Dogs At Work

More Valley pooches are marking territory at the office. Some put in a full 40 hours and boast executive doggie doors. Others dole out business for the carpet cleaners. But most employees and customers agree, the glee of wagging tails more than makes up for wet tiles

While some humans may find a good job and then check to see if pets are welcome, others put the dog before the chores. Such was the case for Lorraine Celotti, who worked her share of time at the not-so-pet-friendly Starbucks Corporate headquarters in Seattle. After years of a deep evergreen corporate environment -- "no pets there, just pictures" -- Celotti heard that PetSmart invites employees to bring their canines to work. A few months later, she was moving to Phoenix, home of PetSmart's corporate offices.

"Those who say it decreases productivity don't get it," Celotti says of dogs at work. "Clearly that's not true. They're missing out on the good stuff." Every Friday she brings her Corgi, Amanda, to the office. From the parking lot to the conference room, it's an entire day of new smells and friends. Celotti often gets stuck with office dog-sitting duty too, and it doesn't bother her a bit.

Celotti's Corgi is just one of hundreds of Valley dogs no longer barking goodbye to their humans on lonely workday mornings. After breakfast, a daybreak walk and sniff around the back yard, more pooches are braving the Valley traffic with their heads out the passenger window, heading into work.

Where humans see cubicles, fluorescent lights and dingy ceiling tiles, the overwhelming majority of pooches interviewed agree that the workplace presents an enticingly exciting new world of smells and friends.

Staring out from an apparently boring conference meeting at PetSmart headquarters, Maggie, a white Maltese-poodle mix with a tail nearly the length of her torso, put it this way: sniff, sniff, wag, lick, wag, small half-circle, handshake, sniff, wag.

Maggie's take on the workplace seems nearly unanimous among canines.

Down the hall, PetSmart executive Lynne Adams is just beginning a national conference call, negotiating a contract with lawyers and a salesperson, when two adolescents barge into her office and roll in a wrestling ball of flesh across the floor.

"Is everything okay?" one attorney asks over the speakerphone.

"Oh, yeah, that's just Scout," Adams explains without looking up from her notes, "and her brother."

Scout is about four months old and is in what some would call the frisky stage. She is a Vizsla, which is Hungarian for "looks something like a Lab on steroids…and a lot of caffeine." The office coffee may account for the caffeine part. Every Friday Scout and at least 100 other dogs tear through the PetSmart executive headquarters, keeping the company true to its name.

Adams, the director of corporate communications, says the dogs have never hurt her relations with business folks from New York to L.A. "I'm on the phone all day with Wall Street analysts, reporters and business people. I've never had anybody have any other reaction than, 'How cool is that. I wish I could bring my pet,'" Adams says.

This is Work, Not Just Tail Wagging

Miles away, in Hornacek's House of Golf, eight-year-old Knuckles, an English bulldog, thinks employees like Maggie a bit overzealous. Under his thick, wrinkled, slate-colored skin, Knuckles is nearly as excited about going to work, but his no-bones-about-it attitude makes one thing clear: he owns this store, every square inch of its 11,000 square feet.

Knuckles has been working six days a week, everyday since he was six weeks old. With a smug approach to customer service, he gives the impression he may have run a small boxing center in a former life. But catch him during his early-morning routine, and you'll know he's as excited about work as Maggie.

Knuckles' workweek mornings go something like this:

Wake up.

Sit in front of fridge.

Eat breakfast entrees with humans.

Enjoy early morning walk, alone time outside.

Wait by front door.

Wait by front door.

Battle traffic in commute to work.

Knuckles wears no watch, but other Hornacek's employees literally set theirs by his schedule. After half-an-hour of lying in the sun behind the store, he runs inside to find his favorite golfing net, the kind used for practice. Knuckles rolls in the net, scratching his back for another half-hour, sometimes getting tangled or stuck but refusing a hand from any co-workers. He then finds his personal La-Z Boy in the shoe section of the store. The rest of the morning is penciled in as naptime in his chair.

When children visit (and many customers come in just to see him), Knuckles' snoring stutters into a quick snort and he lazily opens his eyes. Otherwise, he moves about as much as a stuffed animal packed with heavy beanbags. Experienced customers desperate to try on golf shoes may manage to push Knuckles out of his chair, in which case he rests his heavy head on their knees until they vacate.

Putting the Dog Before the Chores

The majority of working dogs in the Valley have the luxury of reporting directly to company owners. That is, those humans who own businesses are more inclined to risk their own dog upsetting a vendor or customer. Just ask any one of Harkins Theatres owner Dan Harkins' three dogs.

For nearly 15 years, Harkins' Papillion, Pappy, was as expected at company board meetings and movie negotiations as Harkins himself. Now three younger Papillions are working together to fill the large paw prints Pappy Sr. left behind, making use of the same executive doggie door and keeping assistants busy with cleaning supplies.

"We're grooming a new one," one assistant says of the three Papillions in training.

Many dog-inviting business owners say their pooches set a friendly atmosphere and aid business negotiations. And while most working dogs report directly to owners, more corporations are opening their doggie doors too. PetSmart is one of five Arizona dog-friendly employers listed on a Web site that tracks national pet-friendly places of work. PetSmart is the largest dog-friendly employer in Arizona. At corporate headquarters, the excitement surrounding the occasional surplus toy sale is rivaled only by holiday bonus checks.

Dogging the Competition

"One of the joys of working for this company is that it is really hard to have a bad day with a puppy in your office," Corporate Communications Director Lynne Adams says.

Celotti says dogs make the workplace more like a home. "When people are seriously stressed or having a bad day, it's fun to watch people come in and pet them," Celotti says. "The calming the pets give them, they walk out a different person."

Back at Hornacek's House of Golf, owner Ellen Hornacek says Knuckles and his older co-worker Barney bring in more customers than traditional marketing ever could. "People come in to see him all the time," she says of Knuckles. "He's more human than some humans I know."

Of course, it's hard work for the dogs too. All those back scratches and belly rubs can really wear a bottom-line-minded pooch out.

"Around 2:00 you see their eyelids getting heavy," Celotti says of the dogs at PetSmart headquarters. "Then they try to nap, but people visit them."

At Hornacek's, Knuckles isn't nearly so worn out. His years of experience have taught him to pace his efforts. After waking from his La-Z-Boy slumber for lunch, Knuckles and co-canine-worker Barney, wander to the nearby AJ's, where they pilfer a few bites from weak-willed diners.

Hours later, Amanda, Celotti's Corgi, is resting her head on the passenger seat as she and Celotti drive home. Amanda is visibly worn out from her workday. She will sleep all day Saturday, resting up for another workweek ahead.