He waits for his driver (and loyal owner) Cat Small to open the door for a black two-seater Mini Cooper. You click on his belt and handlebar and secure him to the passenger side seat.
Mr. Carrot sticks his head out of a pull-down window as they drive from Tower Grove South to work at the Nestlé Purina Petcare headquarters, where they work in marketing. Our 6-year-old Pointer, Pitbull and German Shepherd mix have all been looking forward to going to work every day since becoming competent at 16 weeks old. It is one of about 75 pets that accompany their owners to the pet food company daily. Purina has allowed pets to operate for over 20 years.
Mr. Carrot greets the guard at the entrance to the parking lot with a friendly shake. After they entered the main tower entrance, he stopped at the security guard office. The bouncer puts together four snacks with different flavors. Jade Mr. carrot every one.
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Mr. Carrot is not evil.
As they walked to the elevator, their co-workers smiled and waved at him. A colleague stops to pet him while they are waiting in the elevator.
“I don’t know your name, but I know Mr. Carrot,” she said to Small, who was smiling. They rode up to the fourteenth floor. Baby gates cordon off many offices in their workplaces. The little one puts a cup of Pro Plan (Purina, of course) in a bowl next to her desk and slices a boiled egg to sprinkle on top.
After breakfast, Mr. Carrot may take a nap, but is likely to begin his rounds. He figured out how to push the gate open with his nose and patrol the floor, checking in with marketing staff known for harboring food. The office is a happy place. The pandemic upended its world when pets were temporarily banned from coming with their owners.
For six months, Mr. Carrot was confined to the house. Small, an extrovert who missed the office environment, returned three months before Mr. Carrot was allowed to return. He looked miserable and sad every morning when I left.
“I tried to convince him that he had done nothing wrong,” she said. “It’s a pandemic,” she told him.
According to trainers and animal behavior experts, the pandemic has affected a lot of pets. As more employees adapt to new workplace routines — some are returning to the offices, some moving home permanently and some making hybrids — pets also have to adapt.
Early data suggests more people are returning to their desks after Labor Day.
Those left at home may need some help coping.
Dogs thrive on routine,” says Dr. Raghen McGowan, a pet behavior expert who works in research and development at Purina. The disruption to household routines starting in 2020 began to change the behavior of some pets soon after.
Jesse McClure, a St. Charles canine behavior consultant, who has a PhD in Neuroscience and Behavior, works with dogs that suffer from aggression, anxiety, and other behavioral issues.
He saw an increase in some problem behaviors at the start of the pandemic. Some clients, who suddenly spent all day with their pets, were overstimulating their dogs too actively.
“Sometimes I have to tell clients to do nothing with their dogs,” he says. Many are surprised to learn that some dogs need about 16 hours of nap or rest per day.
He says the main thing to keep in mind is that people can help modify problematic dog behaviors at any age. The important thing, he said, is to find the right professional because of the sheer volume of misinformation and bad advice available.
Dr. Sally J. Foote, a veterinarian in Tuscola, Illinois, specializes in dog and cat behaviors. When pet owners go back to work, the vast majority without their pets, the most common reaction—often to dogs but also some cats—is increased anxiety about separation. Even pets who never had problems with separation before are used to more bonding time and less time spent alone, she says.
“They’ve lost some of their independence skills,” she says. The owners need to help them learn how to happily hang out on their own again. It is best to start with short walks away from home, when the pet has a toy or food to keep him occupied on his own. Gradually, increase the time, building confidence for the pet. Another problem in the post-pandemic phase is an increase in aggressive behavior towards home visitors and more problems with barking.
Foote explains that this is primarily the result of the isolation and safety measures people have taken to protect themselves. For more than a year, dogs have become less and less used by visitors who are spending time or just wandering around their homes. She adds that there is also a group of young dogs, under the age of two, who simply do not get enough time during their crucial development to socialize with others and dogs.
If you have an epidemic dog, it may never be as easy as a dog who was able to go out and socialize before the age of four months, says Foote. However, “get them to a puppy class now,” she advises.
Jodi Epstein, owner of Nutz About Training and Behavior Services at Mutz, is a certified partner in Board Certified Applied Animal Behavior, in Ovalon, Missouri. She says 98 percent of her current clients work from home. It helps them set limits and procedures for their dogs to make it easier to work from home. Owners can’t make their dogs bark in the background during Zoom calls and can get help with classic counter conditioning techniques. Epstein’s most important piece of advice to parents is to reframe the way they think when their dog does something they don’t like.
“Don’t think of it as ‘the dog misbehaving.’ In fact, dogs perform behaviors that keep them safe, such as the postman barking.” Trying to understand the problem from the dog’s perspective can help lead to a solution.
She suggests clients change their mindset to: “He does it because he’s having a hard time. He doesn’t do it because I find it hard.” This tire helps increase the owner’s patience and endurance during training, which in turn helps the pet feel more secure.
If you know you’ll be back in the office often, start helping your dog get ready in advance, she says. Build up to three or four hours alone instead of eight to nine hours on the spot.
While some puppies will enjoy returning to the daily canine care or after the dog walker comes home during their lunch hour, others can stay entertained on their own.
“We have a lot of people using remote devices, like the Furbo,” she said. It is a remote controlled therapy dispenser that allows the owner to see the pet while in the office.
Purina says she wants to encourage other employers to consider the pet policy, which they say makes employees happier during the workday. Spokesperson Laurie Westhoff says negative incidents are very rare.
“I’m not aware of any bites in recent history. Most mates are very concerned with their pets’ temperament, so aggressive behavior isn’t a problem we see with any regularity,” she says. Pet potty accidents are rare, too, but they do happen. Purina keeps cleaning supplies on hand and has routines for the cleaning crew, too.
Mr. Carrot’s colleagues
Twice a day, Small and Mr. They may encounter other furry friends along the way.
Stella, a black short-haired cat, is one of the few cats on campus. Its owner, Stephanie Harwin, is a digital brand manager and started bringing her to work in January.
“The first day it was like the hell is going on,” Harwin says. But then she settled on her routine. She alternates between naps at Harwin’s desk, on her window sill, or in her tent.
Harwin taught her how to hit the age of five and fist, which attracts some visitors who are curious about the cat doing the tricks.
“She’s very smart and inquisitive,” says Harwin.
Stella refused to perform a trick for a reporter and hid under the desk until the media left.
Mr. Carrot is much more lenient, although he also has a sneaky side. When he’s patrolling the rest of the marketing departments, he’s ready to return the treasures that impress him. There is a big pile of toys next to his bed that were stolen from the neighbours. He politely shares them with the canine visitors when they stop. He also managed to buy his own bed.
It belonged to a co-worker’s pet, but the pair moved to a different workplace.
“Mister. A carrot might also keep him.”
Small says he’s so friendly that her co-workers enjoy seeing him every day.
Occasionally someone might ask, “Is this Mr. Carrot snoring?”
“He’s living his best life,” Small says.