Ideal as co-workers because they aren’t chatty, pets accompany many owners on the job in the Lowcountry. Both owners and customers say that the presence of an animal can be good for business.
At Birkenstock on Fording Island Road, store owner Vikki Bryant brings Yorkie-Poos Rayn, Sabi and Keh to work every day. She and her staff like having them around, and the canines also attract customers. “People come in just to see the dogs,” Bryant said. “They say, ‘I’ll buy these shoes if I can have this dog.'”
Animals (first cats and now dogs) have been part of this local business since it opened 13 years ago, and Bryant is well known as an animal rescuer.
At businesses that provide services, the company of an animal can make waiting more enjoyable. Tiny, a 14-foot Burmese Python, is often a topic of conversation at Morris Garage and Towing in Old Town Bluffton.
While their vehicles get oil changes or new tires, Bluffton residents of all ages query owner Jeffrey Robinowich about his unusual pet.
Usually, they want to know Tiny’s age (21 years old), what she eats (4 to 5 live rats, once a month) and whether she’s ever bitten him. “I made a deal with her when I got her 16 years ago,” Robinowich said. “I told her that if she ever bit me, she’d be boots.”
At the Pink Pineapple in Main Street Village, Hannah, a Beagle mix, enjoys attention from husbands of shoppers. Susan Davis, owner of Hannah and the shop, said men sit on the couch near the cash register and pet Hannah while their wives try on clothes.
Mr. McGoo, a Maltese, spends most of his time sleeping in a dog bed behind the cash register.
“We ask everybody who comes in if they’re OK with dogs,” Davis said. “If not, we put her in the back.”
Managers say allowing employees to bring pets to work is a non-financial benefit that workers love. Studies show that pets lower stress hormones, and that workplaces that allow pets see higher morale and productivity.
Ellis Harman brought Gunnar, a pit bull mix, regularly for about a year when she worked at BFG Communications in Bluffton. Adopted from Noah’s Arks animal rescue in Okatie, he had been abused and was shy.
At first Gunnar cowered under Harman’s desk, but as time went by, he began to make friends and visit other dogs and people in the open space. Harman credits socialization at BFG for Gunnar’s current well-adjusted personality. “It was good for me, too,” she said. “Having him there made me get up from my desk every two hours to take him out. I’d stretch my legs and see sunshine, which is something I don’t normally do at work.”
Carol Weir of Bluffton is a career journalist and teacher.