Pets Finding their Niche in the Workplace
Jul 31, 2016 08:19PM
● By Shelly Tower Rushe
Bella/BD&E photography courtesy of Terry Clark Photography
Bella trots through the glass doors to start her work day at BD&E, a Greentree-based branding and marketing company. She heads to her office and updates her YouTube channel with a video of her latest escapades. She checks her golden locks in the mirror. Then the 9-year-old Golden Retriever grabs her scrimshaw and prepares to chew noisily at the first sign of a strategic meeting.
“BD&E is supposed to stand for ‘Brand Drives Everything’ but in reality it’s ‘Bella Does Everything,’” joked Tamara Lee DiPalma, vice president and 'Alfred' to Bella’s Batman. A certified therapy dog, Bella was ‘hired’ as a puppy (primary qualification: maximum cuteness) and the organization knew right away that she was more than just a pet.
“She really has an innate sense; she can sense a person’s mood, anxiety, good energy or bad energy,” marveled DiPalma. “She picks up on someone’s vibe and knows how close to get to them and what to provide for them.”
Kristina Martinez, executive vice president and a principal owner of the firm, agreed. “Her special gift is that she thinks everyone is special,” she said. “Bella provides very individualized care.”
With account coordinator Emily Jenca, it’s their shared love of yogurt. On the days the office manager works, Bella shadows her as she attends to office tasks. With president and CEO Jeff Flick, “Everyone else is invisible,” laughed Martinez and DiPalma.
With Martinez, it’s what she refers to as ‘Romper Room.’ “She comes into my office and circles my chair. Then she grabs something out of my purse or trash can and parades around with her head up in the air,” she recalled affectionately. Bella also has her officemates trained to give her plenty of her five-calorie Milk Bones because, according to Martinez, “The bigger ones aren’t good for her waistline.”
But Bella’s skills go far beyond typical canine chores. “As a branding firm, Bella has become a cultural brand for us; we use her as the face of BD&E,” explained Martinez. Bella can be seen on the firm’s website, in many of their videos, and she has her own feature in the company’s e-newsletter. She even has her own business cards and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
She accompanies DiPalma on press checks and even has vacation time. And when she isn’t there, everyone notices. “It’s the space she fills,” mused Martinez.
Dana Cammarata, general manager at Industrial Brake in Mars, adopted her 2-year-old Shih Tzu in part because her boss encouraged her to bring a dog to the office. After raising her two sons and helping to care for her two grandkids, Rick Timko, owner at Industrial Brake, urged her to look at a Shih Tzu to fill her empty nest. Sophie has been coming to work with her since she was 8 weeks old.
Sophie joins Cammarata at her daily morning meeting. Her calendar for the rest of the day is packed; playing catch, running up and down the halls, then a nap on top of Cammarata’s desk. After lunch, they take a mile-long walk along Clay Avenue, greeting other business owners.
She also greets regular vendors. “Some she likes and some she doesn’t,” laughed Cammarata. Her coworkers—most of whom own large dogs—enjoy Sophie’s portable size.
After work, Cammarata places her pooch in her car booster seat and they run errands, with Sophie joining her at the hair salon and the chiropractor. “She’s the best thing in my life,” said Cammarata.
Bella and Sophie aren’t the only dogs working for a living. According to the most recent American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owner’s Survey, 8 percent of all U.S. pet owners are permitted to take their dog to work. Companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook welcome dogs in their offices.
That doesn’t mean that all dogs should be at work, however. Pet food company Pedigree offers several tips for bringing your pet to work:
1. Consider your company’s policy on pets.
Obviously, if the boss isn’t a fan of dogs or you work in a field where dogs may pose a health risk, Fido should stay home. You also want to make sure that there’s an appropriate place for your pup’s potty breaks.
2. Consider your pet’s temperament and abilities.
If Fluffy is nervous around people or jumps on everyone she meets, it’s best if she stays home.
3. Be considerate of coworkers.
Be sure to double-check with office mates to ensure no one is allergic or afraid of dogs or that no one finds the presence of a dog disruptive.
4. Gear up.
Make sure that your pup has a comfy bed, access to water, and toys to keep her occupied while you’re working. You may also need to consider a gate to keep your dog contained when necessary, and treats or food.