May 23, 2014 10:20:02 AM
We get along like cats and dogs. Literally. On any given day we may have three or four dogs and a cat on the premises. To say that we have a family office atmosphere is misleading depending on your definition, but it works for us. I have contended on many occasions that pets are part of our family and make us better people. I also think when they are well-behaved they make great additions to our office atmosphere.
In the case of my property management office, we regularly have a retired greyhound, a rescue calico cat, and on any given occasion a rescue mixed breed Australian cattle dog and maybe Chow and then an assortment of designer dogs, Italian Greyhounds, Poodles, a Dachshund, a West Highland Terrier or a Yorkshire Terrier.
It has been a fascinating proposition to watch them assimilate into the atmosphere and even more so having them interact with our current and prospective tenants. I confess we do have a few people who had rather not. Fortunately for them we have adopted a cloud-based service so they can pay rent and submit maintenance requests on line. So far, so good.
Zac, the Greyhound, has been coming to work for 10 years. He is a fixture in the office. He is a beautiful black greyhound who was part of the rescue program for the retired racers. Through the years we have had a rat terrier and a couple of mixed breeds who have come through the office family. Though we miss the office members who have left us, we miss the dogs as much or more.
A little over a year ago, Essie, the calico cat, came from under the bed of one of our tenants, Kimberly. She opened the door early one morning and Essie hightailed it upstairs and hid out under her bed. I was making my early morning rounds and Kimberly came out of her apartment screaming about getting the "wild cat" out from under her upstairs bed. I was able to do that pretty easily since Essie probably wanted to be out of there as much as Kimberly wanted her to be out. Despite my plans to the contrary, Essie never made it to the Humane Society. She is the office cat.
As an employer I believe that keeping good people involves more than just the pay scale and health care. The opportunity for advancement in a small organization is not really a viable incentive. Extra time off isn't really too easy to provide either when you only have a couple of employees. That leaves you with some educational opportunities for self-fulfillment and some quality-of-life options. Offering my employees the opportunity to bring their four-legged companions to work has been a positive decision for them and me.
One of my most memorable sights in Paris (aside from the expected splendors) was a neighborhood restaurant regular eating lunch with his West Highland white terrier. It was almost like something from a Parisian movie. He was probably in his 70s, beret tilted at a jaunty angle, his Westie friend providing wonderful company on what looked to be a lovely outing.
One of the things that Parisians consider acceptable is allowing their fur-legged family members entrance to the restaurants. It was clear that this was a very acceptable practice. I was charmed that day by more than the food at the restaurant, which was excellent. It was obvious this quintessential Frenchman was a frequent patron at this neighborhood bistro. He and his "Westie" were greeted by a number of those enjoying their lunch. It was a delightful experience for me as a foreigner watching another culture. At that time I remember thinking how I would love for us in the states to relax our paranoia about having pets in eating establishments.
I visited California not too long ago and found a more relaxed attitude about dogs in public places. Perhaps attitudes about our canine friends are becoming less functional and utilitarian and more spiritual. Maybe that too will help with our understanding of the role that our pets play in a better existence for us all.
In Starkville a highlight of City Bagel and 929 on Main Street is the outside eating area where we feel comfortable bringing our pets. Every Saturday morning you can also enjoy pets coming to the Community Market as we shop for local produce. We continue taking steps in the right direction for inclusion of diversity. Pets are one more aspect of that diversity.
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5. Editorial cartoon for 11-25-15 NATIONAL COLUMNS