Sharing the workload with four-legged friends

Dogs have been putting in their nine-to-five around town, working hard at their daily duties

Speech Language Pathologist Lesley Gurney uses her dogs Blue and Sadie every day to help children learn how to communicate.

Speech Language Pathologist Lesley Gurney uses her dogs Blue and Sadie every day to help children learn how to communicate.

Dogs have been putting in their nine-to-five around town, working hard at their daily duties and ensuring all goes smoothly in their workplace.

Blue, a nine-year-old golden retriever, is a perfect example of a furry friend who spends his days working and is always happy to do so.

Blue and his sister Sadie, an 11-year-old Lhasa apso,  keep speech language pathologist Lesley Gurney company at her downtown office.

However, both dogs are more than just a friendly face as Gurney has put them to use in her daily practice.

Gurney bought Blue with the intention of bringing him to work, and Sadie came along with him. Gurney used to have a dog that she would sometimes use in her practice, which she has been running for more than 20 years, and it gave her the idea that a full-time therapy dog would be beneficial.

With no intention of actually purchasing a dog, she went and checked out a litter at a local breeder. That’s where she met Blue, who quickly changed her mind.

Since he was six weeks old, Blue has been hanging around in Gurney’s office, where he’s grown accustomed to being well-behaved, calm and professional.

The office is a place where he helps Gurney’s clients, many of them autistic, with perspective, speech and transition issues. Gurney says she lets her clients brush, walk and groom Blue to help them learn various tasks they otherwise find difficult.

Alongside all of his general duties, Blue’s main purpose is to provide the office with a calming effect, and Sadie gives him a helping hand with that.

“It makes my work setting less clinical,” said Gurney. “He helps me deal with stress and my clients deal with stress.”

Gurney also says Blue helps with teaching literary skills, as she lets her clients read to him and share stories about him.

“I don’t know if I’d ever practise without a dog again,” said Gurney, noting that having Blue in the office not only benefits her and her clients, but Blue himself as he gets to socialize all day and doesn’t have to be left at home alone.

After putting in a long day’s work, Blue gets to unwind by running around and playing on Gurney’s farm.

“At the office he’s working, but at home, he’s just a dog,” she says.

Just down the street from Blue are two other dogs who spend their days at work.

Chili, an 11-year-old chihuahua, makes his home at Martina’s Classic Barber Shoppe, where he hangs out with guests and brings a friendly atmosphere to the shop.

Owner of the business, Martina Bopp, said Chili, who is her daughter’s dog, has been coming to work since he was just one-and-a-half years old. He’s made himself quite comfortable, lounging on chairs and overseeing all the haircuts of the day.

Bopp says Chili works as an icebreaker and makes guests feel more comfortable.

“People know him now,” said Bopp, noting that customers are more than welcome to bring in their furry friends. “It’s weird when he’s not here.”

Like Chili, Sophie, a six-year-old pug, works at Nalu Clothing, using her charm to make customers feel welcome.

Sophie’s owner, and owner of Nalu Clothing, Jody Boychuk, takes Sophie with her everywhere.

Usually posted at the front door, mild-mannered Sophie works hard to make sure customers are greeted with a smile.

“She improves the mood,” said Boychuk.  “She’s famous, customers know her.”