Idea barks up wrong tree

June 18, 2008|By KEVIN COWHERD

Years ago, some genius in corporate America - probably from Human Resources - came up with the idea for Take Your Child to Work Day.

Oh, it was some great idea, all right.

Suddenly you had all these little brats running around the office once a year, knocking things over in your cubicle, smudging your computer screen with their greasy little fingers, asking dopey questions and annoying everyone in sight.

Zero work was accomplished on Take Your Child to Work Day. Bosses hated it. Moms and Dads dreaded when the day rolled around, because they knew turning their little hellions loose in the workplace was a bad idea.

They also knew the kid was missing a valuable day at school, where he or she might actually learn something, as opposed to sitting around an office bored stiff and making paper-clip chains.

But parents were made to feel guilty by their kids - and their kids' schools - if they didn't go along with the whole silly business, which is why it endures to this day.

Which brings us to the latest nutso craze in the workplace, something called Take Your Dog to Work Day, which is this Friday.

Until it was mentioned yesterday on NBC's Today show, I myself had never heard of Take Your Dog to Work Day, which is why it pays to leave the TV off most of the time.

But apparently the day has been around since 1999, sponsored by a group called Pet Sitters International, which attempts to educate professional pet sitters.

After they stopped discussing it on Today, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine an office swarming with dogs.

I pictured barking dogs, growling dogs, yapping dogs and all the noise giving people a migraine.

I pictured dogs chewing on furniture and slobbering on important documents and having "accidents" all over the industrial-gray carpeting.

I pictured big, aggressive dogs snapping at the poor guy trying to fix the office copier and chasing him around as the boss screams that he needs 50 copies of this or that report for the 3 o'clock meeting.

How could this work?

And what was the point of the whole thing?

There was also this: Lots of people don't like dogs. Or are terrified of them.

I happen to be a dog person, but not everyone feels the same way. There are people who would lock themselves in a broom closet and scream for hours if you told them their office would be crawling with dogs.

So I called Pet Sitters International, which is located in the town of King, N.C., to see why they were pushing this nonsense.

I spoke to a woman named Terry Chance, who is the group's marketing director.

Chance did not sound deranged at all. Instead, she sounded pleasant and thoughtful, so I was glad I hadn't launched into my standard opening line of: "What is wrong with you people?"

Take Your Dog to Work Day, said Chance, was conceived "in order to celebrate the great companions that dogs make and to shed light on the need for animal adoption."

Couldn't we do that with a nice public service announcement on one of the networks?

Or a quick segment on Oprah?

Do we really need offices looking like the set of 101 Dalmatians to make that point?

"It's a very popular event with many, many companies," Chance continued, "although it's easier for the smaller and midlevel companies to do than the big companies."

Chance said Pet Sitters International had no hard figures on how many companies participate in Take Your Dog to Work Day, although hundreds have registered with the group's Web site to participate this year.

I told Chance that an old story on the Internet said as many as 10,000 companies in the U.S. and Canada had opened their doors to employees' dogs a few years ago. But she couldn't confirm that, which gave me hope that this sort of craziness wasn't as widespread as I feared.

People inclined to bring their dogs to work, Chance said, are "people who feel like their dogs are a family member, and it's nice to introduce that element into the workplace."

But she said two keys to a successful Take Your Dog to Work Day are bringing a well-behaved dog - no Cujos, no devil dogs like that Rottweiler in The Omen - and making sure co-workers are comfortable with the idea.

"It's not for all offices," Chance said in what may go down as one of the great understatements of all time.

When we hung up, I walked over to the desk of our newsroom administrator and asked if The Sun was going to let employees bring their dogs to work on Friday. She said no.

Dogs slobbering on our stories - that's all we need.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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Read recent columns by Kevin Cowherd at baltimoresun.com/cowherd

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