Saying Aiken SC folk are fond of horses is like saying Indy inhabitants get revved up over racecars. Well, duh! But, according to Susan Henderson, owner of Aiken’s Southern Saddlery, “horse people are dog people, too.” So it would seem, as proprietors all over town head to work each morning with purse and pooch in hand.
Henderson boasts a feline financier in her own establishment. Maybelline, Beauty Queen, is one of the real fat cats of Aiken. From her window perch atop her pillow she “reins” over the Saddlery. Henderson owns three dogs as well. Farley and Charmayne are Pembroke Welsh Corgies. Rio is a giant Schnauzer. “When I’m not here,” said Henderson, “Rio protects my staff. He hides behind the counter. When customers come in whose voices he doesn’t recognize he pops up to let them know these women have protection.”
Alan Reese, co-owner with brother Brandon of Aiken Glass, has “Kay”nine security as well, though Kay, his eight year old Great Dane, is, “A deterrent. Not an aggressor.” She languishes on the floor for most of the day until UPS and FedEx delivery time. For Brown delivers more than packages to Aiken Glass – and Kay knows it. “Special delivery” here means dog biscuits.
Longhaired Jack Russell terrier “Caddie” was born on the Aiken Golf Club grounds 18 months ago. “One day we saw something furry peeking out from the old barn,” said owner Jim McNair. “We thought it was a fox.” Seems Caddie’s mother had given birth and then given up on her young ‘un. McNair and his staff spent a couple of weeks coaxing her out from beneath the shed. Now she performs her assistant overseer duties from the passenger seat of the McNair golf cart each morning, helping with clean up and divot repair (well, offering moral support anyway.)
Aiken Saddlery’s Boo, a Jack Russell terrier, is the store’s “mouser.” “We have occasional mice running around our warehouse,” explained owner Lydia Herrick. “Boo always knows when that happens, as we have one worker back there who’s a screamer. She screams and Boo takes off running. That’s the end of the mouse.”
Jana and Tom Stratman, Clubhouse Unlimited proprietors, are joined each day by boxer Sophia and Boston Terrier Bridget. “We’re known as the dog driving range, “ said Jana Stratman. While the driving range is their outdoor playground, “the girls” only get to run there when customers aren’t around. For when they run, they tend to run amuck. “They take the golf balls,” complained Stratman.
Jeri Barrett, Herbal Solutions proprietor, has two workplace buddies: Sassafras (Sassy for short), “the perfect shop kitty,” and dachshund Skipper. Barrett found Skipper by the side of the road a few years back. “He was starving, barely five pounds,” she said. “He had fallen in a ditch and was screaming.” Barrett hesitated about bringing her pets to work, but neighbors encouraged her: “Your customers won’t mind.” Indeed they don’t. Sassy, who lives at the store, has nearby folks trained to come by and wave hello through the window on Sunday, when the store is closed.
Not all dogs and cats make good workplace companions, however. Susan Boland, owner of Bone-I-Fide, used to bring her two Rottweilers, Emma and Pudge, to the store each day. Pudge thought every toy in the store was his, however, and insisted on trying them all. Boland finally gave up on her furry friend and took him home to stay. Now she is searching for the perfect shop kitty – or a less proprietary puppy proprietor.
Melissa Bahleda, owner of Partners Canine Training, Behavior Counseling and Shelter Services, cautioned: “People that want to bring pets to work need to be aware of the public perception of the breed. While pit bulls are so good with children that in England they’re known as the nanny dog, the American public sees them as threatening.” She also said that some smaller dogs might not be the best choice either. “They tend to be more defensive, “ she explained. “They get stepped on, and picked up by kids.” Standard poodles are a wonderful choice, according to Bahleda. “For the workplace you need a pet that’s trained not to jump on people or bark indiscriminately – one that will sit for petting, ” she added. “Most importantly,” stressed Bahleda, “You must get to know your pet and his mood changes. If he’s not himself remove him from a public situation.”
Whether performing workplace “duties” of meet and greet, get that mouse, or keep me safe, there’s one special ingredient that makes a furry friend a top-notch take-to-work buddy. Just ask Jeri Barrett: “It’s great,” she enthused. “You have your own pet therapy. If you’re having a bad day you pet them for a while. All of a sudden everything is right again. They love you unconditionally.”