Taking Your Dog To Work?


By Anita Gates

Someone is going to have to break the news to Cassie. Take Your Dog to Work Day is not happening at Mommy’s office this year.

Now I, personally, love the idea. Some might argue that it would be a little difficult logistically at the Midtown Manhattan office of the news organization where I spend my Mondays through Fridays. With more than 2,000 employees in the New York office, and with 47 percent of U.S. households owning at least one dog (that’s the Humane Society’s figure, and who can argue with them?), that would be 940 canine pets roaming our Renzo Piano-designed newsroom. Sniffing under our desks for stray potato chips. Jumping up on unsuspecting copy editors and web producers. Putting their cute wet noses against the floor-to-ceiling glass and whimpering because they can’t figure out how to get to the nifty deck overlooking the atrium. (Relax, babies. Neither can we. The deck is just for show.)

As Cassie, who is an overfriendly 9-year-old West Highland white terrier with a taste for pizza, would say (if her language skills were better), it couldn’t be much more chaotic than the early Take Your Daughters to Work Days. If the American workplace can handle elevators, cafeterias and hallways clogged with young humans talking shop in a cacophony of outdoor voices, then the American workplace can handle a few dachshunds, poodles and Labs.

A confession here: Cassie and I have tried our own version of this plan. For a while I worked on Saturdays, and occasionally I’d have weekend travel plans, which of course always involved her. Metro North, a commuter rail line, is very friendly to pets, by the way, and Cassie is well known at the Poughkeepsie station.

Rather than losing an hour of valuable time going home to pick her up and then bring her back to Midtown, I would pop Cassie into her black airline-approved Sherpa carrier and sneak her past the security guard in the lobby. Feeling very wicked, I would put on a poker face, go straight to my desk and slide Cassie underneath. Now here’s the miracle: not a peep. For reasons that would baffle medical science, this carrier seems to act as a sedative to my dog. She loves getting into it. All I have to do is unzip the side opening, and she walks right in. Then she is capable of stretching out inside and lying quietly for hours at a time — through the corridors of major airports, on five-hour flights to California and, in these cases, surrounded by editors and reporters, ringing telephones, beeping computers and whirring photocopiers. A few dog lovers in the department would drop by and say hello and admire her. Then I’d stuff her little head back into the carrier.

Lest I appear to be shilling for Sherpa, I should confess that the carrier did not have the same effect on my first Westie, Lillie. Once, I was at the Atlanta airport, trying to get Lil back into her case after going through security. When I lifted her above it and tried to ease her into the top opening, she spread all four paws out to make that impossible. As I was trying to reason with her, I heard a woman’s voice saying, “This is a job for two people.” I looked up and found Liza Minnelli offering to help me. Lillie submitted, and I immediately emailed everyone I knew to tell them about my encounter.)

Maybe we could try Bring a Few Dogs to Work Day. We could set a limit of two pets per department, like the airlines’ rule of no more than two pets per cabin. In my case, I would vote for Cassie plus my fellow editor Cheryl’s 4-year-old black border collie-retriever mix, Clarence. Clarence is named for the late Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band. Cassie is named for the lead Broadway-dancer character in the stage musical “A Chorus Line.” I can’t imagine what the two of them would talk about on a date, but I feel sure they’d bond long enough to visit the publisher and ask why the paper doesn’t have a weekly dog section.

 Anita Gates is a staff editor for The New York Times who writes about theater, film, television, books and pop culture in general. Of the more than 2,500 Times articles she has written, her favorite is still "Europe on Four Paws," a travel-section essay about traveling with her first Westie, Lillie. Gates and Cassie live in New York City but try to get away to Woodstock, NY, whenever they can.