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I Hate My Dog-Friendly Office

Crotch sniffing, growling, and public pooping would normally be the worst kind of workplace harassment. Not when your boss allows pets.

Illustration: Jan Kallwejt

“Ugh. Steve is so cute! Don’t you want to snuggle his little butt all day?” a 20-something former sorority girl said to her cube mate.

“I know. I just cannot. Stand it!” echoed her neighbor, reaching octaves usually emitted only by dog whistles.

Huh. You see, I had met Steve. He was a doughy-faced man, fast approaching 60, who fancied poorly timed dad jokes. What in the world?

It was my first day at a new job in River North. At that point, I lacked the context to understand what seemed like an egregious HR violation. My aha moment came about a week later. Turns out there were two Steves: one, a man; the other, a five-pound Chinese crested–dachshund mix with acute separation anxiety. He dashes in fear every time you shift in your desk chair. He is also an expert at planting liquefied poop right where you’re about to step.

Steve is one of five furry regulars at work. They are all just as flawed as their obsessive owners. There’s the cookie-stealing mutt, Jillian, and her leash-aggressive pit-mix sidekick, Stella. Then there’s Brawny and his ungodly digestive disorder. Let’s not forget Ruby. I see her most often on my a.m. pee break. Her owner brings her to the bathroom, where she crawls under the stall, shooting death stares as I hover above the porcelain.

When you tell people you work in a dog-friendly office, they say they’re jealous. Little do they know there’s nothing friendly about it—unless you find a carpet peppered with questionable stains, garbage cans elevated to keep out foragers, and stinky treats scattered in candy dishes endearing.

“Oh, it’s so great!” I say through gritted teeth. “It’s like free therapy on stressful days!” That “therapy” is a chorus of barking dogs during conference calls. It’s watching your agency’s founder feed his pup raw beef in the shared kitchen. It’s pushing snouts away from your crotch while you’re shaking hands with a client. There’s also the inevitable confusion. Am I allowed to move your dog? How do I ask the boss to clean his pooch’s piss off my office floor? Why are these animals treated better than people?

Occasionally, though, there are silver linings. Mine came about 10 months in, when I glanced over to my jerky manager’s office to see her feverishly pecking another wicked email. Good old snuggly Steve, with quivering legs, unloaded a steaming pile below her standing desk. I watched her face twist from vague awareness to wretched realization as she caught wind of the stench.

Instantly the months of incessant barking, quarreling, and food stealing were worth it.

Oh, Steve. He’s so cute! I just cannot. Stand it!

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