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Take Your Dog to Work Day succeeds through cooperation

| Friday, June 24, 2011

Architect Gerald Lee Morosco has a simple reason why he has brought his dog to work every day for nearly 17 years.

"Why not?" he says with a chuckle. "Having him around seems to make everyone happy."

Today is nothing special for the South Side architect, but it is for many dogs and owners who will carry their bonding one step further as they take part in Take Your Dog to Work Day.

The event was originated in 1999 by a group called Pet Sitters International as a way of calling attention to the millennia-old companionship of canines and as a way to promote their adoption by people and groups.

But taking a dog to work -- on a special day or regularly -- should be done only with the understanding and approval of those who are not doing so, says Jennifer Fearing from the Humane Society of the United States and co-author of the book, "Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces" (Humane Society Press, $21.95).

When the Humane Society headquarters in the District of Columbia and Gaithersburg, Md., established a dog-at-work policy nine years ago, it was done by a committee of pro- and anti-dogs-at-work staffers, along with a neutral contingent. It resulted in guidelines on separate entrances for dog and non-dog staffers and areas around the office -- such as the lunchroom -- where dogs never are permitted.

But most striking is the fact that all the staffers there are in cubicles and, if a dog is present, that workspace is sealed with a baby gate, Fearing says.

"My office has begun to look like a dog kennel, with toys scattered around and a bed on the floor," says Fearing, who now is the society's state director in California and brings her dog to work in a smaller office.

Bringing a dog to work might not always work out so well, says Janie Harden Fritz, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University and author of "Problematic Relationships in the Workplace." (Peter Lang publishing, $29.95).

"It is a matter of civility and etiquette," Fritz says. "You have to keep the focus on work and realize not everybody is going to be comfortable with dogs present."

But she does point to a study at Central Michigan University that seems to show, in several tests, that civility and overall behavior improved when dogs were present.

"I am for any celebration of dogs," says Martin P. Levin, a 92-year-old lawyer and former corporate boss who wrote the just-released "All I Know About Management I Learned From My Dog" (Skyhorse Publishing, $19.95). He became the owner of his mixed golden retriever, Angel, after the death of his wife and began learning the truth of dealing with dogs.

It was the same reality he had discovered in the business world: To get the best from people -- or dogs -- you have to establish trust and leadership, communicate effectively, promote problem-solving and decision-making and foster perseverance.

"There are many people who just do not get it," Levin says. "But in my perfect world, I would come to work every day with my dog. This is the land I want to live in."

He agrees with Fearing and Fritz that a dogs-at-work policy has to be made in cooperation with workers who are not canine companions.

There can be distractions when there are dogs at work, Fearing admits, but she contends there also are benefits. Owners, for instance, do not have to worry about getting home to their dogs when they face the possibility of working late to finish a project, she says, "and I think the company then benefits."

Besides the specified entrances and off-limit areas at the Humane Society, other issues had to be faced, she says. For instance, every dog-owning staffer had to establish a sitter for times when a meeting was scheduled.

The staffers were required to bring their pets to work at least three days a week to establish attendance as a usual action.

Fearing's "shelter special" dog -- Yoda -- knows that and knows what it means when it is time to go to work, she says.

Morosco's mixed border collie -- Lincoln Dog -- is clued in to the behavior that is expected at work, too, and does not let the architect down.

"I can't think of one client who ever was upset having him around," he says,

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