Man’s best office mate: Some Summerlin businesses enhance work life with pets

Only 17 percent of American companies allow animals in the workplace, according to an American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey, but the idea is gaining steam.

Melissa Malfara owns and operates Melissa’s Grooming, 8540 Del Webb Blvd., the perfect setting for bringing in her dogs — Max, Mandy and Cleo.

“It’s the funnest job I’ve ever had,” Malfara said. “My dogs are like family.”

The policy was born of necessity. Malfara works long hours, and, with no doggie door at home, it’s a smart move. She takes them on potty breaks three or four times a day. She extends the bring-your-pet-to-work policy to her handful of employees.

“We do have those moments when they run around and get all excited,” said Malfara, “and then we have to do a kind of ‘time out’ thing.”

Ed Vance brings Pepper, his 7-year-old Shih Tzu, to his business, Ed Vance & Associates Architects, 900 S. Pavilion Center Drive, Suite 180. He and his wife, Ruby, an insurance benefits broker, both work long hours.

“When we got him, he was very young, and we just couldn’t see leaving him at home by himself,” he said. “So, I brought him in. Now, if I don’t bring him in, for whatever reason, they (his employees) miss him. … If I take him to the groomer, they’re like, ‘Well, you’re bringing him later, aren’t you?’ “

Vance, who started his own business in 2006, said clients are warmed at being greeted by the little guy.

“He’s a Shih Tzu, so they look like puppies all their life,” he said. “It just softened the place; it gives it a homey feel. … It’s an instant icebreaker. Clients will come in and go, ‘Oh, my God, look at that. I’ve got four dogs.’ It starts up conversations that we ordinarily wouldn’t have.”

Having Pepper around makes everyone’s day go faster. His employees carry treats for Pepper, take him for walks and make him do tricks. They argue over who gets to take him out. Vance said having a dog around that needs potty breaks was not a disruption, no more so than someone who “goes outside to have a smoke.”

“There’s another architect in town, Bob Fielden, who used to bring his Labs in,” Vance said. “I’m not sure I’d do a Lab. They tend to be a little bigger.”

Vance extended the bring-your-dog-to-work policy soon after he began bringing Pepper. Now, about three members of his 20-man operation bring in their dogs.

“He cannot wait to get here,” Vance said. “On the weekends, he looks at me like, ‘Why aren’t we going to work?’ So, he kind of gets depressed when he has to stay home.”

At Royal Springs Healthcare and Rehab, 8501 Del Webb Blvd., Lorraine, the activities assistant, who asked that her last name not be used, brings her rescue dog, Cyrano, every day. Lorraine got him from the Nevada SPCA’s Dewey Drive facility about two years ago.

“One of the ladies there … said, ‘I hope you’re not going to leave him home alone all day,’ ” Lorraine said. “So, I asked my boss if it was possible to bring him in. Being as I worked in activities, we decided he could double as pet therapy.”

Another employee’s pet, a Yorkie named Jack, comes in occasionally. The facility also has its own pet, a resident parakeet named Bobby.

“The bird starts flying around and (talking to Cyrano),” Lorraine said. “They have a chirping-barking contest going on. So, you’ll see Cyrano tip his head, waiting for the reply chirp, and then he barks.”

He also sits on residents’ laps and licks their faces.

Joe Ann Cole, administrator, said the nurses benefit from having Cyrano and Jack around.

“Their occupation is very high stress,” she said. “We get a lot of different health care providers — doctors who come in, the lab techs, the X-ray people — it’s a continuous flow of different types of health care givers, and they all have stressful jobs. And the residents are under a lot of stress because they’re sick; they can’t be in their own (homes), which is highly stressful. And to have a dog like Cyrano come, even though it’s only for a few minutes, it diverts their attention, and they don’t think of themselves and their own problems or their own stress.”

According to a survey of 50 small and large companies by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association in 2008, companies that allow pets in the workplace see a lower rate of employee absenteeism and more willingness to work longer hours.

Cyrano has become a celebrity among the Royal Springs staff.

“When I come in the morning, they’ll greet him, not me,” Lorraine said. ” ‘Hello, Cyrano,’ or, ‘How are you, Cyrano?’ and, ‘Oh, yeah, hi, Lorraine.’ It’s all about Cyrano.”

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email or call 702-387-2949.

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