When Chance turned 2 he became aggressive. He growled at other dogs and bared his teeth. He flattened puppies under his heavy paws. He chased children and cyclists, clamped down on their ankles and knocked them over. He even bit Tilly in a scuffle over my bed.
When I tired of apologizing for him, I hired a trainer. She told me his aggression was set off by fear. She said to keep him away from unfamiliar dogs and people, for their sake and his.
I fled when other dogs approached. If I was distracted and we crossed paths with another dog, I ordered Chance to sit and rewarded him with meaty treats if he stayed calm. Most days he preferred the fight. He hurled himself at the other dog, barely restrained by the leash. He barked furiously, drowning out my attempt to explain to the other dog’s owner, “Chance doesn’t like to socialize.”
I didn’t know when I adopted Chance that puppies need to interact with other dogs to learn social cues. A well-socialized dog employs a soft growl to tell another dog “you’re in my space.” A puppy who interacts with a variety of other dogs learns to roughhouse in a playful, rather than a threatening, way. Chance had Tilly for company and I mistakenly thought that was enough. I was depressed and in a bad marriage. Nothing got me off the couch. By the time I started taking better care of myself and walking the dogs every day, it was too late.
I divorced my first husband and the dogs took care of me. Chance made me feel safe in a large, empty house. Tilly shared my bed, resting her head on my ex-husband’s pillow. But I hated being the owner of a bad dog. I felt ashamed turning away someone whose dog wanted to play and telling a schoolchild she couldn’t pet Chance. I lived in constant fear of him attacking someone.
Yet in some ways, I am the perfect owner for Chance. An introvert, I identify with his desire to be left alone. I empathize with his feelings of jealousy. When Steve and I married and Tilly transferred her loyalty to him, lying at his feet instead of mine, I could hardly suppress my rage.
It’s easy to love a well-behaved dog. It’s harder to love Chance, with his bristly personality and tendency toward violence. Yet in the end, I measure the success of my relationship with Chance by its challenges, because if I can’t love him at his most imperfect what use is love?
A few years ago, an old yellow Lab got loose. The dog lunged at Chance, sinking his teeth into the soft flesh of his throat. He bit his head and tore at his face. The Lab foamed, reveling in the attack. I kept hold of Chance’s leash and screamed at the owner, but she was frozen. I didn’t see how Chance could survive multiple, vicious bites.
Finally, the owner pulled the Lab off by his hind legs. Chance whimpered. He hadn’t fought back. What saved him were the other dog’s teeth, so worn by age they were mostly ineffective. Chance’s teeth were sharp and he was young and strong. Why had he held back? Perhaps he wasn’t such a bad dog after all.
In his old age Chance has mellowed. When we walk, he attends to what is directly in front of him, a flagpole or a mailbox, barely sensing other dogs. It takes us 40 minutes to go around the block, but when I look at him he grins. It’s his favorite time of day and mine.
I try to be gentle with Chance, hoping when the time comes others will be gentle with me. When I catch myself tugging his leash, I remind myself these are his last days and to enjoy them. The night before Tilly died she tried to get my attention, resting her muzzle on my keyboard. I moved her aside. I was busy writing and I thought there would be time to play, not knowing her cancer would take a dramatic turn in the morning and we would have to euthanize her.
I often think back to that night, wishing I had cuddled and cradled my girl. I hope not to make the same mistake with Chance. Steve scratches his belly every night before we go to bed. Chance deserves at least as much from me.
He is, after all, my good dog.Continue reading the main story
Some cool companies allow dogs, cats, birds, & even turtles and lizards in the office. But not all businesses can host animal team members.
Imagine how awesome it would be if your dog or cat could come to work with you.
You’d de-stress by petting him, she’d entertain you by walking across your keyboard, and you’d have something to talk about with that awkward co-worker who comes to your cubicle and doesn’t quite know how to say hello.
Some people don’t have to imagine, because their employers already allow pets at work! And some people don’t like the idea of it at all.
In most cases, allowing pets to come to work really means dogs, we even have National Take Your Dog to Work Day every June 24, but there are companies that welcome birds, cats, and assorted other animal friends.
Like most variables in life, whether it’s a good or bad idea to allow pets in the workplace depends on the people and the environment.
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Why Allowing Pets in the Workplace Is a Good Idea
It improves morale.
Businesses that allow furry or feathered friends to come to work with employees tend to have creative, open working environments. It helps when the corporate culture places an emphasis on its employees’ experiences at work.
Innovative employers like Google and Zynga (where “every day is bring your dog to work day), and pet-focused companies like Purina welcome employees to bring their pets to work with them in order to improve work-life balance, stress reduction, and employee productivity.
After all, as Purina’s careers page says, “The best associates are healthy and happy, and lead full lives.”
It attracts younger talent.
The desire to bring pets to work is a growing trend among millennial employees. If they are allowed to bring their dogs to work, for example, they save on doggy daycare fees, they are more likely to be focused, and more willing to stay late since they’re not rushing home to let their pets out.
It helps employees bond, which motivates good work.
Katie Papa, supervising producer at Pie Town Productions in Los Angeles, says “having dogs in the office contributes to the ‘family’ feel that this company has, and it also raises the cuteness quotient considerably.”
Pie Town is the company that produces the long-running House Hunters television series on HGTV, and many other successful series.
Having animals around has shown to facilitate employees interacting with one another where they wouldn't normally venture outside their comfort zones. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a co-worker if there is a pet around to break the ice.
Smaller companies, especially ones whose function revolves around pets and animals, are more likely to have looser guidelines about appropriate behavior for its employees who bring pets to work.
Pie Town wisely incorporated more formal guidelines once the practice became so popular. “Pie Town Productions has always had a generous bring-your-dog-to-work policy,” says Papa.
“The unwritten rules have always been that your dog needs to be housebroken, friendly, and relatively quiet. As the company has grown, the policy has become slightly stricter: you have to sign up to bring your dog, and there is a maximum of three dogs allowed on any given day. This prevents an onslaught of dogs and lessens the risk of any unintentional doggie distractions.”
Related Article:Awesome Employee Benefits: Attract and Retain Talent With No or Little Cost to Your Business
When Pets in the Workplace Are a Bad Idea
When one or more co-workers have allergies or a fear of animals.
The presence of an animal could understandably cause a true threat to someone’s well-being and sense of safety.
Allergies can be considered official disabilities that should be respected in the workplace. At Google, people with animal allergies have the last word on whether it’s cool for their office-mates bring their pets into the environment.
When the landlord doesn’t allow it.
Some businesses might actually embrace and really desire to have friendly, fun animals around to brighten everyone’s day, but the building they’re in simply restricts their presence. Hands are tied.
When the workplace is sterile, or produces or serves food.
You wouldn’t want a shedding dog in a laboratory or cafe, where sterile supplies, meals, or manufactured products are made or packaged.
If the animals are distracting or otherwise curb productivity.
Heather Konkoli worked at an office where pets were welcome, but only because everyone respected that not all animals are suitable for the workplace.
“Yes some employees had dogs that they knew would not react well in that environment, so those pups had to stay home," she recalls. "It worked out well with employees being smart about it to not ruin it for everyone.”
Plus, even the most docile animals require care and supervision, and breaks for relieving themselves. When too much time is taken up by animal breaks, depending on the work, their presence might be counterproductive.
When the office or workplace isn’t good for the pets.
Noisy or hazardous work environments, like construction sites, machining facilities, or mining operations, can be very loud and disturbing to pets, not to mention dangerous for animals to be wandering loose and potentially getting injured.
Related Article:We're In This Together: Effective Practices To Maintain Office Harmony and Reduce Workplace Drama
If you’re worried about legal liability.
You can be held responsible for personal injury or property damage done by employees’ pets, or even the pets of customers who bring them into your place of business. And let’s face it, even the most docile animals can attack people or other pets, or destroy property.
Job Hunting? You Can Choose
If you’re a pet-lover and wish you could take your pooch to the office, job search tools now allow you to search for companies that welcome pets at work.
And it’s worth looking into a larger company’s benefits or code of conduct web page before you apply to see if they embrace the pets-at-work perk.
These tools work if you're more comfortable at a no-pet workplace, too.