Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 14: Company Pet

JRT for bookOne such visitor was a consultant who occasionally tested for methane emissions in all the units in our industrial park. (There had once been a dump close by, and although the area had been reclaimed for baseball fields, there was still apparent concern about migrating methane gas.) He wore an electronic gadget on his back about the size of a day-hiker’s backpack. Attached to the gadget was a rubber hose, which was in turn attached to a hollow wand about the size and length of a walking stick. At the end of the wand was a rubber cup the size of a teacup that emitted a sniffing noise as the machine drew air through it. In Ryley’s defence, the consultant did look a bit abnormal, particularly when waving the sniffing wand about.

Their first encounter set the tone for all subsequent visits. Ryley was woken from a deep sleep in the sunbeam by a sniffing noise and a rubber cup inches from his nose. The rubber cup instantly suffered the same fate as a veterinarian’s stethoscope that was once suddenly and unexpectedly pressed to Ryley’s chest. In both cases, he did what Jack Russell’s instinctively do. He shook the rubber “rodent” fiercely to break its neck while clamping down with powerful jaws until he could be persuaded it was dead. If you’ve ever tried to persuade a Jack Russell terrier to release something firmly clamped in its powerful jaws before it believes that the quarry is ‘dead’, you’ll know there are few endeavours more pointless.

This type of behaviour would probably not be tolerated in big companies where the pets-at-work concept has recently become fashionable. Typical of big companies, some have issued policies and procedures to govern pets at work, and while that might seem too bureaucratic for the taste of most small businesses, discretion still has to be exercised. A total laissez-faire alternative is not a good idea either.

Some visitors will be afraid of dogs, some visitors won’t like cats, and some visitors will be allergic to certain animals. Few people can conduct business with a dog slobbering all over them or a cat strolling around on the meeting room table. If any of these visitors are customers or potential customers, the company pet could be bad for business.

The company pet isn’t going to exercise discretion around visitors; you have to do it.