Execs and Their Pets

More businesses are supportive of pet-friendly offices to help relieve stress.
Paw-fice Assistants - Chica, Gizmo, and Jameson rule the walls and halls at Strategic Staffing Solutions’ headquarters at the Fisher Building in Detroit’s New Center. // Photographs by Jenny Risher
Paw-fice Assistants – Chica, Gizmo, and Jameson rule the walls and halls at Strategic Staffing Solutions’ headquarters at the Fisher Building in Detroit’s New Center. // Photographs by Jenny Risher

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused more companies to send their employees home to work, pet adoptions went through the roof. Now, as more people return to their workplaces, they’re bringing a furry friend or two with them.

The trend has caused many companies to add or adjust their workplace policies to accommodate pets. In fact, a recent survey of employee demands shows pet-friendly offices are more important than hybrid work schedules or paid sick leave.

Still, metro Detroit often ranks among the lowest pet-friendly regions in the country. Michigan Humane, a nonprofit animal welfare organization in Detroit, is working with area businesses and others to add more green spaces and programs for pets. 

Source: Lensa
Source: Lensa

// Temeria Heard // Chris George // Cindy Pasky // Ann Marie Uetz // April Wagner //

Temeria heard and her dogTemeria Heard
Founder, President, and CEO of 52 Marketing Group and SWAGGLES, Detroit
Employees: 4
Pet’s Name: Snuggles
Breed: Bishon Frisé

How old is Snuggles?
She’s 6. I call her grandma. She’s my best friend; I love her so much.

How often do you bring her to the office?
All the time. She’s a great officemate.

Are there any rules for pets in the workplace?
(Although my employees aren’t in the office), I would allow them to bring pets in. I’d maybe have them rotate, like one person per week or every other week. Something like that. I don’t want to have too many dogs in the office. Sometimes some dogs are a little unruly. Snuggles is really well-behaved. But, yeah, the more the merrier.

Are there any special pet accommodations in the office?
(Snuggles) has a bed, she has her little toys, she has her tennis ball. I have a bag of food for her. I keep extra water. It’s like she lives there.

Are either of your companies involved in any pet-related charities or organizations?
SWAGGLES partners with Michigan Humane in Detroit and across the region. We’ve been vendors at some of their events, and when we can, we donate half the proceeds back to (them). Every month, SWAGGLES donates to local and national rescues.

Could the city and region do anything to be more pet-friendly?
Definitely more dog parks, and even just more parks in general would be great. Maybe having a dispenser for doggy bags and things like that. Just making things more pet-friendly. Even activities for people and their dogs. I think it can all be done.

  Jake Bekemeyer

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chris george and his dogChris George
Co-founder and chairman at SUBTA, Troy
Employees: 16
Pet’s Name: Mamas
Breed: Siberian Husky

How old is Mamas?
She’s 10.

What or who is she named after?
I got her from someone else when she was 5 years old and she already had the name Mamas.

How often do you bring your dog to the office each week?
On average, I bring Mamas to the office once a week.

How many other employees bring their pets to the office?
No one else (brings their pet in) regularly.

Do pets in the office ever cause a distraction?
No. Everyone seems to enjoy having pets around.

have there ever been any incidents at the office involving pets?
About five years ago, I had two brother huskies who have since passed away. Someone left the door open and they got out. We found them 10 minutes later in the woods, a quarter mile from the office.

Are there any rules for pets in the office?
We’re pet-friendly, but it’s less common since COVID-19. Pets are welcome, and we ensure that all employees feel comfortable and don’t have any known allergies.

what are mama’s favorite activities?
We take two or three walks every day, and she loves her toys. She always wants to play fetch and tug-of-war.

Is the company involved in any pet-related charities or organizations?
Not currently, but SUBTA as a company has volunteered at local rescues to support the animals, and I personally donate to a variety of shelters and rescue organizations every year.

— Tim Keenan

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cindy pasky and her dogCindy Pasky
Founder, President, and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, Detroit
Employees: 60
Pet’s Name: Dorney
Breed: Mixed Spaniel

How old is Dorney?
She’s about 7 years old.

What or who is she named after?
Dorney is named for the Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Dornach, Scotland, the hometown of golf course designer Donald Ross.

How often do you bring your dog to the office each week?
I typically would bring Dorney to work at least once a week; however, until our newest batch of “paw-fice” assistants grow accustomed to Dorney, she’s staying at her mom’s home office.

Paw-fice assistants?
We have six office cats — Jameson, Chica, Gizmo, Joe, CTO2, and Marky. The last three are new. Joe and Marky are named after two of our team members, Joe Moxlow and Mark Van Duyne, both of whom sadly passed away in 2021.

How many of your 60 employees bring their pets to the office?
Since our six cats live at the Fisher Building, our team members all enjoy their company. Most of them even vie for the cats’ attention with treats, cat beds, toys, and lots of petting.

Are there any special pet accommodations at the office?
All our “paw-fice” assistants have beds, sheltered litters, blankets, toys, an artificial grass-covered wall with mounted cat beds, and nearly free reign throughout our spaces.

Are there any rules for pets in the office?
Although they don’t have access to our kitchen, they’ve become quite adept at sneaking in to check it out. They also don’t have access to our front lobbies, which open into the elevator lobby, for obvious reasons.

Do pets in the office ever cause a distraction?
Except for the occasional spilled water glass or stolen snack, the distractions are all good ones. Pets provide comfort and help to lower stress levels, and they have an innate sense (of) when someone is stressed or even sick, and will always be there to soothe that person. Some of our cats are quite the clowns, and while it’s easy to be distracted by their antics, our work is only improved by their presence.

Is the company involved in any pet-related charities or organizations?
S3 for years has supported and championed Michigan Humane. My partner, Paul Huxley, S3’s chairman of the board, is a past board chair, and I’m its current chair. S3 has sponsored the Detroit Police Department’s Mounted Police Unit since 2015, when it faced closing the unit because of lack of funding.

Are there any company-wide pet activities scheduled?
S3 just sponsored a “Bring Your Dog to the Movies” night at Grand Circus Park, produced by the Downtown Detroit Partnership, and we also provide discounted boarding and grooming at Canine to Five. One of S3’s favorite projects every year is producing our annual pet calendar, in which team members from all over the globe submit photos to be included; there’s a lot of competition for the monthly cover pages. Not only do we use them internally, but they’re given as gifts to our customers and community partners. People look forward to them every year.

  Tim Keenan

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ann marie uetz and her dogAnn Marie Uetz
Partner and Vice Chair of the National Litigation Department at Foley & Lardner, Detroit
Pet’s Name: Bowie
Breed: Teacup Toy Poodle

Who is Bowie named after?
David Bowie, one of my favorite singers and musicians. His full name is David Bowie Uetz, but he goes by Bowie.

How old is Bowie?
He’s 5. He’ll actually be 6 (soon), his birthday is at the end of September.

What’s special about Bowie?
He likes to listen to rap music. We leave YouTube videos on loop in the background, so he always has music playing.

Do you bring Bowie into the office?
I’m based in the Detroit office, and I travel. We have 25 offices across the country, and it’s a global law firm with about 1,200 lawyers, so I travel pretty regularly to the other 25 offices in my role as vice chair of litigation. Bowie has visited two of our offices and has been very well-received.

Are there any rules for pets in the office?
There are labor and employment lawyers at Foley & Lardner who have provided advice to clients on this very subject. Because there are things that you have to observe — not just as being part of good etiquette and a good workplace, but frankly, under the law, and post-COVID-19 especially, it’s getting a little bit more attention. I would say, broadly, that every company needs to decide for itself what its culture is and how pets in the workplace may or may not fit into that culture.

Could the city do anything to be more pet-friendly?
I was in Laguna Beach this spring, and I think every single person in Laguna Beach has a dog. And they’re out with their dog every single day; (you could just tell) it’s part of their culture. I remember remarking how many dogs there were. I spend a lot of time out in Saugatuck, on the west side of the state, and my girlfriend owns one of the big restaurants in town, and I was there with her one evening, and we remarked on how nearly every one of her outdoor dining tables had a dog attached to it. I think it depends on location, culture, and weather plays a role in it. On the west side of the state, dogs are quite out and about. A lot of the restaurants are pet-friendly when it comes to outdoor dining, and I think people are embracing that. Pets provide great joy to people, and to some people, they’re part of the family.

  Jake Bekemeyer

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April Wagner
Owner, Master Glassblower, and Lead Designer at Epiphany Studios, Pontiac
Employees: 8
Pet’s Name: Jack White
Breed: Tuxedo Cat

How old is Jack White?
Jack is a feral cat that adopted me. He showed up at the studio one day and never left, and brought a colony with him. There are three of them right now. I’m not sure how old he is, but he’s been hanging around here since at least 2017. With feral colonies, that means I’m their caretaker — which means I take them to the vet, I spay and neuter them, and I feed them. One is MK and the other is Winston. We love having them around; they’re such great culture-builders for our team here. Everyone looks after them and we love to post about them on social media.

Do any employees bring pets to the studio?
There’s one dog that comes here regularly but doesn’t interact with the cats very much. We’re eight people, and the studio is 4,000 square feet. There’s another building next door that’s 2,000 square feet. There’s more than enough room for everyone.

Are there any special pet accommodations at the studio?
I give them free reign to go in and out. One of the things we did this year was put in cat doors, so the cats can go in and out as they please.

Do pets in the studio ever cause a distraction?
They’re really super distracting. But when you’re having a day and you’re talking to a client and it’s not going very well and you just need a minute to get out of that mindset, animals are the best way to get unbridled love. They just love, they don’t care (about our challenges). I think they’re a health distraction, too, because you interact with them and it’s not like scrolling through social media on your phone, or kind of zoning out. They respond to you. They’re reacting to you, and they’re just really pure.

What could the area do to improve pet friendliness?
I’m one of the board members for Michigan Humane (in Detroit). I’m very passionate about animal welfare, and one of our missions is to increase the access for pets to be included in people’s lives. More and more people want their pets to exist with them in their day-to-day life — going out to restaurants, or being able to take them to work, or to a hotel — and I think that’s how our community is going to be able to distinguish itself from other communities. Some of those things aren’t in place just yet, but the trend is going to be seeing more and more of that.

Is the company involved in any pet-related charities or organizations?
The studio does a whole line of animal-themed work. We make cats, and dog bones, and birds, and donate a portion back to Michigan Humane.

— Jake Bekemeyer

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