I have long considered being in control of my own office environment one of the unquantifiable benefits of a small firm practice. When looking for office space about 20 years ago, I informed a prospective landlord that I bring my dog to work, which produced a look of shock and incredulity. It was not that the landlord had a policy or rule against dogs. No, it was simply a thing not done, too unprofessional even to consider. I searched for space elsewhere.
For the past eleven years, I have happily brought my German shepherd to work with me. Chloe had a fierce, wolf-like appearance, and she was rarely comfortable with strangers on first meeting. In spite of these drawbacks, most clients found Chloe’s presence comforting, an ice-breaker, a reminder that, in spite of the nature of the problem that brings them to meet with a lawyer, life will go on just as surely as the interaction of petting a dog’s ears is mutually gratifying.
Chloe did more than assuage nervous clients. She kept everyone in the office calmer, including me. Whether to help diffuse a tense conversation with opposing counsel or to sit at my feet during the preparation of briefs and letters and emails – too many to count – Chloe helped preserve my sanity. She made me stop and smell the roses, to take at least two walks a day and to forgive unconditionally.
After a hard battle with liver cancer, Chloe died this summer at the age of 15. I think of her as I enter the office to begin each day, always with sadness that she will never wordlessly guide me through the composition of another brief or be there to silently witness the resolution of another problem. Chloe was good for clients and good for me, an unsurpassed mental health savior. Regardless of public opinion, I would have Chloe at my side. That I am not alone in appreciating the benefits of a pet in a work environment is yet another long-overdue evolution in office culture.