Barking up the same tree

Free Press readers describe how canine companions make their workplaces more friendly


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There’s nothing that curbs the stress of a hard day at work quite like getting a cuddle and a slobbery kiss from your beloved office dog.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/04/2017 (2238 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There’s nothing that curbs the stress of a hard day at work quite like getting a cuddle and a slobbery kiss from your beloved office dog.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take it from a vocal pack of readers who responded to the contest I ran as part of our Newsroom Dogs project, wherein Free Press editorial department employees were encouraged to bring their canine companions to work for the past month.

In a sincere effort to get other people to write my column for me, I offered cheesy prizes — such as copies of my book, Bite-Sized Doug — in exchange for readers’ stories about going to the dogs in the workplace.

Simone Orlando photo Geordie finds warmth in a sunbeam while Ballet Kelowna dancers rehearse.

Now that our month-long Newsroom Dogs experiment is winding down, it’s time to unleash my favourite contest entries, all of whom get a signed copy of my book along with another Free Press coffee-table tome.

Let’s kick things off with a heart-tugging entry from Hazel DeVriendt, who works with her husband at Windows of Fashion & Surroundings, a home furnishings and window-coverings store in Charleswood, where their chocolate Lab, Whiskey, has become a beloved fixture.

“He has three beds at the store and we installed baby gates in the doorways of my office and my husband’s office so he has a safe place,” Hazel wrote. “We don’t want him sneaking out into the road and, of course, not all our clients want his exuberant greeting!

“Most of our clients adore him, though — some drop by the store just to visit him, often calling ahead to ensure he’s there and not out for a walk. Sometimes they bring him toys, too, which he gleefully carries around or settles down on a rug to shred…

“The store staff are happy to have their canine colleague as part of the team and they love stopping by my office to give him some fuss. He loves people and is always happy to greet them with a wagging tale and kisses… He even gets a smile and an ear scratch from suppliers, moving teams and delivery guys as they pass by — a happy pause in their busy day.”

Whiskey is a perfect example of why so many scientific studies have shown dogs have a positive impact on the work environment, reducing stress, boosting morale and even increasing productivity.

The downside includes the fact some employees and customers have allergies and can be afraid of dogs, but the benefits, in most cases, seem to outweigh the drawbacks.

Workplace hounds can even increase employees’ feelings of safety, as we see from a submission we received from Lori Ducharme, administrative assistant for the Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion for the past five years.

Lori says her office’s dogs, Jake the poodle and Maggie the Shih Tzu, are beacons of tail-wagging joy for veterans who drop in seeking assistance.

“I used to work in the corporate world and retired early due to all the stress, etcetera, that comes with that type of work,” Lori wrote. “Having the dogs here… not only are they excellent stress relief, but also security.

Supplied photos Whiskey, a chocolate Lab, is a lovable fixture at Windows of Fashion & Surroundings, a home furnishings and window-coverings store where his owner, Hazel DeVriendt, works.

“I have had a couple of encounters when I was alone and someone came in that really made me nervous. Dogs have a great sense and even they felt uneasy with these encounters.

“I have never heard Jacob the poodle growl the entire time I have been here, except for one occasion when I was alone and a man came in under the ruse of wanting to ask about veteran licence plates.

“He kept scanning the office while talking to me. I never clued into anything, due to being so trusting. It was Jake the poodle that growled at him and I knew something was not right. I immediately gave the visitor the sense that there were other people in the offices… once he thought that I was not alone, he immediately left.

“I do believe that if not for our brave Jake, things might not have gone so well.”

Dogs can definitely class the joint up a bit, as we learn from Barbara Holliday, who recently moved back to Winnipeg after eight years as company administrator for Ballet Kelowna, where canine colleagues were definitely on point.

“Being able to bring my dog, Geordie, to work was a stress-reducer for us all,” Barbara wrote in her email. “Stopping for a moment for a quick pat or to take him out for a bathroom break was a chance to relax a bit, and the dancers enjoyed having a cuddle or play session with him on their breaks.

“Geordie was a gentleman, usually never interrupting rehearsals, though once in a while he would seek out a sunbeam to lie in while the dancers worked.”

She noted the company’s artistic director, Simone Orlando, frequently brought her dog, Oscar, to the office where “he usually snoozed all day, though he was good at guarding the tutu cases.”

Over at Riverwood Square, a seniors retirement residence on Pembina Highway, they understand how therapeutic it is to have a dog to pat from time to time.

Riverwood Square’s Heather Malazdrewicz with her dog, Prism.

“Quite often my rescued cattle dog mix, Prism, joins me at work,” wrote Heather Malazdrewicz, Riverwood’s director of first impressions. “She sits quietly in her kennel until it is time to come out and do some visiting with residents. She loves the attention and treats. A lovely couple always make their way down to the front desk with a baggie of treats for her.

“I am not sure how a couple living in a senior residence would have a bag of doggie bacon strips in their possession, but they do. Prism has participated in Talent Day, doing a bit of ‘doggie dancing’ and was the happy hour entertainment, where we showed residents what went into training a dog, and showed off a few tricks.”

There were dozens and dozens of heart-warming stories like these — and I promise to send everyone who entered a copy of my book — but we are pretty much out of space for today.

Most of the office-dog fans said they hope we continue our Newsroom Dogs project, which officially ended its month-long trial last Friday.

Next week I’ll tell you whether the newspaper is going to continue going to the dogs, but for now I want all of you to be patient… and sit… sit… or no one gets a biscuit!

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.


Updated on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 6:21 AM CDT: Adds photos

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