For the week of July 15 thru July 21, 1998  

It really is a dog’s world

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Well, it took genius-level IQs in the high-tech world after all to finally discover what folks in the Wood River Valley and a few other out of the way places have known simply out of intuition.

That dogs improve the dispositions and attitudes of humans in the workplace.

This astonishing news comes from California’s Silicon Valley, the Mecca of computerdom, where executives of firms as large as Netscape and Excite! are allowing workers to bring pet canines to the office.

And why not? Workplace productivity has soared because dog owners don’t fret all day about pets being left at home. And they’re inclined to stay later on the job.

Catch this: techies are turning down lucrative job offers from competitors because of the new polices allowing dogs on the job.

Long before the computer crowd discovered the value of canines, health care experts had promoted dog visits to nursing homes, where cheer can be spread in an otherwise depressing, dreary environment with the arrival of wagging tails and a friendly lick to the face of a patient.

Dog owners in the Wood River Valley are among those who understand the true meaning of the aphorism, "a dog’s life" – a life in paradise.

Leash laws and the animal control officer notwithstanding, dogs have the run of the town, like sacred bovines of India.

Dogs show up in offices. And they go shopping, or at least as far as the front door of a store, prevented entry only by health laws. Dogs on building sites even have their own breed name– "construction dogs."

Where else but in the Wood River Valley would merchants thoughtfully install small drinking fountains for mutts at their store entrances, where Pooch awaits the family? And one place even has a sign, "Park Your Dogs Here."

Some "dog’s life" stories I’ve heard from the area’s vets about devotion to dogs border on the bizarre.

Dr. Randy Acker, for example, tells of the grieving hunter who cremated his beloved dead dog– then packed the ashes into shells so the pooch would be with him whenever he fired his shotgun.

It’s not rare to hear of owners spending thousands of dollars on surgery or extended care for their mutts.

Dog owners are a loving and charitable lot. When I walk my own two Labs, it’s not unusual to encounter owners with three or more pooches they’ve adopted from the animal shelter.

In calculating the dog population, the numbers from vets suggests more dogs than permanent residents live here, which means two-legged creatures are here at the sufferance of our four-legged friends.

Predictably, of course, not everyone affectionately embraces the presence of dogs. A few grouches I’ve encountered would just as soon see dogs banned as nuisances.

No surprise: those are the same folks who don’t like children, never have understood the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, don’t find any inspiration in a walk in the woods, and don’t choke up with goose bumps when the Star Spangled Banner is played.


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