- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Paul Falzone’s dog is more than a pet. Bard is “my boy,” says Mr. Falzone, and the 10-year-old German shepherd is a constant companion, at home and in the office. He jokes that Bard is “CCO — chief canine officer” of the Right One, the Boston-based dating service of which Mr. Falzone is chief executive officer.

“I’ve been taking my boy to work with me 24/7 since Day One of buying the company,” he said.

Mr. Falzone and Bard could have lots of company across the country today, the fifth annual Take Your Dog to Work Day.

The event was originated in 1999 by Pet Sitters International (PSI), a nonprofit group based in King, N.C. Sponsored by Iams dog food, the day “calls attention to the wonderful companions dogs make and encourages pet adoptions.”

It “allows employees to see firsthand the benefits of the positive impact of pets in the workplace,” says Brad White, founder of Midnight Pass, a company that markets products for pets, including a pet stroller, and is participating in today’s event.

“I have three dogs sitting at my feet,” Mr. White said in a phone interview from his company’s headquarters in Marshfield Hills, Mass. “They’re Belgian barge dogs. They’re called Schepperkes. One is one I purchased, and two I rescued, and they’re the best companions every day.”

A former executive for the Sharper Image, a company specializing in upscale gadgets, Mr. White said he “got into the pet business because it’s a fun business that improves the lives of pets and people.”

“Everybody smiles when they see our products. Almost all our business is by referrals. People say, ‘Hey, where did you get that stroller?’”

Promotion materials for Take Your Dog to Work Day include a good measure of howl-inducing puns and cutesy chatter. The day gives dogs “the chance to earn their kibble,” says the PSI Web site (www.petsit.com). A press release uses a help-wanted motif, offering: “Great ‘bone-fits’ package; some heavy panting may be required.”

Yet the promoters seem entirely serious about their efforts to encourage dog ownership.

“We created this day in hopes that dogless co-workers can see the meaningful relationships enjoyed by their colleagues who are dog parents — and will adopt pets from local animal shelters, humane societies and rescue groups,” Patti Moran, PSI president, says in a press release.

The Washington Humane Society supports Take Your Dog to Work Day.

“We’re for anything that gets dogs out more,” says Liz Marsden, spokeswoman for the society. “We operate two shelters in D.C., and a lot of people hesitate to adopt a dog because they work long hours. So if more people could bring their dogs to work, I would think more people would adopt.”

Dog owners need to be cautious about the type of workplace where they bring their pets, she said.

“People should look at the environment they have at work. Some of the things that probably wouldn’t appeal to dogs would be lots of noise, a lot of chemicals being used in the area — they’re very sensitive — or an environment where they would have to be outside in the heat all day.”

Some dogs will enjoy their day at work more than others, Miss Marsden said: “Generally, dogs who are used to going places with their person would probably adjust best to being in the office all day.”

The United States is a dog-loving nation. The American Veterinary Medical Association says about 36 percent of U.S. households own dogs, compared with 31 percent that own cats. The most popular breeds, the American Kennel Club says, are Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and German shepherds.

PSI says thousands of companies are participating in Take Your Dog to Work Day, but the practice is daily for some entrepreneurs like Mr. Falzone, who says, “Rank has its privileges. Owning the company helps.”

Mr. Falzone, whose dating service has offices in Falls Church and Columbia, Md., says his 100-pound German shepherd can be intimidating. He jokes that Bard is “vice president in charge of collections,” but says his dog is lovable and well-trained.

“Shepherds are great dogs. They’re great companions, extremely loyal to their owners,” says Mr. Falzone, 46. “They’re very family-oriented, and my work is an extension of my family. We have a very family atmosphere here.”

Bard has made many friends at the company’s Boston headquarters, he says.

“He’ll walk right up next to you, whether you’re on the phone or not, and nudge you if he wants to be petted,” he says. “He gets a dozen walks a day. People who are going to lunch will say, ‘Hey, can I take the dog?’”

But what to do with a dog at the office who needs to, well, take care of business?

“Any good dog owner knows the signal Fido communicates when he needs to relieve himself,” Mr. White says.

Preventing pet accidents is part of a day’s work for Mr. White, whose business offers such products as the Kitty Walk Keyboard Cover and Mouse House, a device to keep pets from jumping onto computers and sending memos to the wrong people.

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