A week at the office can be hell on earth at times for some people. Personally, after a long day of assignments and work, I want nothing more than to be cuddling with my dog on the couch. While it’s still not possible for me to bring my puppy to school or to my job at a vintage store (much to my utter dismay), there are some businesses around town that are pet-friendly, and many others that are beginning to follow suit. Two local businesses that I visited, Free Gulliver (financial planners) and Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald (a local advertising agency), were very eager to share their high praises for implementing a pet-friendly work policy.
At Free Gulliver, I spoke with financial planner Elizabeth Mitchell about their pet-friendly office, and all the ins and outs of this laidback and exciting work privilege. Having been with the company since 2009, Elizabeth speaks well of the hard-working, yet relaxed office environment and attributes it to the execution of the pet policy. “We officially became pet-friendly about four years ago when I got my dog. He was just a puppy and everyone wanted to see him, so I would bring him around pretty frequently. It really seemed to increase morale; everyone was really happy to have a dog in the office. We came to find out that many of us had dogs and were all about having them in our workspace, so the whole thing evolved from there,” Elizabeth explains. Business owner Tripp Friedler, having been a pet owner in the past, really loves having the dogs around, and they have become sort of surrogate pets to him.
Since the firm has steadily grown over the past few years, employees have begun to trade off days on which to bring their dogs, so it doesn’t get too hectic. They have also introduced a three strike policy, which ensures that dogs aren’t going to be disruptive or detrimental to the office’s work flow and surroundings. It is definitely a policy that develops each day as workers figure out what works best for both them and their pets. Elizabeth mentions, “We have found that it works well to have them around your desk in order to keep track of them. My dog actually prefers to sleep under my desk when I’m working; it’s his favorite spot. Usually they linger close to their owners and will oftentimes be on a leash near the desks, especially when clients come into the office.” There are, of course, some obstacles that employees will run into when bringing their animal friends to work. Elizabeth points out the importance of being especially mindful and aware of the feelings of office visitors: “While we’re a dog-friendly office, you still have to be respectful of clients and other people who come in the building and who may not be totally into it.”
As for the dog-friendly folk at Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald— the company that inspired Free Gulliver to go pet-friendly—they would highly recommend other companies adopt a pet policy. I spoke with office manager Julie O’Callaghan and finance director Shannon Jelin at their office, and both women love working in a dog-welcoming space. The regular dog residents—Jacques and Julep (the beautiful, well-behaved Vizslas), and Bonnie (a cute, shy little pup who is a star on the firm’s Instagram account)—all get along very well and make the office a relaxing, happy place. Shannon says, “It’s such a good reason to move around a little bit during the day.” BMF has a pretty relaxed policy that seems to work for them. Other businesses may find that they have to ease into a comfortable pet-friendly work setup. “We’re pretty laid back about the dog policy, but there are some instances where we wouldn’t bring in dogs on certain days, like when a new client comes into the office,” says Julie. The dog-loving folks are always mindful of clients and patrons first and foremost, but most of the time they always have dogs around. They seem to be very passionate about having pets at their job, so much so that they made finding a dog-friendly building a priority when they were searching for a new space a few years ago. It was a bit of a struggle to find one. “I think we’re one of only three pet-friendly office buildings in the downtown area, although it is becoming more commonplace now,” Shannon says.
One can only hope that other companies start to get on board with allowing dogs at work. It takes a few test runs and a lot of understanding to finally set a policy in stone, but—at least for the workers at Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald—it’s something that they are happy to do. They have nothing but praise for the animals around their office: “They are very polite. We usually have to work to wake them up! And they listen and respond well to everyone who works here.” Julie and Shannon both completely agreed that having pets in the office has had a positive impact on their office environment, making long days at work a lot better. It also dispels any need to have to race home during a lunch break to check up on your pet, which can be stressful and inconvenient. “It really is nice to just take a little break and throw the ball around or give one of the dogs a belly rub,” describes Julie, who is not actually a dog owner herself, but has really come to love the animals at her work.
So, the consensus after going to these businesses is that a pet-friendly office is the way to go! Easing into an animal-friendly environment can be as simple as establishing a few rules and proceeding with a bit of caution. Take it from these professionals, who can’t emphasize enough how much of a perk it is to have their puppy pals at their job. This is sure to be a game changer in the evolution of the office environment.
BONUS: PETS ON TOUR!
Local band All People hit up SXSW last month in their eco-friendly van, with Daisi the dog in tow. Daisi is a 7 year-old pit mutt “cuddly meatball” who was originally found and rescued while eating trash in Mid-City. Guitarist Josh Campbell was able to hook us up with some nice puppy partner-in-crime side stage while you play a show, it’s best to keep the animals at a distance or at a host’s house, as loud noises can be extremely damaging to their ears. Let’s keep these babies safe and enjoy time with them on tour!
We met up at noon at our practice space and Daisi was instantly excited. She’s very sweet with people and loves a good butt rub. After loading the van and having a quick lunch, we hit the road and Daisi immediately jumped on Greg ’s lap. She would periodically wake up, walk to the end of the bench seat to look out the window, and then return to Greg. She is a sausage. The trip took our fully-loaded van (powered by used vegetable oil) 12 hours to complete.
All People stayed with an old acquaintance from Slidell named Bruce who had a large suburban home with several empty rooms that we were able to spread out into. He was super sweet and allowed us to bring Daisi along to hang out with his dog Lambo. Daisi can be very aggressive in terms of personal space and boundaries with other dogs. It can scare squeamish and shy pups, but she’s actually just excited to make new friends. We tried to lock her in a pillow fort to keep her from freaking Lambo out too much. While cute, it didn’t work. We played two shows around Austin and attended a few others to see our friends from past tours and from our own label (Community Records) here in New Orleans. During the day we left Daisi at the house, but we made time to return every few hours to feed and walk her. I’d never considered taking a dog on tour before this trip, knowing how hard inconsistent travel times and food intake can be. Daisi, however, fared super well. She peed when she was supposed to, ate at regular intervals, and aggressively snuggled anybody lucky enough to sit with her. In this way, she’s better at touring than most musicians I know.
As we sat outside one of our favorite Austin food co-ops before making our way out of town, Daisi climbed into the driver’s seat. A captain behind the wheel of her mighty veggie-vessel, the SS Greased Thunder was hers. We put D-Ray’s hat and glasses on her to make it official.