Back to Home Page

Local Links
Sun Valley Guide
Hemingway in Sun Valley
Real Estate

For the week of February 21 through 27, 2001

`Working Dogs’

Pooches in the office are part of the Ketchum way

Express Staff Writer

Add to your definition of working dog the pet you bring to work—that is, if you work in Ketchum.

Hurley Hamilton, owner of Thunder Paws Express, with Libby, right, and Gomez. Libby is the inside help, while Gomez patrols the yard.


No one is certain how many businesses in Ketchum have that kind of working dogs, but it is certain that sooner or later you will work with these dogs or visit their owners’ businesses.

Three businesses in Ketchum kindly allowed the Mountain Express to come visit and see how it works to have dogs on the job.

Hurley Hamilton, the owner of Thunder Paws Express in Ketchum, brings her two dogs to work every day. That is quite in line with the business ¾ it’s a pet store.

Libby is a purebred Siberian husky and Gomez is a Siberian/German shepherd mix. Libby works inside the store and Gomez out.

One of the first rules for a working dog is to be house broken.

Probably the second is to be well-mannered.

Libby is both of those, Hamilton said.

The problem is with some of the dogs that visit Thunderpaws. And when there is a problem, Libby goes to work.

Hamilton said visiting dogs "lift their legs" three or four times a week inside the store. When Libby sees a dog getting ready to mark her territory, she’ll growl at the dog and that usually ends it.

Misbehaving dogs, Hamilton said, are those who dip into the dog cookie basket without permission or who come in bouncy and unruly, not understanding "dog rules."

If Libby sees a visiting dog dip into the cookie basket, she’ll put herself between the dog and the cookies and make "growly-howly" sounds.

If an unruly sort comes racing into the shop, Libby has been known to pin the dog.

Other than policing visiting dogs, Libby keeps to herself and cops a "princess" attitude to people. As Hamilton said, she is not a "lovely-huggy dog."

Most of the time she is snoozing on an upright dog bed. Hamilton said her "modeling" on it has helped sell the bed. Libby also models booties, collars and coats.

When the store gets too busy with people and other dogs, Hamilton said, she simply puts Libby out—or Libby asks to be let out—with Gomez.

Dogs are also at work here in the travel business.

Peggy Hollitz brings her black lab, Sid (short for Obsidian), to work at Sawtooth Mountain Travel.

Hollitz began her business 23 years ago in Trail Creek Village, and at the time she brought her Scotty, Tara, to work.

After Tara, she brought her Lab, Fred, to work.

"He was known everywhere in town and never needed a leash. He used to get post cards from clients. ‘Dear Fred, we’re loving Italy.’ "

Now Peggy has Sid.

"He hasn’t gotten any post cards… yet."

Hollitz thinks dogs in the workplace is a carryover practice from Ketchum in the `70s, "when the town was much smaller." For her, it’s part of the local culture, something she’s glad to see continuing.

Sid shares the office with a Shelty named Tika, who belongs to Barbara Queal.

While the two of them play when they first meet in the morning, their owners say they settle down quickly, head for their respective spots near their owners and go to sleep.

Every now and then Sid will go greet a client; every now and then Tika will bark at a client (she’s new); but for the most part, these working dogs keep to themselves.

Dogs make it into even corporate cultures in Ketchum.

Smith Sport Optics is home to a lot of dogs.

Taz, left, Janet Bagley’s Siberian husky, seems to be eyeing Buddy the Teacup Yorkshire terrier, but the two really get along. In the background, left to right, are Chris Cummings, JJ Ellis, Salomen the dog, and Whit Albright. Photos by David N. Seelig

Robyn Marrelli, the office manager and executive assistant, said that at any time the building has 19 to 20 dogs in it.

Marelli herself has her lab, Buster, with her on a daily basis. He stays on his dog bed in the corner, and like all dogs at Smith, is leashed.

Dogs at the workplace is part of Smith’s casual culture with its flexible hours, people going off to ski or kayak or run, and its non-corporate dress code.

Marrelli said Smith has worked hard to maintain that culture.

Robyn Marrelli with Buster at Smith Sports Optics. These corporate dogs are literally chained to their desks.

"Ten years ago, there were approximately 13 people working at Smith," she said. "As the company has grown, the culture has changed, but Ned Post [Smith’s president] has maintained a casual culture, which includes dogs."

Asked if she thought there were a psychological benefit to having her dog near, she said there was.

"There’s something about having the warmth of unconditional love of an animal nearby."

Another employee of Smith, Diane Olson, agrees. She also has a dog named Buster, but he’s a shihtzu.

"He’s a pretty good buddy," she said. "I can totally vent, and he doesn’t talk back. He totally worships me."

Krista Ivie says her two dogs, Sage (a golden retriever) and Hunter (a black lab), have another psychological effect on her.

When she arrives in the morning, she said, her dogs "sprint to their offices. Seeing them so infused with energy infuses me."

All the dogs in the building, she said, do this morning sprint.

Some of them even bend the leash rule a little by extending their morning sprints into a little visiting.

Olson’s Buster will go visit Marrelli’s Buster when he comes in, before settling down to a day’s work.

Kerry Marumoto brings his black lab, Gunner, into work. He said he liked having Gunner around, in part, because there is something "non-business" about it.

Furthermore, he said, dogs don’t care if you’re having a bad day, they’ll still run up and greet you.

Of course, unruly dogs don’t make it into this corporate culture. They are the ones who cannot be left leashed to their owners’ desks. Barking and whining and other noise making can mean expulsion.

While each dog at each of the businesses was perfectly behaved, as if they knew they were being talked about, problems must arise. (They do with Mountain Express dogs.)

But these occasional explosions so far haven’t threatened these breeds of working dog.

Perhaps dogs in the workplace serve as canaries do in mines. If the working dog culture ever peters out in Ketchum, it may be time to get out of town.

Back to Front Page
Copyright © 2000 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.