Forget walkies - it's time for workies

Isabel Wolff talks to the business people who cannot bear to be parted from their pets
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Indy Lifestyle Online
DOES ROVER fix you with a reproachful stare as you get ready for work each morning? Does Fido whimper pathetically as you grab your briefcase and head for the door? If so, you are not alone. Every day millions of people guiltily leave their dogs at home all day with no more than a squeaky toy for company. But there is an alternative: you could take your pet to work.

A growing number of people are choosing to do just that. Dogs Today magazine had over 100 entrants for its new Office Dog of the Year contest. The finalist will be announced next week at a ceremony held in Annabel's, the plush London nightclub, and the lucky winner will receive a lifetime subscription to Dogs Today, a portrait of himself or herself, and a year's supply of dog food with a special anti-flatulence ingredient (good for dogs who work in an enclosed office space).

Canine colleagues are found in all kinds of working environment. Jeremy, a nine-year-old terrier mongrel bitch, accompanies the Honourable Sarah Morrison, a director of GEC, to the GEC headquarters in London's Stanhope Gate every day. "I see all these people in the park at lunchtime with their dogs, and I hear them say 'Oh, come on Flossie, or Chips, or Benjy, we've got to get back to work'," says Mrs Morrison. "I think there's really quite a trend going on. People just don't want to be parted. I love her so much that I just can't bear being without her. I called her Jeremy after the vet who gave her to me as a puppy. I suppose it's rather an odd name for a girl, but I can only say that it doesn't bother her."

Jeremy has her own dog basket in the corner of Mrs Morrison's office, but is just as likely to occupy the executive swivel chair. "Often she just sits there, staring at me across the desk while I write my reports," says her mistress. "Or she trots around the building and talks to my colleagues. She doesn't attend meetings with me because she doesn't like the air-conditioning in the boardroom, but she accompanies me on visits to the factories. People probably think I'm totally cracked," she adds, with a beatific smile. "But the main thing is that Jeremy's perfectly happy and so am I."

Over in Westminster, a big stick's throw from Stanhope Gate, the Labour MP Derek Enright takes his Staffordshire Terrier, Sam, into work. Not into the House of Commons itself - only guide dogs and sniffer dogs are allowed into the inner sanctum - but into an office in neighbouring Dean's Yard. Mr Enright, who won his West Yorkshire seat in a by-election, at first had to fight to get Sam in. "The Serjeant at Arms, who runs the Commons, told me that dogs weren't permitted in this building," he explains with more than a hint of resentment. "But Chris Patten was working in Dean's Yard at that time, and he brought in his dog, so I wrote to the Serjeant and asked him whether it was the case that only Tory dogs were allowed in. He quickly changed his tune."

Sam walks in from Pimlico every morning, and spends his lunch hour chasing squirrels in St James' Park. "Offices are terribly impersonal places and I think dogs humanise them," says Mr Enright. "Sam's far happier here than he would be on his own at home, and he protects my wife, who works as my secretary, from all those nasty MPs."

"I never actually asked anybody if I could bring Aggie into work," says Jeannette Wilson, a shipping manager who works in a hi-tech office building in Battersea. Aggie, short for Haggis, a black Scottish terrier, stares blankly at the figures on Jeanette's computer screen.

"She got on rather badly at first," Ms Wilson continued, adjusting the dog's tartan collar. "She was only a puppy and she peed all over the boardroom, but they were terribly nice about it. I kept making resolutions that I'd leave her at home two days a week, but I never did. Now she does the same hours as me. She comes in with me on my Harley Davison. No one here objects to her, in fact she gets lots of cuddles."

At St Mungo's hostel in North-west London, the hardest-working member of staff is, by common consent, Miss Mungo, a four-year-old Jack Russell cross. Abandoned on a motorway, the dog was rescued and given to David Leonard, group manager at St Mungo's, where care and accommodation are provided for elderly, chronically sick, homeless men.

"At first I was a bit worried that some of the men might not like dogs," said Mr Leonard, as we followed Miss Mungo round the hostel on her daily tour of inspection. "But they adopted her within days of her arrival, and they just love her. Many of the men here are quite frail, and have been homeless for many years, and I suppose they recognise in this little dog someone a bit more dependent than themselves."

"She's my friend," said Frank, who has lived at St Mungo's for six years. "She visits me in my room every day." Miss Mungo wags her tail enthusiastically and emits a high-pitched bark. She has even received official recognition. In his recent report on St Mungo's, the Government inspector wrote: "The hostel has a dog called Miss Mungo which contributes significantly to the relaxed atmosphere there."

"She's a wonderful little dog," said the hostel's receptionist, Tina Holmes. "I really don't think that any of us would come to work without her."

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