(by Anne Lee, originally posted on April 11, 2012)
A recent study on dogs in the workplace was published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management and subsequently reported on by the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17561272), who noted that “…access to dogs boosted morale and reduced stress levels, whether people had access to their own pets or other people’s.” At Hardlines Design Company, this doesn’t come as news to us!
Many people are pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised when they show up at our office and are greeted by the rather loud barks of a beagle. And, too, sometimes people can hear the beagle in the background when they call the office. People typically have one of two reactions when they realize that we have dogs in our office: (1) “Wow, it is SO cool that you have dogs at work!” or (2) a grimace and the unspoken look signifying “That’s a little strange for a professional office.”
So, why do we have dogs at our office? Well, a long time ago, Charissa (the owner of HDC) told me that one of the reasons she started her own business was that she wanted to be able to take her dog to work. So Charissa started her own business and started bringing her dog to work. First there was Bagle, a very mellow beagle by the time I started at HDC in 2002. A few years later, Bagle passed away, and Donut came along. Donut, also a beagle, is the opposite of Bagle—Donut is energetic, needy, very vociferous, and just a little skittish. Oh, and I think she has multiple personality disorder, but we don’t need to share that with her.
Bagle the Beagle: Our first office dog.
You do have to forgive Donut her foibles; she was found abandoned when she was only four weeks old, and we believe that many of her protective, and somewhat nervous tendencies, are the result of her very early life. During her next four weeks in the shelter, Donut acquired the nickname “Little Monster” because of her tendency to nip! Diligent training by Charissa, however, has resulted in a much calmer Donut. Rest assured, she does not snap unless you attempt to stick your hand in her food bowl or pick her up when she is stressed out. A few years ago, our Senior Historian Roy Hampton added Karly to the mix, a very quiet 5-year-old beagle, also rescued from the dog shelter. Most people don’t even realize that Karly is here; she is that unobtrusive.
To answer a subsidiary question I hear, yes, Donut’s barking can be distracting and a little shocking for those who are not prepared for it, but the counterbalance to that point is that the dogs add so much to the office environment. They are our mascots, our entertainment, our lunch companions, and our stress relievers. They greet us when we arrive, and they provide a warm and accepting presence when the day just isn’t going that well. Some say our office is “insane,” which may be true, but it is also humane, and that is, at least in part, a result of the great dogs who hang out with us all day.