Studies abound confirming the emotional benefits of having a pet, from the increased sense of companionship and loyalty to improved mental and physical health. The sheer joy of bonding with a dog or cat is unforgettable, a rite of passage - many rites of passage - where individual moments like instantly connecting with a rescued puppy or kitten; placing a finger into a carrier, for a kiss, lick or touch of a creature you will bring home; having the chance to work in an environment where pets are welcome, where a Welsh Terrier or a Bernese Mountain Dog can patrol the hallways while you and your colleagues convene for a brainstorming session; seeing a Beagle peek through the blinds as the familiar sound of your car - even the otherwise hard-to-hear rhythmic hum of a hybrid - pulls into the driveway - each of these snapshots of life, a life of togetherness, is something to cherish.
Where companies can offer help, where the spirit of corporate wellness is all-inclusive and worthy of admiration, involves creating a pet-friendly workplace or educating employees who are pet owners about improving the care of their furry friends. Concerning the latter, and here I write as someone blessed to have Manny, my trusted Beagle (the hybrid automobile is, alas, still a dream), at my feet; being in a professional setting, where I can bring my dog to my office and have him sleep or meet other dogs, in this cubicle-cum-sanctuary morale and productivity are often higher than in comparable organizations with a "No Pets Allowed" policy.
Again, the issue of corporate wellness is not simply one of workplace rules about bringing pets to the office. I understand the reasons, with respect to fellow employees who may be uncomfortable near a dog or suffer severe allergies in the presence of a cat, which is why I believe the most immediate - and practical - thing a company should do is invest in educating pet owners about what and why they should feed a dog or cat specific types of food.
In doing my own research about this issue, and please consider this statement within the context of my belief that the Internet is an excellent means of finding relevant news and that corporate wellness (by its most expansive definition) is a priority, I arrive at one simple conclusion: Embrace the brands that embrace your values, period. Meaning: Follow the example of someone like Dave Ratner, the Founder and CEO of Dave's Pet Food (www.davespetfood.com), an independent manufacturer and retailer of high-quality and affordable dog and cat food.
I cite this company - and I highlight Dave in particular - because wellness is not the exclusive province of a single business, a self-contained, nine-to-five phenomenon, which appears and dissipates like clockwork. Rather, wellness is both a philosophy and a practice; it may originate in the workplace, or derive its strength from programs, seminars and presentations from visiting doctors, nurses and veterinarians, but it is certainly something companies can - and should - do more to support.
Answering the Needs of 80 Million Americans, or: Pet Health Equals Personal Wellness
For approximately 80 million Americans, of which more than 43 million are dog owners, empowering employees who are pet owners accomplishes three critical objectives. First, it conveys respect for workers who have a dog or cat (or both); it is a proclamation of agreement, that having a pet is a source of compassion and custodial duty ("To Serve and Protect").
Second, it is an understanding that a healthy pet makes for a healthier person, potentially lessening the risks of anxiety, depression, diabetes and obesity. And thirdly, if these first two points are accurate - which they are - then the best way to maintain the day-to-day health of a dog or cat is with the right combination of ingredients and knowledge about the same.
Which brings me back to Dave Ratner and the true purpose of corporate wellness: To educate, with energy and sincerity, so people (and their pets) may flourish. Indeed, Dave's emphasis on clarity is, well, clear. He lists the ingredients and analysis (of fiber, phosphorous, and calcium and calories, among other things) contained in his products, along with an introductory video, which makes this material accessible to all for the good of all.
That independent voice, infused with personality and an inquisitive mind, shows us how corporate wellness can be dynamic, not dull. My recommendation, as a pet owner and as an office worker, as someone who has a vested interest in keeping my dog healthy, which keeps me happy, is to have companies emulate Dave's practices; to have him speak about the power of communications - and thus, finalize his remarks with examples of how to integrate wellness among the legions of a company's global sales and marketing experts. Inform to inspire, so you can transform the character of corporate wellness. That maxim is Dave Ratner's guide, and our shared path to better health.
About the Author
Lewis Fein is a writer, pet owner and health enthusiast. A supporter of medical research involving inflammatory bowel disease and medical assistance for children, Lewis resides in Southern California.