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An impressionistic response to Randy Barker's call for research.

My name is Marilyn and I am a dog-o-holic. Her name is Annie and she is a beagle. She licks my toes every morning and greets me with little whimpers and more licks when I come home from work. When I return from a long trip, she is so excited that she runs at breakneck speed around the house. Fortunately, beagles are built low to the ground, so there's no damage. She cuddles with me on the couch in the evening and comforts me when I am sad. She also sheds, so I take pieces of Annie with me everywhere. Although I realize that she is not a little person in a fur coat, her beautiful almond eyes and her wagging tail are irresistible. She makes me happy.

My 90-year-old father lives in a retirement center in Portland, Oregon. Every month, a local canine visits that facility. My dad says morale improves, and the old folks seem lighter on their feet when the dogs come nosing around.

These experiences are why I was excited when I read Randy Bark-er's article on companion pets in the workplace. I can't help but think that our culture might perhaps be better adjusted if we could slow down and, in addition to following Ann Landers' advice to stop and smell the roses, pet a dog or cat daily. There is a reason they are called "pets."

Randy offers compelling research that justifies considering having companion animals at work: Petting an animal reduces blood pressure and results in less absenteeism and depression. I know that when I come home from a 10-hour workday, spending a little time with Annie is definitely beneficial: I can feel a sense of relaxation creep over me, and the worries that I have over worldly matters that distress me, such as budget cuts, or too many students and not enough teachers, or minuscule funding for travel, are alleviated. As Randy suggests in his article, increased dopamine and other brain chemicals help to relieve the stress of daily life in a society that is going faster and faster. Maybe more Annies walking the hallways will keep us from imploding.

Randy also notes that students react favorably to faculty who have pictures of animals in their offices. I offer the following anecdote as support:

Two years ago, Parade magazine, a supplement to our Sunday newspaper, reprinted the winners of its annual photography competition: First place went to a photo of a set of eight identical Labrador puppies, dressed in onesies, hanging on a clothesline. I had cut this out and placed it on the office wall above my computer printer, where I could see it and smile, but most students couldn't see it, simply because of the way that chairs were arranged. When I rearranged my office this summer, I taped the photo to the side of a filing cabinet facing the door. I have since noticed that students ask about the picture. They also comment on the "I love my person" beagle greeting card above my desk, a leftover from some Christmas past. It has never occurred to me that student traffic might be subtly and positively affected by these items. Think what could happen if Annie were physically present in my office! The dopamine rush would be fabulous! But dogs are not allowed on our campus.

Another attractive feature of Randy's article is the multidisciplinary aspect. We all know that communication cannot be kept in its own little box; it spills out into many other areas, as it should. Randy draws his evidence from the fields of business and advertising, but also from medicine and psychology. I don't know about the rest of you, but as I grow older, I find that I am less content to stay within the confines of my own curricular box. In fact, half of my current course load is interdisciplinary in nature. Researching a topic such as this one presents all sorts of interesting possibilities for teaming with those colleagues from across campus that we rarely see.

Finally, Randy asks in his article if he is "going to the dogs." The answer is simple: of course! But in this context, that's a good thing.

Marilyn A. Dyrud (Ph.D., Purdue University, 1980), is a professor in the Communication Department at the Oregon Institute of Technology. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Marilyn Dyrud, Oregon Institute of Technology, 3201 Campus Drive, Klamath Falls, OR 97601; e-mail: dyrudm@oit.edu.
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Title Annotation:human animal relationships
Author:Dyrud, Marilyn A.
Publication:The Journal of Business Communication
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Words:747
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