May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For millennia, humans have used dogs for a myriad of purposes—as guides, as friends, even as surrogate children, which is increasingly common in 21st-century America.

But coworker? Office buddy? Cubicle K9?

“I’ve heard of companies letting you bring your dogs to work in other parts of the country,” says Nicholle Reisdorff, owner of the full-service doggie boarding house and playground, Dogtopia. “In Omaha? I bring my dogs to work. Many of the vet clinics allow it. But not much beyond animal-centric businesses as far as I know.”

Apparently, Omaha is behind the curve compared to the coasts regarding the increasingly common company policy of allowing employees to bring their dogs to work.

The biggest employer in the greater metro area to allow pets is Google, which allows dogs at its Council Bluffs data center, as well as its other facilities across the country.

Google allows dogs at work, Google spokeswoman Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg says, because the company recognizes that dogs in the workplace can often enhance the quality of employees’ work lives.

“I totally agree with the concept that having your dog is a stress reliever and likely something that makes you happier at work.” – Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg, Google spokeswoman

The presence of dogs has been a “unique and treasured” part of the company’s culture, she explains.

Yes, there are restrictions. The company’s dog policy rests on respect for other employees and visitors at Google facilities, she says. Dogs must be properly licensed, vaccinated, supervised, and leashed at all times.

Although Google has been able to pull off the dogs-at-work concept for years (as have numerous Silicon Valley companies among others), Reisdorff says she can imagine problems in some workplaces with certain types of dogs.

“I totally agree with the concept that having your dog is a stress reliever and likely something that makes you happier at work,” she says. “But I wonder about those potential impacts on those around you.”

Such a “dogs-at-work” program is part of the broader trend of humans increasingly treating their pets as “basically their children,” she says.

You’ve seen those couples who talk to their dogs as if they were little offspring and take them to nice doggy daycares like, say, Dogtopia.

Why the growing attachment to dogs in our society?

“I think with people getting married later, with people having children later, you more and more have the pets playing the role of children in peoples’ lives,” she says. “And there’s just the simple fact that dogs are such super-social beings, so full of love. Once you love a dog, it’s hard not to want to pamper them and be with them as much as possible.”

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