If you hear barking in the office today, it's not the co-workers fighting again. Today is the first annual "Take Your Dog to Work Day," and someone at the office just may be participating.
Pet Sitters International, based in North Carolina, came up with the idea, which is patterned after the decade-old "Take Your Child to Work Day." The organization began working with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other groups last April to arrange the day for pets.
"We as pet sitters know how much owners love their dogs," said Cara Myers, manager of member services at Pet Sitters International. The day gives dog owners a chance to "show off their dogs at work" and is intended to encourage more people to adopt dogs. Organizers have had cat owners cry discrimination, but they maintain that dogs are just more sociable animals than cats and thus are better suited to the workplace.
An informal telephone survey of Baltimore-area businesses didn't find much evidence that "Take Your Dog to Work Day" is catching on in Charm City, but Myers says there has been overwhelming response to the day from all over the country.
Major employers that plan to participate include Heinz, Caterpillar, Xerox and the Hampton Inn and Suites chain. Pet Sitters will have volunteers in several offices to set up play centers for dogs that show up today.
At the Regency Hotel in New York City, owners can treat their dogs to a "Bark Breakfast" this morning, with a menu that features bones served on silver platters, and Evian water.
Owners can order their breakfasts a la carte, and all proceeds will go to the New York Chapter of the ASPCA. Several dogs (with the help of their owners) have already made the required reservations.
Dog lovers in the United States won't be the only ones taking their precious pooches to work. "Take Your Dog to Work Day" is being observed in England as well.
Interested participants are asked to give a small donation to the Blue Cross, the English version of the Humane Society, and they receive an information packet to prepare for the day, complete with tips on keeping dogs under control at work, bumper stickers and fliers to post at the office.
To some, the idea of animals in the workplace is a bit disturbing, but medical research has found that having a pet around can lower the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and decrease stress. Well-behaved animals are said to have a soothing effect on the people they encounter.
Lawyer Joseph Miklasz of Glen Burnie agrees. Every day is "Take Your Dog to Work Day" for him: Tempo, part poodle, part terrier, accompanies Miklasz to the office each day.
"It makes clients more at ease" to have Tempo around, Miklasz said. A lawyer who handles serious-injury claims, Miklasz says clients often come to his office distraught, but "the miracle of this animal is that the dog will be part of the soothing process for clients."
Perhaps Tempo's soothing effect on Miklasz's clients is her repayment for his legal defense of her.
Miklasz first saw Tempo at the local pound and wanted to adopt her but was told he couldn't because she was about to be destroyed for biting several people.
Putting on his legal face, Miklasz told pound officials, "Let me see the accusations against her; the dog has rights. I said, we're going to have a trial." A trial was held in the pound, complete with witnesses, to save Tempo's life. Miklasz won and the dog was released into his custody.
Animal lovers with no dog to have tag along at work or represent in trial need not worry. There are still ways to participate via the World Wide Web. Check out the pooch of the day on the "Puppy Cam" at www.animalplanet.com.
Produced in cooperation with the Humane Society of Greater Miami, the "Puppy Cam" gives a real-time look at puppies available for adoption throughout the day. There are new pictures taken of the animals every 30 seconds and by simply refreshing their browsers, virtual puppy lovers can stay up-to-date all day.