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Working Pets

by Barry KuKes

Have you ever heard or said, “The more people I meet, the more I love my dog or cat?” Sometimes, the only ones you can trust are your faithful furry companions. Thank God for all animals, but especially dogs and cats. Nothing against fish, birds, turtles, hamsters, bunnies, etc.
When I retired from the humane society back in February, so did my dogs, who were ambassador dogs for the society. They would accompany me when I visited schools, senior centers, and organizations. I think they miss working and visiting with kids especially. One or both dogs would visit the humane society’s kids’ camps, and the kids loved playing with the dogs.

Since we don’t visit the humane society any longer, I began exploring opportunities for my dogs to participate in, and I found a few worth sharing.
Senior Center—Assisted Living visitations: I discovered that you don’t have to represent an organization when visiting seniors at their homes. Most centers will require you to have liability insurance coverage for your dog. If the dogs are recognized as legitimate therapy dogs, they require two years of training at a cost of about $20,000. If your dog is just a friendly pet that is good with kids and people, you can add the dog to your homeowners’ insurance just in case of an incident. Always ask the senior facility management about their requirements for a dog visit with their residents. Some may not allow dog visits.

Hospice Centers: People in a hospice center are usually going to cross over soon, and the center is making them as comfortable as possible until the time comes. Many patients are animal lovers and would love to visit with a dog one last time. Again, each center will have different requirements for dog visits. Ask the management before showing up with your dog.

Not all dogs are cut out to be ambassador dogs or support animals. Two of the five dogs I have owned while representing the shelter were great ambassador dogs. They were both the most docile dogs and very obedient. They were both large dogs, and kids loved to lie on top of them. I did have a third ambassador dog, but I could not trust him always to be calm and loving, so I would only take him to certain venues. He was great with kids but didn’t always like all adults. Imagine that.

Delivery Dog: Some people will work part-time after they retire from their full-time careers. Delivery or courier positions are some of the more popular jobs available, and many will allow you to bring your dog with you. Many semi-truck drivers take their dogs with them on long-distance hauls. The dogs don’t do much, but they keep the driver company and recognize that they are doing something different than what they usually do at home.

There are other very substantial career opportunities for animals. Service dogs such as seeing-eye dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, airport security dogs, guard dogs, office animals, etc. Many of these positions require special training. Office animals can be any type of domesticated animal within reason. Hamsters, rabbits, birds, and other caged animals, make good office pets. These animals can be self-sufficient for a weekend with an ample supply of food and water, or an employee can take the animal home for the weekend. Some businesses have an office cat. Cats can be self-sufficient over a weekend as long as they have enough food, water, and a couple of litter boxes. Even though this is the case, I would recommend taking the cat home over the weekend.

One of the perks of working at the humane society was that you could bring your dog to work daily. Many employees would bring their dogs, large and small, to the office each day. Again, office animals don’t do much at the office, but it’s a change of scenery for them, and the employees love sharing their day with a dog. Before you bring your dog to your place of employment, get permission, and ensure none of your fellow employees have an issue with the dog being at the office. Some people are afraid of dogs, while others might be allergic.

Barry KuKes is the former community outreach director at Halifax Humane Society. E-mail him at View more of his work at minicooperpro