The Hart of the Issue: “Our Four-legged Friends… and coworkers?” 

By John M. Hart, III, Esq.

On Feb. 23, 2022, I celebrated my dog’s 11th birthday.  Celebrations included extra attention and a bowl full of pulled pork, a drastic deviation from the daily double dose of kibble.  

Killian, my English Springer Spaniel, is the first dog I ever owned.  Against the advice of several friends and attorneys alike, I brought Killian home from a horse farm after completing my first year of law school. 

The naysayers were suggesting that I wouldn’t have the time to care for a dog while studying law. Truthfully, you have more time for a dog than you’d think. During law school there is a lot of work, but when you’re not in a classroom, you’re typically home reading.  

And nothing helps get through the monotony of studying than to peer over a page of case law to see your furry companion just staring at you in adoration, wondering when you will say the magic word “OUTSIDE.”  

Killian helped my three years at law school fly by, but the time he was most beneficial was during the grueling 10-week preparation for the bar exam. 

Right after graduating,you immediately start studying for the bar exam.  And the level of attention and the demanding schedule is nothing like studying for a typical law school course.  

During the 10-week bar preparation program, the only time I had to myself was when making dinner and taking Killian outside to play fetch. He loved retrieving a tennis ball no matter how many times I would throw it.  And while he enjoyed it immensely, it helped me even more. It was the only shred of normalcy I experienced during those 10 weeks.  

Over a decade later, I can consider myself a seasoned dog owner and I understand what that title means. Particularly now, after experiencing an overall change in society and how we conduct business due to the pandemic, owning a dog has also transformed.

While it’s no secret that the landscape of work has drastically changed due to the pandemic, wherein people are leaving traditional jobs, leaving brick and mortar establishments, and working remotely, the reasons against returning to the old ways of work now include a new sense of dog attachment for many.

As mentioned above, I was fortunate in that I was able to spend a lot of time with Killian during law school. But before the pandemic, many people were unable to experience that level of companionship because at some point in the day they had to leave home for work. That changed. During the pandemic, dog owners were able to spend more time with their pups, and the resultant effects are starting to show.

Separation anxiety is a common occurrence for dogs when their owners leave the house, and we all know how that can end up–chewed furniture, torn drapes, and any other type of mischief and destruction you can imagine.  But a recent trend shows a form of separation anxiety from the dog-owner’s standpoint. People don’t want to leave their dogs alone.  

75% of U.S.-based remote workers surveyed in July by Digital.com (an independent reviews website that aids small businesses online presence) said they wanted to stay remote so they could take care of their pets. 

And to entice people to leave their homes and come back to a traditional workplace, there’s been a shift in the U.S. with many companies, even public sector work, allowing employees to bring their dogs to work with them. 

According to aboutamazon.com, the retail magnet’s headquarters welcomed as many as 7,000 dogs on any given day, before the pandemic.  Due to the apparent influx in pet ownership for younger generations, more and more employers are creating pet friendly policies at the workplace. 

So where does this leave us?  With our pets having a larger role in our lives, both at home and at work, there’s the inevitable inclination to provide more for them besides a bowl of pulled pork.  With many progressive employers creating pet policies, they’re offering benefits as well. Some businesses are providing discounted pet insurance, pet care stipends, paid time off for bereavement, etc.

These are all nice incentives and may help someone in choosing their next line of work.  But it begs the question of when might we be doing too much for our furry friends?  

Leona Helmsley, a New York Hotel heiress, left the bulk of her estate to her white Maltese dog named Trouble.  Specifically, Leona left $12 million to the Trustees of the Leona Helmsley July 2005 Trust, which was created for the sole benefit of Trouble.  Her will further instructed that upon Trouble’s passing, her remains were to be buried next to Leona’s remains in her mausoleum. 

The question of whether Leona went too far for her dog is up to you.  But some consideration as to who should inherit your dog should your pet outlive you is worth it.  I know my will accounts for my pets.  Does yours?  And if you don’t yet have a will, Hart Law handles estate planning, and we take into consideration ALL your assets, including your dog. 

Leave a Reply