A dog a day keeps stress away - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

A dog a day keeps stress away

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CHARLESTON, WV -

When Chloe trots into a room, everything changes.

"Our pets help to provide such a wonderful perspective," said Linda Arnold, chairman and CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C.

Arnold's 7-year-old, black and white, mixed-breed dog Chloe, rescued from Hurricane Katrina, is a familiar sight in the hallways of The Arnold Agency's Charleston office.

The business, in its 23rd year of advertising, public relations and government relations, operates under the tagline "Spirit, Passion, Results," and Arnold allows pets in the office as part of her corporate culture.

"We work so hard in the trenches and in the end, it's all about getting results for our clients," Arnold said. "Having pets in our office lends perspective; they can generate energy and enthusiasm, and on the flipside, they also bring calm."

Arnold said Chloe's grunts and sighs during long meetings can be a signal to stop for the day, and her presence can break the ice in a tense situation.

"I think our animals bring out the best in us — they really get to a person's true, authentic self," Arnold said. "I believe animals are very spiritual creatures.

"They can sense things we can't, and they know when someone needs encouragement. I've been amazed time and time again by the effects."

Health Benefits

The health benefits of owning pets has been documented at length, but a recent study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed that dogs in the workplace can help buffer work stress and make the work day more rewarding.

For Dr. Bill Webb, owner of Oasis Behavioral Health Services in Barboursville, pets play an integral part of his psychological therapy services — even the pets with scales instead of fur.

"I've always allowed patients and clients and staff to bring their pets if they want to, and we've had snakes, birds, lots of dogs and cats, even a pygmy goat," Webb said. "We sometimes will assign people pet therapy and recommend people get pets, especially if they've had trouble getting over grief … and we often will write letters supporting people getting a companion pet for people with severe levels of anxiety or agoraphobia."

Webb, an admitted pet lover who serves on the board for Little Victories Animal Rescue, said in his 17 years in private practice at Oasis, he's never had a negative situation with an animal that would make him reconsider his pet-friendly policy.

"One time we used a rather docile dog to help someone get over a dog phobia," he said. "And one of my employees has the cutest dog I've ever seen, it's just such a cute little thing I love having it here."

Oasis was once home to two formerly stray cats that Webb said he eventually took home with him so they would have weekend care.

Employee Benefits

In an era when the distinction between office hours and personal hours is nonexistent, being able to bring at least the cold-nosed, tail-wagging part of a home life to work can be a relief.

"One of our folks was able to bring in her pup to recuperate after surgery, and it made such a difference in her peace of mind and productivity," said Stacy Deel, director of account operations for The Arnold Agency, whose beagle-mix puppy Nya has logged a few hours at the office.

When employees are juggling long hours and appointments, Arnold said knowing their pets' schedules won't be a problem is an immense relief.

"If you know your pet is welcome in the office, it can make getting to that vet appointment or staying late to work on a campaign a little easier," she said.

For Danny Fisher, a financial services professional at New York Life in Morgantown, his steady routine syncs perfectly with his boxer-mix, 5-month-old puppy Champ's daily routines.

"I adopted a puppy from the shelter up here, and I have a town home with thin walls, so I knew as a puppy he'd be yapping," Fisher said. "I didn't want to get him and have him crated up all day, so I thought he could tag along to the office."

Fisher said he's reminded during Champ's necessary trips outside that its important for humans to take a few breaks during the day for themselves, too.

"I could see where it breaks up the day and gets you in a better mindset, absolutely," Fisher said.

And Fisher said the regular attention, exercise and socialization has made Champ a better pup.

"I think it benefits (Champ) because he has no signs of any behavior issues and problems," Fisher said. "I hear the stories of just leaving a dog in a large room or area for two to three hours, and every leg on the stool is chewed up and the floor is scratched."

At The Arnold Agency, Executive Vice President Steve Morrison said pets bring a different perspective to the office.

"Obviously, we look for appropriate circumstances for such interaction, and the transformation can be amazing," he said. "There's just something about a pet that can lend a calming influence, whether that's in the middle of a brainstorming strategy session or a complex creative assignment."

Fisher said he was the primary agent at his office, so he started the policy, but Champ has practically become a part of the staff.

"When clients come in, if they don't see Champ right away, as they're leaving, they're asking for him," he laughed. "He's more interesting than an insurance guy."

Setting Boundaries

Fisher said as an insurance agent, he recommends anyone looking to implement a pet policy check his or her liability coverage.

"And the facility probably needs to be conducive to it," he said.

Arnold said when her business moved to Summers Street in the early 1990s, the building renovation allowed her to be more flexible.

"You have to use your own good judgment and watch out for each other and the environment," she said. "Everyone has a door, and we use care, so sometimes they're behind closed doors, but usually visitors are pleasantly surprised when they come and see our friendly, enthusiastic atmosphere."

Fisher said because his is a client-driven business, he tries to make sure everyone knows his pet policy in case of allergies or aversions, and he keeps a conference room animal-free just in case.

"One of the first clients who came in, I learned she has three dogs, and she led me on to some great dog parks up here, so it can open doors in a client relationship," he said. "We make sure to take care of business, but it hasn't been an interference that we can tell."

Arnold said she's never experienced any major disturbances that would make her close the door to pets, but joked that she's glad the office has tile floors.

"It's not necessarily an everyday thing," Deel said. "Our pets may come and go throughout the day, but it's just knowing that they're welcome, as appropriate with individual client needs.

"And it's just part of that special sauce here at The Arnold Agency that makes us feel good about coming to work for this company and giving our best for our clients."

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