Good Life

Good Life | Furry workplace companions a welcome distraction

Duncan Crane, owner of The Crystal Cave, plays with his pet rabbit “Three Bears Rufus” in the store. Many local business are pet friendly allowing workers and patrons to bring pets into the workplace, March 3, 2015.
Duncan Crane, owner of The Crystal Cave, plays with his pet rabbit “Three Bears Rufus” in the store. Many local business are pet friendly allowing workers and patrons to bring pets into the workplace, March 3, 2015. CDT photo

A typical workday for some in Centre County looks a lot like this:

9 a.m.: Come in from the car and greet everyone in the office. Settle in and attend meetings, where I am always the center of attention.

10:30 a.m.: Greet the mail carrier and/or UPS delivery person and hope they brought treats for me today.

Noon: Lunch break! Though I’m still pretty full from all the treats I’ve had this morning. Depending on the weather, I may head outside for a walk or playtime with my colleagues.

1 p.m. Retreat to my bed for a post-lunch nap.

3 p.m.: Make the afternoon rounds to see everyone one more time before the end of the day.

Sounds great, right? That’s about how it goes for pets that are part of the workplace at businesses throughout the area.

Bringing pets to work can provide stress relief for employees and takes the burden off owners to travel home to care for pets on their lunch breaks.

Videon Central, in Ferguson Township, has about 10 dogs that come to the office with their owners on a regular basis. Joan Potter, the company’s human resource manager, was the first to bring her dog, Lani, to the office 18 years ago.

“I live 20 to 25 minutes away and wanted to get a pet, but I couldn’t run home at lunchtime to let it out,” Potter said. “So, I got permission from our owner to bring her into work and things took off from there.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the health benefits of owning a pet can include lower blood pressure and cholesterol and increased opportunities for socialization and physical activity.

Nearly all of those things are true at Videon as a result of the dogs, Potter said. Employees often take their pets outside to the company’s courtyard area, which provides an opportunity for animals and owners to socialize and get a little exercise.

“It’s definitely stress-relieving to be able to pet a dog or throw a ball during the day,” Potter said. “We try to achiever that fun play mode and without turning this place into a doggie daycare.”

Michelle Damiano, owner of Impressions Whq marketing in College Township, brings her collie, Oakley, to work with her every day. Some of Oakley’s favorite things to do are sitting in on client meetings and greeting the mail carrier every day.

“She has to be in every meeting,” Damiano said. “She needs to know what we’re talking about and will poke you with her nose if she feels she’s not getting enough attention.”

Animals also have their place in retail settings. Chocolate lab Neve has been a longtime fixture at Appalachian Outdoors. Owner Geoff Brugler said being around people all day long in the store is the best environment for her.

“Labs don’t do well at home by themselves,” Brugler said. “It’s good for her to be here, where she can be around people and get attention all day long.”

Allison Brown, owner of Centre Hall Pet Supply, reports similar results for her Great Dane, Tig.

“What better place to housebreak a puppy to bring him to a store with me,” Brown said.

Brugler and Brown both said they’ve had customers come in just to see or bring treats for the dogs, which helps encourage repeat business for them. And the dogs certainly approve.

“People will buy him things off the shelf, and the sales reps usually bring toys for him,” Brown said. “He definitely has his favorite customers.”

Not all pets in the workplace are dogs. Anyone visiting the Crystal Cave on Calder Way in State College might notice a furry gray rabbit peeking out from the jewelry store’s back room.

Store owner Duncan Crane said he got Three Bears Rufus (named after its breeder) two years ago from a customer who was graduating from Penn State and could not take him with her.

“She carried him in her purse. She shook it open and there he was,” Crane said. “This is his store, we just work here.”

Unlike the other pets, Rufus lives at Crystal Cave full-time. Crane said he can sometimes act like a toddler, moving bags of beads and doing the opposite of what he’s told.

“He’ll drag things under the couch and chew on the wall,” Crane said. “But it’s all worth it to have him running around at your feet all day long.”