Stephen Babcock’s dog watches what the Baton Rouge attorney wears every morning.
Tré Dog, a 9-year-old yellow lab, will sulk away if Babcock appears in a suit and tie, realizing the attorney must appear in court or some other place canines aren’t allowed.
But if Babcock, 39, puts on a polo shirt or a dress shirt without a tie, Tré Dog “throws a fit to get noticed.”
He wants to go to the office.
“It’s amazing that by how I’m dressed, he knows if he’s going to have a shot at getting to make the ride in the morning or not,” Babcock said.
Since he was a puppy, Tré Dog has accompanied Babcock to his office. He naps in front of his master’s desk, greets clients and stares out the window at traffic.
Having man’s best friend in the office lessens the stress level for pet owners and contributes to a more collegial atmosphere, a recent study by Virginia Commonwealth University found. Babcock agrees.
“As a general rule, when dogs are in the office, it doesn’t matter how stressed out you are,” he said. “When a Labrador retriever walks up and puts a cold nose on you, it’s a different day.”
The study, led by VCU business professor Randolph Barker, studied a North Carolina company that has allowed all employees to bring pets to work for 17 years. Over a week, Barker’s research aides took saliva samples multiple times each day in search of cortisol, a hormone that indicates stress levels. They also administered a questionnaire so employees could self-report stress.
His study found that pet owners who brought their dogs to the office had less stress than those who did not own pets or left their furry friends at home. Barker found that pet owners who left their pets at home actually experienced greater amounts of stress in the afternoon, possibly reflecting an “increase of concern” about the animals, Barker wrote.
Worry about his 2-month-old Chihuahua puppy led Clyde Lawrence, 59, to bring Pepper to work with him two years ago. His boss at Militello’s Shoe Repair, 7474 Corporate Blvd., never told him to stop bringing the dog.
“He’s just so small to leave at the house,” Lawrence said.
Pepper lies behind the counter on a towel and watches each customer. He interacts more with females, Lawrence said, and he emits a small growl every time he sees the black work boots of shop technician Van Porter trudge past. When thunder begins to rumble outside, Pepper abandons his towel for a small blue cabinet in the shoe repair area.
“You can’t have Militello’s without Pepper now,” Porter said.
On a tough day Lawrence will find himself returning to Pepper, the first dog he’s had since he was a child.
“I’ll just go pet Pepper,” he said. “He enjoys the attention.”
The staff and customers of Sprint Print, 4343 Government St., say they have noticed a change in their work lives without a dog nearby. They became accustomed to seeing Lulu Belle the bulldog patrolling the print shop and peeking out from the office of boss Lanny Daigle to watch traffic.
In February the 10-year-old dog was euthanized because of chronic health problems.
“She became such a staple in our lives coming to work every day, it really is a void,” Daigle said. “I miss having her. Just knowing she was here was so comforting.”
Lulu Belle is memorialized in a mouse pad used at computers around the office, her jowly face peeking up above the Sprint Print logo. While Lanny Daigle’s wife would like another dog, he said it was too soon to find another.
The benefits of bringing a pet to work are clear to Dr. Wendy Wolfson, an instructor of veterinary medicine at LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. However, Wolfson advises pet owners to honestly consider whether their dogs can handle the office.
New people, new smells and new locations can stress some dogs. Also, Wolfson said, conquering stairs and elevators can present quite a challenge to some canines.
“It depends on their personality,” she said. “Some dogs, new things don’t bother them at all.”
Attending work with their owners can definitely benefit pets, Wolfson said. Dogs can receive more stimulation and exercise when otherwise they would be sedentary, waiting at home for the master to arrive.
Before dog owners decide to bring their pooches to the office, they should seriously consider the dog’s personality and quirks — something most pet owners don’t do.
“You’re so willing to overlook issues with your dogs because you love them,” she said.
At Babcock’s office, many workers on the fifth floor — employees of the law firm and other companies — keep Milk Bones at their desks to feed Tré Dog as he makes his rounds, something Barker’s study calls “unique dog-related communication.”
“They’ll see him running around or come over and visit. Sometimes I take him to visit with them,” Babcock said. “Even in those offices where they aren’t used to having animals in the office, it’s amazing how everybody’s eyes light up with a friendly Labrador retriever, and everybody breaks out their chew toys like he’s a part of the family.”
These interactions create an opportunity for brief exchanges between humans, too, that create a more collegial atmosphere, Barker wrote. When top management at the North Carolina company featured in the study walked their dogs around the office, it seemed to create a “more relaxed climate for interaction with dog owners.”
In the 12 years since Babcock has been an attorney, Tré Dog — or his predecessor, Deuce — has been a fixture.
“In those 12 years I’ve never seen a commercial lease that ever had a no-pets provision in it,” he said. “You see them in residential leases all the time, but you never see them in commercial leases. Nobody in their right mind would believe that you would take a dog to work with you.”