Will work for belly rubs

Will work for belly rubs

All pets welcome at Dayton-area businesses

By Emma Jarman

Benji getting some filing done at Penny, Ohlmann, Neiman Inc.

Benji getting some filing done at Penny, Ohlmann, Neiman Inc.

Nobody wants a parrot squawking regurgitated water cooler secrets to the entire office. But what if you could bring your four legged, floppy-eared friends to work with you rather than keeping them cooped up at home 40 hours a week? You’d probably get a lot more work done not worrying if your sofa has been clawed to shreds by Miss Mittens, right?

According to a number of offices and workplaces (about 20 percent of American businesses) that have implemented a “pets welcome” policy, it’s true. Bringing pets to work is a growing trend. According to a recent survey taken by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, the ability to bring pets to work results in an increased willingness to work longer, higher attendance rates, better relationships between coworkers and an environment that fosters creativity. In the same study, it was found that pets help lower blood pressure, reduce stress and help fight depression. In a culture where bringing animals into the workplace used to be the exception, not the standard, we’re beginning to see a shift in mores, and possibly in healthcare costs (did you hear that, companies offering benefits?).

Many businesses in the Dayton area have adopted pet plans for their workplaces and are reaping the benefits. Get Dressed! Boutique, for instance, at the Shops at Oakwood on Far Hills Drive, has a golden retriever who is a regular fixture on the greeters chair by the front door. Ginger, just over one year old, started tagging along with boutique owner Tracey Shuman because Shuman “didn’t want to leave her at home all day.” Shuman thought bringing Ginger into work with her would help the puppy get used to people and accustomed to social environments. She ended up garnering a host of other benefits through the canine’s presence.

“Some customers come in just to see the dog!” said Shuman. “She definitely has a fan club here.”

Businesswise, Ginger is a prime marketing tool. People walk in as dog lovers and walk out as customers of her upscale clothing and accessories boutique, trading their dog biscuits to Ginger for a shopping bag full of impulse swag.

“[Dogs in the workplace] definitely make people happier. If you’re an animal person, you like that,” said Shuman. “It gives people a feeling of being comfortable and at home.”

Many owners and employees at the Shops at Oakwood are on the same page as Shuman with their pet policies. It seems to be the perfect environment.

But the Shops at Oakwood aren’t the only places where workplace pets, well, work. The communication strategists at Penny, Ohlmann, Neiman Inc. have had an office dog for years with nary a bad experience. Benji Ohlmann, the mutt belonging to President/CEO Walter Ohlmann, has been trotting around the office for most of his life. He naps under desks and sits in on meetings, cheering people up like it’s his job. “Walter [Ohlmann] would definitely be a little more in the dumps,” said Shelby Quilivan, the director of public relations at the firm, on what losing Benji would mean. But Ohlmann’s not the only one. Quinlivan continued to describe how Benji was an excellent mood moderator for all employees and a wonderfully calming force in the office when things get a little crazy.

“They (dogs) always seem to know what’s going on,” she said. “[Benji] makes a bad day better.”

People coming into the office for business also appreciate Benji. “They think it’s great,” said Quinlivan. “The personality of the firm increases how people perceive us and Benji’s a part of that.”

She also insists that sanitation and allergies have not become issues for as long as Benji has been around, and other dogs sometimes drop in for visits and are welcome to accompany their owners to work at the firm.

Here at the Dayton City Paper, we are right on trend with our Abyssinian office cat named Baloo. He doesn’t purr often or do many tricks, but he does fit perfectly in the sunny spot on the publisher’s office window and eats stale chips off the intern table. With a litter box house tucked quaintly beneath the archive shelves and an office full of people willing to feed and ear scratch, the office/cat relationship is mutually beneficial.

Baloo makes us smile. Smiling is shown to relieve stress, boost the immune system and lift the face and make it look younger. Therefore, according to transitive properties we learned about in eighth grade algebra, Baloo makes us happier, healthier and better looking. Behold, the power of office pets. Thankfully, our experience with our four-legged friend is, apparently, not exclusive.

Even medical atmospheres have pets. When was the last time you went to a dentist office that didn’t have a fish tank? Private or privately owned businesses or office buildings (barring severe allergy of any coworkers) are the perfect place for house pets to get out a little and completely avoid the separation anxiety all too common between man and his best friend.

A good idea when setting guidelines for bringing pets to work would be to follow suit of apartment buildings. Set weight and temperament guidelines, and insist on cleanliness and sanitation. And the same rules apply to kitties as to kids: if they’re sick, keep them home, lest you risk discounting the whole happier, healthier part of the benefit of office animals.

Reach DCP freelance writer and editorial intern Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@DaytonCityPaper.com

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