Working Like a Dog

by Marilou Halvorsen, president NJRHA

Khaleesi

While adding a new staff member can be exciting for me, it’s also stressful because every time I do so, I hope that it won’t disrupt our office chemistry.

So before bringing Khaleesi into the office a few months ago, I thought long and hard about whether this green-eyed, blonde ball of fire would disrupt the balance the moment she arrived in Trenton. On her first day, it became clear that she would.

Khaleesi immediately controlled and manipulated those around her, oddly befitting of her namesake: HBO’s Game of Thrones: Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons. But it wasn’t until she stole an employee’s lunch, added teeth marks to my favorite chair, and ripped the office toilet paper to shreds that I seriously worried whether I’d made the right decision—but my staff assured me I had.

Khaleesi is our new office puppy and we love her, despite her rambunctious ways.

With that particular bad day behind us, I’m happy to say that she’s learning office etiquette thanks to puppy socialization classes, training, and the support and patience of her fellow staff.

So what was my motivation to get a dog for our office?

Considering that our office is headquartered in downtown Trenton, which can be desolate at night, I would say “safety” was undoubtedly part of the decision. But the reasons and benefits for adding Khaleesi extend far beyond safety and the improved morale I might have imagined.

Saying “good morning”

Millennials have shown that they crave a more fun and relaxed work environment, and four out of my six employees are in their early-to-mid 20s. This challenges me to find ways to keep them satisfied while maintaining some semblance of professionalism.

Our office is a more joyous place with Khaleesi around. Upon arrival, she runs to say “good morning” to each staff member. She greets the UPS guy, who now looks forward to delivering our packages. She’s quickly becoming a favorite among State House employees, and she’s even helping our staff to stay healthy by urging us to go for walks regularly.

She’s a social media superstar, gracing my staff’s Instagram and Facebook profiles, and even my own! But, she doesn’t let it go to her head; when she knows you’re having a bad day, Khaleesi is the first to offer an unexpected wet kiss to cheer you up.

Ready for a meeting

Rest assured, I didn’t jump into this commitment without careful consideration. I wanted to be sure the decision was 100 percent unanimous among my staff. I checked if they had allergies, and if they were “dog people” or “cat people” before beginning my search. A few weeks later, I received a call from a rescue shelter in South Carolina. After I enthusiastically agreed to adopt the puppy (Khaleesi), I learned that she had been just 30 minutes away from being euthanized.

Dogs, like new employees, are a big commitment and require time and training. And keep in mind that this particular employee goes home with me every night, most days with lipstick smeared over her puppy face.

For now, no cardboard box or errant shoe is safe during work hours, but we have high expectations for Khaleesi; soon she’ll begin training to become a therapy dog at hospitals and nursing homes on the weekends.

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