Here in the Canine Complaint Department, times have been tough. The neighborhood dogs have been registering a lot of complaints over the last several years.

First it was the Poodle Patrol, mad that the fence around the St. Thomas soccer field cut off access to their favorite rest stop (and you thought the state shutdown was tough on truckers). Then there was the Hound Howl-in, when the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex and Anderson Center construction projects tore up their lower quad playground.

Now that the quad is open again, I thought the dogs would wag their tails or at least roll over and play dead. But no. Now they are twoofing that their old favorite trees are gone. These new ones just do not smell the same. Betsy the Bloodhound led the protest, but even sight hounds like Sal Saluki agreed that the new trees are unfair to scent hounds. Phil the Pharaoh Hound on Portland has put a “Save our Scents” sign on his doghouse roof.

As the president’s chief of canine complaints, I have been defending St. Thomas as a dog-friendly campus. After all, many faculty and staff occasionally bring their pooches to work. I can always tell when Winnie the Bulldog is visiting in Mark Dienhart’s office, for example. The door is closed, grunts and the occasional woof can be heard down the hall, and sometimes drool leaks under the door. Well, bulldogs do slobber. I always hurry in to play when I hear Winnie get her squeaky toy out. Rumor also has it that an eminent professor emeritus has been known to fling tennis balls down the halls of OSS for his rescue dogs to fetch. And pet-deprived res hall students can always be counted on to ooh and ah over any dog ambling across campus.

Apparently, this is not good enough. Working through the American Kennel Club, a coalition with membership ranging from Irish wolfhounds to Chihuahuas is demanding that St. Thomas institute a formal Dogs at Work Day. This has resulted in a committed working committee spearheaded by Carol Bruess to come up with a date and arrangements for a blessing in October.

Truthfully, they have a point; dogs already are blessed in the home and in the office. Studies show that dogs in the office contribute to greater productivity and healthier employees (except for those allergic to dog hair).  Petting animals lowers heart rates and blood pressures. Oprah brings her dog to work every day. Now even the courts recognize the value of dogs by bringing them in to soothe victims in criminal cases.

No matter what the pressure, I am not bringing Taffy, my cockapoo, to work with me.  She has earned her epithet, Hound from Hell, from Jim Rogers of Irish Studies and a neighbor. Jim always thought he and Taffy were friends. Then, one day he rode into my yard on his bike and tried to pet her. Well, that was too much for Taffy: invading her territory, and on a bike no less. The nerve of that man. She bit him. Fortunately, Jim is not suing. Taffy claims she was provoked.

I am not taking any chances with Taffy in my office. The Canine Complaint Department has enough business already.  Maybe Tootsie, my Yorkie Bichon mix, could come – the worst she would do would be to kiss someone to death.

Does the workplace harassment policy apply to pooches?

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6 Responses

  1. Andy, St. Paul

    Fun article, but I must admit I’m not sure where you’re serious and where you’re pulling our tail … If there truly is a movement to have a “dogs at work day,” be advised I will be out sick that day lest my allergies put me out instead. Bow wow.

  2. Becky Durham, St. Paul

    It warms my heart to hear of such dog friendly co-workers at UST. My own daughter has been the recipient of out dog-friendly campus, having the opportunity to pet some of the campus canine visitors. She is a first-year student at UST living in Dowling and admits to missing her beloved “dog sister” more than her parents. The occasional dog frolicking around the quad brings mixed feelings of joy to see other dogs, but some sadness as well in missing her pooch. Here’s to our furry friends.

  3. Matt, St. Paul

    Pat Sirek: Really? Discrimination against cats? What other domesticated animal is allowed to freely roam streets, killing songs birds (or other small animals)? Imagine what one would do if they saw a dog wandering around a neighborhood . . .

  4. Pat Sirek, West St. Paul

    Uh, oh. I have just received a Notification of Discrimination from Maisie the cat. “If the university blesses dogs,” she writes, “what message does that send to the curious kitties of the world? I demand to be equally treated. I never drool or bark. I conduct myself most appropriately in the presence of strangers: I hide. If you deserve it, I hiss. Other than the shedding and potential allergen factors, I am equally worthy of welcome.”

  5. Liz, St. Paul

    And all the dogs said, “Woof!” (Nicely done!) Eagerly awaiting word about the gathering of the hounds in October …

  6. S. Schmalenberger

    Thanks so much for contributing such a witty essay! I find UST to be a dog-friendly campus, especially south campus where I often bring my dogs Shennah and Fritz on long teaching days.