLu isn’t as famous. Harman adopted the stray about nine years ago.  She prefers to sit on the secretary’s desk.

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In Princeton, Fergie and Maggie have been a part of the workplace for a long time. Anderson said Fergie is the door greeter at Autrey and Toler accounting firm.

Her owner Chuck Autrey said Fergie is kind of a rock star.

“People come see her,”  he said. “They get mad when she is not here. It is pretty funny. We never thought there would be that kind of reaction.”

Clients stop at the firm to see the bulldog. Some even bring their children and grandchildren. Fergie started coming to the office when she was a puppy.

“She is just like one of us. She is part of the firm,”  he said.

 Autrey also said the dog has a special talent. She can differentiate between clients.

“She will peek around the desk. If they are a dog lover, she will come out,” he said.

Fergie often gets gifts as well. Anderson said Fergie likes visits other offices in the building, looking for cold French Fries and Slim Jims.

Another famous dog in Princeton — Maggie — has been apart of Kidd’s workplace for more than 10 years.

“She didn’t like staying by herself and I didn’t like to leave her,” Kidd said.

Kidd fixed a bed for Maggie under her desk. When Kidd goes out, Maggie follows. Two years ago, Kidd sold her business, but remained as an employee. The new owners continued to make Maggie a part of the office environment.

“She is always there, wagging her little tail. She is always sweet. Even when I am having a bad day, she can tell. She just knows,” Kidd said.

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Those who do choose to take their dog to work can participate in an online photo contest. First-timers can also download helpful hints before bringing a dog or cat into an office environment. Kidd and Harman said not all dogs are appropriate for the office.

“It all depends on the dog and the work environment. My dog is not loud. She is very quiet and is very loving. She has never seen a stranger and doesn’t bark and growl,” Kidd said.

Harman said Fido and two cats create a good atmosphere, especially for a lawyer.

“Fido takes away a lot of the tension,” he said. “One of the things about practicing law, a lot of people aren’t at their best. If there are a couple of cats in the office, they help make the atmosphere more relaxed. If you can get people to relax just a little, it really helps. It makes life easier for everybody ... we have to do with a lot of bad stuff in life. Pets have just pure, unconditional love for you and you have the same for them. And that is a pretty nice thing.”

While dogs and cats can help adults relax in stressful situations, Kathrn Kandas, of Bluefield, said her dog Duchess helps children.

Kandas, who works at the Children’s Home Society in Princeton, brings her beagle/dachshund mix to work at least once or twice a week.

“Clients love her. She is a very sweet, passive dog. Especially the kids who remember her and ask about her when they come for play therapy sessions. They want to take her in the room with them,” Kandas said. “She adds another dimension to the work environment. Petting animals has been proven to reduce stress and blood pressure. She’s pure, unconditional love and it can take the edge off any day to see her running toward you, so happy to see you, and wagging her tail.”

More information about Take your Dog to Work Day can be found at www. takeyourdog.com.

— Contact Jamie Parsell at jparsell@bdtonline.com

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