Working Dogs

No, this is not going to be a discussion of seeing-eye dogs or search and rescue dogs or dogs for the deaf. Nor will it have anything to do with the heroic dogs who assist the military, racing Greyhounds prior to their retirement, sled dogs, firehouse dogs, or circus performers.

This is simply about dogs who accompany their humans to work on a regular basis.

Inspired by a recent online article in the Waggington Post ( that asked the question, “Would you take your Pug to work with you?”, I was reminded of Mame and Jicky, my own dearly departed but faithful companions. Individually, each accompanied me to the office almost every day for a total of more than twenty years.

So, let’s learn about some dogs who are going to work now.

In the “Canine Corner” of Issue Two of this website (August 20, 2011) was an article entitled “Up in Central Park,” and it talked about various dogs who could be seen enjoying the glories of the Park on an almost daily basis. Among those written about were Milly von Barksky, a Miniature Schnauzer, and Gracie, a Tibetan/Wheaton Terrier mix, both of whom get to join their humans at work on a daily basis at the beautiful Neue Galerie, a museum of early twentieth-century German and Austrian art located in a former Vanderbilt House at 1048 Fifth Avenue in New York.

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Milly’s human, Renée Price, the director of the museum, grew up with cats. She explains, however, that this special canine, her first, “was eight weeks old when she first stepped into the Neue Galerie and she is seven-and-a-half-years-old now. I love her to bits!

“At work she spends the morning filing and resting, and at lunchtime she sniffs around the lunch table. This is followed by a constitutional in Central Park.

“Milly has some special toys from the Galerie design shop with which she loves to play fetch. But she is also the fourth floor guard dog—any strangers must pass her muster or she speaks up!”

Milly is very comfortable with staff members of the museum and they are often approached for a shoulder and back rub. Outsiders, however, are not always accepted. Interestingly there have been times when big, burly men who have arrived to fix the copy machine or the phone lines turn out to be afraid of small dogs. Milly seems to think that’s just fine. Ever the aristocrat, however, she is always extremely friendly with and happy to see the museum president, Ronald Lauder. He is, of course, a dog person and she obviously senses this.

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Gracie, the other Neue Galerie dog written about previously, is the fifth floor guard dog. She is the beloved companion of Phyllis LaRiccia, the museum’s membership director, and she is also privileged to go to work every day; she started to do so five years ago. According to Renée Price, “Milly and Gracie get along famously and offer each other a tail-wagging morning greeting. In the spirit of true camaraderie, Gracie finishes whatever Milly has left in her food bowl and waits, with paw in the air, for a sliver of dried duck breast.” Phyllis adds, “during our weekly staff meetings, which happen on Thursday mornings, they will often briefly wrestle or chase each other around. It can be a little distracting, but it’s very sweet. I think having a dog at work is wonderful, and brings joy and stress relief to everyone.”

Window shopping along Madison Avenue just north of the Neue Galerie, one might notice a small and glamorous boutique on the west side of the street: Margo Manhattan. Looking at the display in their windows, you’d see beautiful rings and pendants and bracelets of highly sophisticated design. And if you looked into the shop itself, you’d probably see Mika, an elegant German Shepherd.

Contrary to first impressions, Mika is not a trained guard dog—although there is no doubt she would be effective in that role if she were called upon to do so. Mostly, however, she is simply the beloved pet of Margo herself and she goes to the shop pretty much every day.

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Margo, who grew up with another German Shepherd, simply likes being with her dog and certainly Mika feels the same way. Believing strongly that “a well-trained dog is welcome anywhere,” Margo hired trainer Chris Abel to make sure Mika was socialized and ready to deal with the shopping public.

And the shopping public clearly loves her. Margo reports that “a lot of people come in just to admire her. Occasionally, very occasionally, someone might show fear, but that really is quite rare.”

Mika is the second German Shepherd who has accompanied Margo to work. The first, Shiki, started going to the store when Margo opened uptown, having been in Soho for several years. Named by the designer’s son (“Shiki” means four seasons in Japanese), this dog was quite spirited and, in her younger days, “spicier” than her more stoical successor. But she too was there with Margo day in and day out and, as she grew older, was a very relaxed presence who clearly enjoyed her naps.

“Is there ever any problem with people coming into the shop?” I asked.

“Sometimes, with a messenger or a delivery guy, there is clearly an alert attitude,” says Margo. But when Mika was still a puppy, this alert attitude was not fully developed and her innocence turned into something of a disadvantage. In April, 2014, the shop was held up.

According to the New York Daily News, “An Upper East Side jewelry shop beloved by celebrities like Beyonce and Selena Gomez was robbed on Friday by a man who tied up the manager and bolted with $60,000 in bling . . . . The creep even kicked Mika, Margo Manhattan’s 13-week-old German Shepherd puppy.”

Fortunately, there have been no recent incidents. And now that Mika has attained her full weight of seventy-five pounds—loving family dog or not—a potential thief would have to think twice before messing with her. He or she would certainly be wise to do so. In the meantime, the beautiful German Shepherd happily goes to work each day, greets customers and admirers and even, sometimes, gets to wear bijoux of her own.

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Another working dog very much involved in a stylish world is Nipsy, the spirited Jack Russell Terrier and full-partner in the North Shore Long Island interior design firm Leighton and Associates. Although he grew up with a series of his father’s devoted Labradors, patrician Leighton Coleman had, like Renée Price, always been a cat person. The arrival of Nipsy changed all that. She accompanies this designer as he visits clients, selects fabrics, and deals with tradespeople. Now she has become so much a part of Leighton’s business that when she doesn’t accompany him, she is inquired after and sorely missed.

Nipsy can be seen antiquing in Stamford, Connecticut (where Leighton claims that she has become expert in ferreting out Chinese export porcelain), and enjoying herself at the Parthenon Framers in Bohemia, New York, where she gets to play with Captain Jack, the young Cairn Terrier of the owners. That adolescent dog makes nine-year-old Nipsy frolic happily and feel very much like a puppy again.

Far from the madding crowd of Manhattan and the fancier suburbs, Bo, a magnificent Bull Mastiff, goes to work each day in Derby, Vermont, an idyllic town right in the middle of that state’s Northeast Kingdom.

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Bo’s human, Mick Conley, a Realtor with Conley Country Real Estate and Insurance in this town snuggled at the Canadian border, explains, “When Bo first came home with me I was living in a condo in Montreal. My neighbors thought he was a Pug.” Now that he weighs 160 pounds, it is obvious that he isn’t, although, after learning about his personality traits, the two breeds certainly have much in common.

Mick remembers always having dogs of one kind or another growing up on a farm and later on as well. “As a kid we had a few Boxers,” he recalls, “and later, after I’d married, we bought our four-year-old daughter a Rottweiler. They were inseparable until that dog died. The next dog was an Italian Mastiff who also became her best friend. When she went to school, my parents kind of inherited that dog who became their protector as they grew old. I always thought that when the Italian Mastiff died, it was my parents downfall as well; they both died a few months later.”

These days, the about-to-be-four-year-old Bo is very much in residence and he happily goes to work with Mick every day—he even has his own comfortable chair in the office. Despite his size and serious demeanor, he is extremely low key. At the moment he has a sore leg and Mick reports that he is not being exercised every day. Bo’s normal routine, however, is not particularly active, either. “He goes for a walk to the lake, which is in front of our house, and then returns home.”

With all those long hours spent at the office, no one could blame him.

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A favorite Bo story? “I have a Mini Cooper,” says Mick. “When I leave him in the car to go into a store, he jumps into the driver’s seat because it is heated and this is Vermont. One time, I was coming out of the bank and there was a man asking around for the owner of ‘the big dog.’ It turns out he was a reporter for the Newport Daily Express, our local paper. He photographed Bo and the photo was published.” Another well-deserved moment of fame for the gentle giant.

Out in Stella, Missouri, a small village in the southwest part of that state, Jan Sargent Rice is the owner/operator of Possum Haulers, a local light haulage and cartage company. On the Black Pugs Facebook page, she reports, “Rocky, one of my three Pugs, always goes to work with me. I am an over-the-road truck driver and can’t imagine trying to leave home without him. As you can see in the photo, he believes he is in charge! I rescued him when he was a mere eleven months old as his fourth parent; he will be four years old in December and has been on the road since joining the family.”

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And now, having discussed all these hardworking canines who devotedly accompany their humans each day, I would feel very guilty if I did not applaud the efforts of Mame and Jicky, my first two Pugs, and recognize their participation in the working world. Certainly their lives were discussed in the very first issue of this website (“My Three Pugs,” Issue One, July 19, 2011), but it is worth mentioning how they would head to an office on 27th Street almost every day. Each of them was really very much a part of the staff and certainly each took her role as pampered pet quite seriously. Occasionally one or another of the dogs might have been guilty of sleeping on the job, but in general they were on duty to welcome all to that anachronistic space on Park Avenue South.

Alas, there was one problem with my bringing either of those girls to work.

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Ruth Cashman, an elderly and much-loved receptionist always known as “Miss Smith,” was a great dog lover. And Pugs are great food lovers. So, day after day, when Ruth would have her morning coffee and roll, or her modest lunch, or perhaps even her afternoon snack, either Mame or Jicky would appear from nowhere and plead imminent starvation. And despite my pleadings and warnings and even threats, Ruth always succumbed and obeyed the dog in question and not me. Was it any wonder that both those Pugs were forever plagued with being overweight?

When I sent Barney Oldfield, a colleague from those days, a link to the aforementioned Waggington Post article about Walter the office Pug, his response was succinct: “Not sure Walter will stay so thin with all the food ops in an office.”

None of the people interviewed for this article mentioned such tidbits as being a problem, so perhaps their dogs are less spoiled. Or maybe it is a little embarrassing to mention.

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Issue Twenty Two