Take Your Dog to Work Day (what not to do!)

Scout this week with the clouds

WOOF! Today – and I know you’re all really excited about this – is “National Take Your Dog to Work Day.” You can, apparently, register for this event, download guidelines and suggestions, and even submit a snapshot of your dog at work to a “take-your-dog-to-work-day” photo competition.

Scout is not overly impressed. She already hangs out in my office all the time, she often rides shotgun when I visit Rebekah at the church, and she typically goes in with Rebekah Saturdays when she writes her sermon.

MOZART: I’m not sure how this would have worked with Scout, but back when I was teaching at Turkey Creek Middle School my bichon frise, Mozart, spent a lot of time in the classroom.

Mozart, who also had the gift of evangelism (but that’s another story), was a tremendous asset in my program. He was quiet; he was amazingly calm; he didn’t yap, bite, growl or shed; he’d follow my directions instantaneously, and he’d tolerate attention and petting from absolutely anyone.

Mozart, holding down the fort, under my desk

BEHAVIOR ISSUES: I taught (and these were the official classifications during my era) behavior disordered (BD), emotionally handicapped (EH), and severely emotionally disturbed (SED) middle school students. Bottom line, these were children diagnosed with emotional and behavioral problems that interrupted their ability to be successful at school.

Mozart spent most of the day under my desk, sleeping. Sometimes, though, when a child needed some help making an appropriate decision, I’d let my dog sit under their desk.

“Dog time” could be a reward (take Moe out to the field to do his business… take Moe to the reading area with you… or play with Moe during free time etc.), but I’d also use dog proximity as an incentive. I’d let Moe sit with kids while they did their classwork – but the moment the student in question made a poor decision I’d snap my fingers, or whistle, and Moe would run to the front of the room and disappear under my desk.

PROBLEM: Then one day one of the regular-ed teachers found out about Mozart. She thought it would be a great idea to bring her dog to school too. Unfortunately, this dog was a Doberman and he snapped at one of her students. A parent complained and that was it for dogs at school.

“I’m sorry, Derek,” my principal told me, “but now we have to make a rule. Mozart has to stay home.”

After a while, the kids persuaded me to work out a compromise (that means a compromise with them, the principal was not a party to this conversation!). If they – collectively – achieved certain goals, then I’d sneak Mozart in to spend the day every Friday.

Mozart on the back patio

BUSTED! Things went swimmingly for around six months. The principal never came to my room, the assistant principal had my back, and so we were never at risk. Then, one Friday, a series of disasters complicated by an accident report and an irate parent led Mr. West to make an unprecedented, unannounced visit.

It was one of those days where nothing was going right, the kids were on edge, and chaos ruled. It was 2:00 in the afternoon and I’d long since banished Mozart to his cardboard box under my desk, where he’d been sleeping soundly since lunch. To be honest, I’d forgotten he was even there.

When my principal walked into the room, along with the school resource officer and the angry parent, I stopped teaching, turned to the visitors, and said, “Welcome to our class. What can we do for you today?”

That was the exact moment – of course – that Mozart chose to wake up from his nap. He stuck his nose out, yawned, stretched, shook himself, scurried over by my side, and stood there, enthusiastically wagging his rear-end where his tail used to be, looking at my principal for approval.

The day Mozart climbed Lookout Mountain, near Montreat, NC. circa 1993

GRACE: One snap of my fingers and Moe disappeared again under my desk. But I’ll give Mr. West credit. He looked at the dog, looked back at me, paused, got to the business at hand and never said a word about Mozart. He had the good grace to never bring it up again… But I also had the good sense to bury “Bring My Dog To Work Day” forever.

– DEREK

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