GO, DOG. GO! TO WORK?

 
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For animal lovers, there is nothing like being welcomed home after a long day's work by a dog wagging its tail at your feet. Dogs have assisted human beings for centuries, including protecting the homestead, hunting, and serving as loyal companions. Some Florida Bar members have created a bridge between home and office for their furry best friends, and are proud to bring their beloved canines to work.

Here are a few of their stories:

Pure Therapy

Aristotle's only fault is that he counter-surfs. If you leave food in the kitchen, the standard parti-color poodle will find it. For animal lovers like Joel Feldman of Feldman and Schneiderman, P.L., in Boca Raton, that means you sometimes must hide meals in the microwave or the bread box when your back is turned. But for the small-firm lawyer, his beloved canine--who is a certified therapy dog--has unprecedented qualities that no human can emulate. Totle (which is the dog's Yiddish pet name) reports to Feldman's workplace to accomplish a worthy goal of his own: calming people down.

"He is a tremendous asset for my law firm. We are a boutique family law firm. About 95 percent of our cases are divorce and post-divorce related matters. First-time appointments are always nervous," Feldman says. "Aristotle helps set a tone that we are sensitive to the emotional trauma of divorces and custody disputes. He helps show that we are compassionate and have lives outside the office."

But Feldman notes Aristotle helps opposing counsel relax the most. "People naturally want to pet him," he says. The sweet-natured animal enjoys having his paws rubbed, and when you stop, he'll go lay down, and you wouldn't know he's there after that.

The 5 and 1/2-year-old poodle, in his quiet way, has helped "lower the temperature" on stress for five years, and Feldman has never had a problem or complaint. The intelligent dog will obediently walk off-leash beside his master, and is comfortable around children and older people. When Feldman's mother was in a nursing home, Aristotle's job was to interact with the elderly during social functions. For the wheelchair-bound, Aristotle is tall enough to rest his head on their laps to be petted. The working dog's demeanor is appropriate for high-conflict situations at the law firm, unlike Feldman's stay-at-home dachshund, who gets riled up easily at the sight of other dogs and barks at people on bicycles. During family-law mediations, Aristotle's friendly presence alone is enough to keep people calm when there's a lot of emotional overlay in addition to the legal issues.

"It helps that my office building is like a house," Feldman says, adding the dog invariably becomes a topic of conversation, which helps build rapport among opposing counsel and clients. Just recently, a client working on a prenuptial agreement came to Feldman's office accompanied by her papillon dog. And...

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