This is Oscar.
Oscar is a six-year-old Australian Shepherd. He barks quite a bit. He bites his leash when we go for walks. And he is on a constant quest for food -- even if he has just eaten an entire apple pie, which he did one time.
But despite his shortcomings and annoying idiosyncrasies, Oscar is also pretty much the best thing ever. (This, I imagine, is an opinion that many dog owners share about their own furry children.)
As you can see from the picture, Oscar is a pretty happy dog. He smiles a lot, even when he's under my desk at work in search of crumbs that aren't there. That smile, that wide, drool-filled, tongue-wagging smile, I've found, is very contagious among my co-workers. He is the furry embodiment of joy in work -- for me and my colleagues.
Oscar first came to work here at IHI last summer. (He was five minutes late, but no one seemed to notice.) To be honest, I was pretty nervous. What if he barked too much? What if he had an accident on the floor? (Just kidding, HR. That would never happen.) What if he bothered me all day and I couldn't get any work done?
To my pleasant surprise, he was wonderful. He lied at my feet, quietly drank from his water bowl, and politely let me know when it was time for him to use nature's restroom. All things considered, he was a model pet.
What made me happiest, though, was the effect he had on the rest of the office.
Busy executives hurrying to their next meeting stopped, smiled, and pet him. Countless people came into our pod to play with him and take a few minutes away from run charts and spreadsheets. Visitors who happened to be in the office stopped and snapped pictures.
Recent studies show that bringing your dog to work lowers an owner’s stress. I realized quickly, though, that it wasn't just me. Even if it was for just a minute, Oscar brought down the stress level in the office. His fuzzy face and long tongue -- which comes out only when he's tired -- made everyone remember their dog, their child, or something in their life that makes them happy. He made everyone take a deep breath.
More offices, it seems, are realizing the benefits of pooches. According to that same USA Today article about the study, 17% of companies allow dogs to come to work. And there are numerous studies that show the therapeutic effect dogs -- and other animals -- can have on patients.
Oscar brought his usual joy to office this past Friday. Sure, he barked once or twice, but he made at least 50 people smile from ear to ear. And, really, when's the last time an expense report had that effect?