Raising canine/feline at office brightens environment
By Barbara Trainin Blank
Want to reduce employee stress, improve morale, and delight (most) customers? Bring in an office pet.
CBS News has noted that canines (and occasional felines) are coming to the work place in growing numbers. Along with Bring Your Children to Work Day, some businesses have hosted Bring Your Dog to Work Day.
Here are four examples of office pets in our area;. our apologies to the many others.
Hurray for Hollywood. The reference isn’t to Tinseltown, but to a dog with an flat-faced mug, a fan club, and a perfect attendance record at the advertising firm Pavone.
Hollywood, a four-year-old English bull dog who’s known by staff as “the Director of First Impression,” comes into work every day with his owner and company president, Michael Pavone.
Clients look forward to seeing her. Delivery people bring her biscuits. New employees find her a better “icebreaker” than a pep talk. Hollywood has her own entry on Facebook, and her visage graces the banner outside Pavone’s downtown Harrisburg building.
“When Hollywood comes in to a meeting, there’s immediate relaxation, “ Pavone says. “And she does go to all the meetings, even if she’s just sleeping under the table.”
Hollywood is even part of the company’s brand, which is described as the archetypal “hero-outlaw,” says Pavone.
When he and his wife were looking for a dog, she preferred something smaller. But Pavone was drawn to the bull dog’s frequent presence in school, sports teams and marine logos.
Admittedly, as affectionate as she is, Hollywood isn’t the most energetic of dogs. Sometimes, she’ll greet a visitor enthusiastically (including leaning over his or her lap) but then feel the need for a nap. On walks, she’s likely to plop down in the middle of the street.
But that endears her even more to Michael Pavone. “I’m hyper, and she’s the exact opposite,” he says.
Cecilia Baker hadn’t planned to bring in her dog to work. But in January 2007. her husband was home recuperating from surgery and was unable to walk Blackie, the “spoiled mutt,” in her affectionate words, they had found years ago at the Humane Society.
Not wanting to impose on a neighbor, Baker decided one day to just bring Blackie into Kesher Israel, a Harrisburg synagogue where she’s part-time secretary.
Chaim Schertz, rabbi at the time, was a “dog person” and raised no objections. Pretty soon, board members and congregants looked forward to the toy- and people-loving canine.
“Now I don’t have to go home to walk her at noon and can stay longer if needs be,” says Baker. “it’s been good for the synagogue.”
Blackie’s role in the secretary’s productivity is acknowledged by president Norman Gras, who lays out a cozy cover for her every morning. On lazy days, in fact, when Blackie seems to want to shirk her “duties,” Baker will prod her by saying: “Don’t you want to see Norman and Charley?” Charley is Charley Press, an active synagogue member, who never fails to give Blackie a cookie and as a result, gets followed around whenever he arrives.
Rabbi Akiva Males, current spiritual leader, recalls how young visitors to HersheyPark who came to services kept looking at Blackie–probably unused to a dog in a synagogue, he says.
There are days Baker has second thoughts about an office pet. Blackie, who’s expected to bark when someone comes to the door, sometimes goes on longer than hoped-for. But overall, Baker says, she wonders why she didn’t do this sooner.
The Production Center of Theatre Harrisburg, with its shelves, levels, construction materials and sets, is Cat Heaven. And not just theoretically.
Mau-Mau, a seven- or eight-year-old feline, has lived at the theater most of his life–taking advantage of the good climbing and companionship. Visitors ask for him before getting down to business. Mau-Mau seems particularly fond of Jack Gottschalk, the technical director who feeds him, and of Paul Foltz, costume designer, who takes charge of his medical needs.
“Mau-Mau’s really good with people, except maybe very young kids, who tend to jump on him,” says Gottschalk. “With the cast of Sound of Music, which we did in the fall, we taught the children to lightly pet him around his head and to rub his neck, not his belly.”
The generally accepted version of how Mau-Mau was adopted collectively is that the mother of former staffer Dominique Flicker, who had found him, had to move to a pet-free environment.
Except for an occasional stroll into the shrubs, Mau-Mau stays close to home, where, he’s more attracted to musicals than plays and particularly responds to cat references. “When we did Pirates of Penzance, and were singing the song, ‘With catlike tread,’ Mau-Mau walked out onto the rehearsal space and starting moving with them,” Gottschalk laughs.
His gripes? Sadie, the dog belonging to artistic administrator Diedra Amadiak, comes to work occasionally and wants to play with Mau-Mau when he doesn’t want to. Even worse, she has a tendency to eat his food. But considering the Garfield-like girth of Mau-Mau, affectionately named “Fat Cat,” he seems to be getting his nutrients.
For their 13th anniversary six years ago, Rick Voight bought his wife, Debbie, a bracelet. She bought him a dog.
Debbie Voight-Smith was more of a cat person, but knew her husband had loved his Irish setter, who died years ago. After some thought, Voight-Smith, owner of Smith Custom Framing in New cumberland, decided on a German short hair pointer. (The couple also has a cat, Mikado.)
She was uncertain it had been the “right gift,” but Molly, as they called the dog, with a face the color of molasses. Molly came to the couple at seven weeks and seven lb.., and was a “ball of energy from the beginning,” says Rick Voight. “She came right at me and jumped into my arms. Short hairs are the clowns of the dog world.”
The brown and white splotched dog with a stripe down her nose and a “V” on her back certainly entertains the employees and customers of the framing shop. She seems to walk miles in the course of the day and greets everyone, sometimes going after their used tissues. “She loves children, she loves everybody,” says Smith-Voight.
Of course, there are some people–usually adults–who are either allergic to or don’t love dogs. In which case, Molly is instructed to go into her “house.” After a while she tends to stick her face out as if to ask, is that person gone.
Molly rings a bell when it’s time to go out. Otherwise, she’s happy to run among the clients and workers. “She’s friendly, almost to a fault,” says Smith Voight. “It’s a challenge to have her here, but I can’t imagine not having her here. She has definitely changed the personality of our business. We never had so many pictures of dogs on the wall.”