Pets bring joy to local workplaces and increase productivity

MIDDLEBURY — Animal lovers will often describe time spent around their beloved pets as therapeutic, calming, uplifting and stress-relieving.
For folks that leave their pets at home during the workday, there’s often a sense of hurry when leaving the office so as to give a friendly hello to that familiar face that’s waiting to greet one at the door.
Increasingly, however, workplaces are opening their doors and their policies to pets at work and are seeing some positive results.
According to national research conducted by the American Pet Products Association, pets in the workplace help reduce stress, increase cooperation and encourage employees to work longer, more productive hours. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of businesses in the United States allow pets in the office, including some of the largest companies such as Google, Amazon, Proctor & Gamble Pet Care, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Clif Bar and Ben & Jerry’s.
Many would not be surprised to hear that Vermont ranks highest when measuring the percentage of households that own dogs, at almost 71 percent. It’s hard to miss the dogs when wandering the streets, hiking the trails, visiting households, or even at shops and offices.
The same holds true in Addison County, where many offices have canine or feline visitors that greet you when you walk in the door.
Here at the Addison Independent office in the Marble Works, 23 of our 27 employees have at least one pet at home. Five dogs regularly come to the office with us, though we’ve seen upwards of 12 to 15 different dogs come through the office for a visit with their owners on staff.
The dogs encourage our deadline-driven office to take breaks, laugh together, share stories and give us the perspective it is so easy to lose sight of when in a stressful environment.
Dogs in the community
Below is a brief survey of our office pets as well as some of the other office pets you may see in and around the Middlebury area. We encourage you to go out and visit them on your trips around town, share stories and make connections with these dogs and their owners, and feel free to let us know about what you find. We have this little theory that you may come away a little bit happier than when you started.
Addison Independent — Trudy is a four-year-old border collie mix who was rescued from a shelter in Vancouver, British Columbia, where her owner Christy Lynn (associate publisher and sales manager, aka me) lived prior to moving back to Vermont. Trudy is a bit shy, but loves to lounge in the sunny spots on the floor of the office or under the desks of her favorite office mate, Anna Harrington.
 Elvis and Spike are shih tzus belonging to Laurie Wedge, who has been the bookkeeper at the Addison Independent for over 20 years. Elvis is eight and has been comfortably perched on Laurie’s or Vicki Nolette’s desks since he was a tiny puppy. Perhaps regretfully for him, Elvis was joined last year by Spike, the newest puppy in the office. Spike’s floppy and giddy personality can crack a smile on anyone’s face.
Thor is a poodle terrier mix who’s name and initial bark (if you’re a man with a hat or have a swagger or sideways stare) portray him as a few calibers tougher than he is on the inside. Jessie Raymond (columnist and typesetter) and her family adopted Thor from Homeward Bound in Middlebury last spring and he quickly became a beloved member of their household as well as the office community.
Walter joins the dogs at the Addison Independent once or twice a week, accompanying circulation manager Lisa Razo at her desk. Walter is a dorgi — a dachshund/corgi mix who waddles around the office with a friendly nose in the air and tail that looks like a flag waving him along.
Addison County Chamber of Commerce— Golden retriever Cody joins chamber President Sue Hoxie about two or three days per week at the visitor’s center in Middlebury, welcoming folks as they come and go. “Golden retrievers LOVE everyone,” Sue says. “Yesterday he got to lick some kids’ faces, got a belly rub, and brought back memories to an older couple who no longer had dogs.”
Champlain Valley Equipment— Owner Brian Carpenter brings a large, four-year-old boxer named Boomer to work every day at the Exchange Street business. Boomer has his own leather couch in the office, but spends the majority of his time sharing an office chair with his pal Cheryl Gordon, resting his wide chin on her shoulder as she works away at the computer. “This right here is the reason I come to work every day,” Cheryl says with a wink at her pal. “I’m kidding, but it does make a real difference.”
McLeod Kredell Architects— Brittany spaniels seem to be the choice breed among architects in Middlebury. Rusty comes with owner John McLeod to the architecture office most days and has also been known to visit students in John’s design studios at Middlebury College. “Everyone loves to see dogs around, especially the students, many of whom have dogs at home they miss very much,” John says.
Middlebury Animal Hospital— One may expect an animal hospital to be a pet friendly environment, and Middlebury Animal Hospital is no exception. Cheddar, a large orange cat, lives at the office all the time, perched on any surface and aware of every nook and cranny. Oscar and Tyson are a father and son pair of boxers who can be found curled up together behind the desk many days at the center. Ladybug is a two-year-old pug with a sweet, dark face and soft demeanor. Ladybug sits guarding the pet files, with her bed at the base of the wall filled high with information on hundreds of pets that come and go from the office.
Middlebury Sweets— Many people know of the beautiful and exotic parrots that can be found at Middlebury Sweets in East Middlebury. Owner Blanca Jenne adores her three birds: Savanna, a green wing macaw; Quincy, an African grey; and Coqui, and blue and gold macaw. All three take turns coming to the shop and playing in their bird room, separate but visible from the shop. They are majestic and commanding of attention, leaving quite an impression on visitors who thought they were just coming in to find a chocolate or sweet treat.
Optics Ltd.— Sammy, an adorable furry wheaten terrier and spaniel mix joins Mahmoud “MJ” Hayyat in the office at Middlebury Optics a few times a week and especially during times when the office is a little quieter. Sammy was the runt of his litter and is a little shy, perhaps because of early intimidation by his siblings. Despite his shyness, Sammy is a sweetheart who is adored for his floppy ears and friendly face. “He’s definitely my little buddy,” MJ says.
State Farm Insurance— Izzy is a pit bull working hard to change the negative reputation that others in her breed have earned. She is a sweet and docile gal who joins owner Jim Soriano a few days each week in the office and is beloved by all who visit. Officemate Catherine Howland says many insurance agencies will not insure pit bulls or other breeds thought to be aggressive, but considering three out of four of the employees at State Farm have pit bulls at home, their coverage is open and available to all.
Round Robin — “I think Peanut is the mayor of Middlebury,” says the dog’s owner, Jane Steele. Peanut works with Jane at Round Robin and has made countless friends both in the store and around town. Jane describes Peanut as a “designer mutt” who she adopted from Homeward Bound in Middlebury last June, but he has made himself popular very quickly with his loving personality and eager-to-please temperament.
Vermont Integrated Architecture— Cassie is an athletic Brittany spaniel that joins her owner, Ashar Nelson (principal architect) at VIA most days of the week. While Cassie’s preferred routine involves more running or biking or skiing than she gets in the office, she can also be found lounging in the most hilarious places around the office, offering the team of designers an excuse to look up from the drawing boards and screens at least once in a while.

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