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Pets part of workday at some local businesses

Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 1:20 p.m. CDT

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Bob loves to sit around the office all day and greet customers as they enter Precision Body Works in Crystal Lake.

During his downtime, he drinks water, eats snacks and plays an occasional game with some co-workers and customers. He also can be found napping every once in a while.

To some, Bob may sound lazy. To others, he’s a typical employee. But there is a glaring difference between Bob and the other staff at the auto repair shop – Bob is a dog.

“Bob runs the place,” business owner Brett Kehl said. “Once he was in here, he became a great addition to the family. We call him the boss because everybody comes to see him.”

The pooch is one of many across McHenry County working a 9-to-5 shift, a scenario that proves not only beneficial to the animal and owner, but also creates a positive atmosphere for everyone involved, local pet experts agree.

“It’s overall a positive thing to do,” said Dr. Edin Mehanovic, veterinarian at Wonder Lake Veterinary Clinic Ltd. “[Dog] owners need to use their best judgment, but as long as the dog is properly trained, it is a win-win situation.”

Longtime office manager Cassandra Bennett brought the 5-year-old English cocker spaniel to the business when he was 10 weeks old to crate train him while she was at work.

Co-workers and customers responded so favorably to Bob – also referred to as Mr. Wiggles, Buddy Buddy, Shish Kabob and Bobby Goldfish – the owner decided his visits would become permanent.

“Everybody seems happy he is around,” said Bennett, who brings Bob to work daily. “He’s pretty much our mascot. If I had a dollar from everyone who said they are going to steal him from me, I’d be a rich woman.”

On top of belly rubs and playing with his favorite toys, Bob is most likely the first thing customers will see as they enter the business. He doesn’t bark and follows commands, and for those who aren’t fans of dogs, he’ll remain behind the counter.

“We don’t do dogs, but if Cassandra were to give that dog up, we would become dog owners,” said Hawley Haleblian, who frequents the business. “He is like a human being.”

Many companies across the country allow their employees to bring their pets to work.

A study released last year in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed that bringing pets to work tended to lower stress levels related to high cholesterol levels, hypertension and depression.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness.

The recent trend includes Purina’s Pets At Work initiative, which encourages other companies to join the movement by taking part in national Bring Your Pet to Work Day on Friday.

Man’s best friend also can be found at the Car Bath in Cary, where Max has greeted customers for the last two-and-a-half years.

The Yorkshire terrier was first brought to the car wash because of anxiety issues from being away from his owner, Tami Williams, who also owns the business.

“I’m working some days for more than 10 hours, and he just couldn’t be left alone,” Williams said. “It was getting to be very damaging to my home.”

Max now serves as a calming factor for employees and customers, even more so after he survived a coyote attack in January.

“It’s good for business,” Williams said. “He just hangs out, doesn’t run away and makes everyone smile.”

The city of Woodstock had a familiar face in its City Hall for many years in the form of Maize, a yellow Labrador who belonged to former City Manager Timothy Clifton.

“He was a great icebreaker when people would come into the office,” said Cindy Smiley, deputy city clerk. “People get a warm and fuzzy feeling from dogs. [Maize] was laid-back and friendly.”

Having a pet, especially a canine, in the office is especially good for the animal.

“It’s great for the dogs to be exposed to interaction with people,” Mehanovic said. “It’s good for the dogs instead of being at home to be with their masters.”

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