At my office, employees are encouraged to bring their dogs into work. By that, I don’t mean that employees are encouraged to bring the dogs in to do work. Rather, they are encouraged to treat the office as a dog-friendly environment.
The dogs are well-behaved and free to roam around, sleep under desks, and turn anything they find in the waste baskets into a toy. At times, they alert the office to such events as a FedEx truck arriving, a UPS truck arriving, or even a USPS truck arriving. Clients and strangers alike are greeted with wagging tails and bright eyes of enthusiasm. Often, this enthusiasm is reciprocated by way of pats to the head and/or baby talk Q&A that is invariably one-sided: ‘Who’s a good doggy? You are. Yes, you are. Are you a happy dog? Are you? Yes, you are.’
In a dog-friendly office, it’s easy to forget that not everyone likes dogs.
A few months back, a woman came in to deliver some papers from a client. Confident and determined, this woman was going to deliver the hell out of these papers. The person usually at the front of the office had stepped away and, as my desk is within sight of the front door, the woman made a bee line straight for me. Still very much confident, still very determined.
I was in the process of signing the clipboard for proof of receipt when one of the office dogs, a 2-year old Australian Shepherd, woke from her nap and realized, “Oh my god! My new best friend is here!”
Hearing the click-click-clicking of toenails on the hard floor, the woman’s glance turned slowly, and increasingly tense, over her shoulder. What she saw was something so terrible, so unholy, that a horror writer conceiving of such imagery would place themselves into a sanitarium for fear of their own mental well-being.
Seeing this polite and happy dog waiting patiently for a formal introduction, the woman let out a squeal. At first, I misinterpreted this as giddy enthusiasm. “Oh, she must really love dogs,” I thought. “That’s sweet. What a wonderful treat for her.” It wasn’t until the woman began haphazardly scrambling atop my desk like she was escaping a flood, I realized, “Oh, she’s afraid of dogs.”
Not only afraid of dogs, but she must have had a psychic vision of own funeral where friends and relatives cried over her body, which, having been mangled to mere shreds via the descendent of a proud wolf pack, was laid to rest in an empty sardine can. Deciding to not be devoured, not that day, not at that moment, not while delivering those papers, the woman began shoving me between herself and the dog.
…Which means the following thought process actually took place in her mind:
Based on a quick analysis of my value as a person, the woman determined that, between the two of us, I was the one worth sacrificing for the greater good of the document delivery industry. To put this further into perspective, when seeing the options of putting a barrier between herself and imminent destruction via flesh-eating hell hound, I ranked below the readily-accessible desk chair. Granted, it was an ergonomic mesh task chair in blue with multiple adjustments, so I get it. I can’t compete with that.
I began petting the dog to highlight her gentleness, to convey that she was as harmless as a stuffed toy, albeit a toy that salivates and leaves hair on your clothes. Instead of seeing this as a moment to overcome her own fear, the woman saw it as an opportunity to flee for her life. Hopping off my desk, she yanked the clipboard from my hand and bolted out the door.
As the front door closed, the dog looked up at me as though to ask, “What the hell was that about?”
Rather than go into a long explanation about the cruel and ignorant species-based prejudices that exist in the world, where some are judged because of their species (or even genus) and ascribed attributes that are vile and fear-based, my response was to simply shrug.
After all, what kind of monster would I be to spoil the world view of a 2-year old that saw every person as her new best friend? Someday, probably, she would learn some of the unsavory realities of life. Someday, she might find out that not everything found in the waste basket is edible, sometimes that thing she chews has remnants of Sriracha on it and she will have a tummy ache that requires hurried and frequent visits to the yard.
Someday, she might learn that happily rolling around on that pungent mess on the ground will end in her being given a bath.
Someday, sad but true, she might even meet someone who felt that an ergonomic mesh task chair in blue with multiple adjustments had more intrinsic value than herself. That’s a day I do not wish on anyone.