The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 17, 2019 1:00 am

Pets turn offices into homes

City businesses follow trend of animals at work

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

Louie became the official office greeter at Advance Travel about 11/2 years ago.

But instead of greeting clients with a cheerful “Hello,” Louie instead will run to meet customers at the door, lick their hand and lie on the floor in the hopes of a possible belly rub.

Louie is a 2-year-old Treeing Walker Coonhound that the office staff adopted from Allen County SPCA. His owner, Mike Smith, an employee at Advance Travel on East State Boulevard, says the staff decided to get an office dog because they would often have children come into the office who would become bored and begin to play with things on employees' desks. Now, they can play with Louie instead.

Louie is part of a growing trend across the country in which offices are having office pets or allowing employees to bring in their own pets.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 7% of employers allow pets to come to work with their owners. That's up from 5% five years ago.

And while other pets are seen in offices, it appears that dogs are the preferred choice.

It's no surprise that offices have become more open to allowing pets. Nearly 70% of Americans own a pet. In addition, there's been research that shows pets can help reduce stress and cause employees to be more productive.

A study by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that people experience less stress when a dog is around. The 2012 study showed that during the course of the work day, self-reported stress declined for employees with their dogs present and increased for non-pet owners and dog owners who did not bring their dogs to work. The team noted that stress significantly rose during the day when owners left their dogs at home compared to days they brought them to work.

Smith says that he and Louie come to the office every day together. He says Louie is ready to go to work in the morning and enjoys watching for squirrels out the office window. He also can see customers coming into the office from a front window and is waiting on them when they open the door.

The staff makes sure the customers aren't afraid or dislike dogs before they come into the office. If so, Louie is sent to the back. But for the most part, clients love him, Smith says. He says often clients will call ahead and make sure that Louie will be in the office before they come in.

“I think it's been good for him,” Smith says, “I think it's been good for clients.”

Bringing an animal to work can also be good for the pet.

When Cindy Elzey, co-owner of Rich's Auto Center on Sandpoint Road with her husband, Rich, semi-retired and started to stay home more, her dog Charlie didn't like it.

After all, he's been a fixture at the business for eight years. He recently celebrated his birthday and threw a party for customers at the business.

“I hate to have him stay at home,” Elzey says. “He's our family.”

Elzey adopted Charlie from Allen County SPCA. He enjoys greeting the customers, as well as the delivery drivers. His water and food is in the garage, but he barks at the door whenever he wants to come into the office or go outside.

“He goes wherever he wants to go,” Elzey says.

But Charlie isn't the only dog. Elzey says customers will also bring their dogs to the business when they come.

“Animals just seem to brighten people's day,” Elzey says.

That was the goal ofáthe staff at Marcus Elam State Farm on South Calhoun Street when they decided to adopt an office cat named Church.

Employee Amanda Elam, who is also the owner of Church, says the staff of four took a long lunch and went to the SPCA and chose Church to be their pet.

He has only been at the office a month, but “everyone loves him,” Elam says. “He's super-chill. The little kids get super-excited.”

Church lives at the office, Elam says. By Friday evening, “he is over us,” Elam laughs. But by Monday morning, he is excited to see everyone return to work.

Elam says that Church will find the most comfortable chair and wait there for people to come to him.

“He runs the place,” she says, “we answer to him.”

Having aádog atáEarth Adventures Unlimited on West Main Street has been not only a source of companionship for manager Bridgette McCue, but it's also been a security feature since McCue is often alone in the office.

McCue has been bringing her dog, Bodey, to the store the last eight years. She rescued the part German shepherd/Alaskan malamute from Allen County SPCA.

“He's security, but also a friendly greeter,” she says.

McCue, who takes Bodey with her every where, says he gets excited to go to work.

She owns the dog with her fiancÚ, Michael Bodeker, whose parents, Rick and Nancy, own the store.

The couple are getting married in February at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Bodey already has permission to be in the wedding.

“I love having him here; it's nice,” McCue says. “People who are regular customers love him.”

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