5 Ways to Make a Friend at Work

I remember it vividly. That day I met my best friend.

After a really long time in a dark musty container, the door to the daylight slid open and I was hysterical. All of us were yapping madly as my crate door came undone and I was led to Lisa. I was so overwhelmed with joy because I knew she was here for me, to take me home and love me.

Eight years later, I’m the one who loves to take care of her. You see, an accident in one of those cars so many of us dogs like to chase, caused permanent damage to her insides. I’m here to alert her when she needs to go to the restroom and comfort her when she suffers acute intestinal pains.

Ours is a special work relationship, but having a friend at the office is something everyone can benefit from. I overheard someone mention that something called LinkedIn did a study that found 46 percent of workers worldwide believe that work friends are important to their overall happiness.

So with that in mind, I’d like to share with you my tips for making friends at work:

1. Approach with Respect

At work I sit beneath Lisa’s desk and no one even knows I’m there. I’m quiet in her cube, but may bark when someone approaches her abruptly. The other day I barked because this nice, tall Millennial guy appeared suddenly and started talking excitedly. When working with others, it’s important to respect their space and try not to interrupt when they are busy.

2. Step Away from the Keyboard

Lisa gets so tense doing her work sometimes in front of her computer I think she will explode. In this maddening pace of what you call “digital transformation,” I beg you to remain kind to one another. Take time to say good morning to your coworkers. Sometimes I don’t hear that enough. I hear the clack clack clack of the keyboard, “elastic data platform” and the funny word Hadoop.

3. Talk About Something Other Than Work

Lisa works in Services Marketing and IT in Hopkinton and likes to watch football. Sometimes when she watches a Pat’s game the announcer says, “Look there at Brady, despite the pressure, he stays ‘soft and relaxed’ in the pocket.” So when we’re at work, I like to send her vibes of “stay soft and relaxed in the pocket” and other free-your-mind nuggets of truth. Talking about non-work things with your teammates can help you find common interests that can further friendships.

4. Find Time to Laugh

At meetings with Lisa, I sometimes gently approach certain people because I can feel how tense they are and I place my nose to their hand. Without realizing it, they begin to pet me, continue talking to everyone, and I can feel the tension melt away in their body. They just stroke and stroke. I am medicine to them, too.

I can’t be there for everyone, but laughter is also known as a great form of medicine that is free for all. So, please, laugh a little. It breaks up the intensity. Your brain will appreciate the hiccup and the tension in your body will momentarily release. Keeping the mind open frees creativity and provides learning to stick, allows for kindness with others.

5. Say Thank You

Sometime in my past, I may or may not have chewed on a copy of Shape Magazine with an article that talked about the health benefits of gratitude. To show Lisa I was thankful for rescuing me, I collapsed and rolled onto my back. She embraced my head and neck so hard I thought it might rip off. Oh, to be loved.

You may not want to show that much emotion, but being part of a team at work means that there will be times when someone takes on the lion’s share of a project or gives you assistance with your own responsibilities. Expressing an attitude of gratitude makes you both feel better and encourages more cooperation.

I’m thankful the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows me and other certified service animals to come to work at places like Dell. Lisa needs me like I needed her. Now we need each other. That’s true friendship.

Sabrina is a Labrador and Golden Retriever mix that is named for her handler’s favorite movie – the original “Sabrina” with Audrey Hepburn. Eight years after being rescued from terrible conditions, she lives happily with her human Lisa, as well as a cat and two bunnies. She is a devoted helper, a medical assist dog, that enables her human to stay on the job at Dell EMC.

“5 Ways to Make a Friend at Work” can be located on Dell’s blog here.

Related posts:

Rescue Dog to Helper Dog

Watch Sabrina days after we rescued her. She’s Just Like Heaven.

 

 

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Dell EMC Celebrates Service Dog Maggie and How She Nurtures Her Human

5 Ways to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

During National Service Dog Month, we’ve invited a few of the canine contributors at Dell to share their insights with us on Direct2Dell – as told to their humans. Today we hear from Maggie who shared with her human Travis Peterson tips for teaching an old dog new tricks.

Hey, who are you calling old!?

I’m in my early thirties, thank you very much! Well, I’m just a little over four years old in your human years. So be careful who you call old!

Let’s start over. My name is Maggie. I am a service dog for my human, Travis. We’ve been a team for a year and a half now, but I know we were always meant to be together. Travis says it best:

“The first day we met I was having an exceedingly rough day, the lowest levels of depression that comes with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. I was in a room with others when Maggie came in. I looked up and she walked right to me, looked me in the eyes, ignoring all the others in the room. Immediately I felt a release. Just like that, Maggie helped me relax, and I felt a calm come over me.”

So that’s what I do – I help Travis cope with his heightened anxiety levels that came from his years in the military. When I sense him getting upset, I come right up to him for a snuggle, acting as a barrier between him and whatever is causing his angst. And I have to say, I’m pretty darn good at my job. In fact, Travis hasn’t needed medication for his PTSD since I came into his life. Now that’s an accomplishment!

I wasn’t always a service dog, though. In my younger years, I was actually in charge of keeping cattle in line. Things got a little hairy on that job. In fact, right before Travis and I became partners, a piece of cattle tag was found in my belly. What can I say? That cow needed to learn a lesson.

So I guess you can teach a not so old dog new tricks. I went from cattle herding to being a coping partner for Travis. Have you ever considered changing careers? Moving from one industry to another? It can be a bit daunting, so as an expert dog, let me give you some advice on how to teach an old dog new tricks:

Build on your skills and passions

Your resume may not be a laundry list of experiences within your newly chosen field, but that doesn’t mean you lack the skills to be hired and to be successful. My breed alone made me a good fit for my job as a service dog. I offer intelligence from my Labrador Retriever side and fearlessness from my Great Pyrenees side. I came into my new role knowing that I would be a good fit due to my temperament and willingness to learn. Beyond that, I just love people and I’m thrilled to have a job centered around my passion.

Be humble

Like I said, I was eager to learn, but I was also willing to be taught. You may have the passion it takes to enter your new career path, but are you willing to learn, to listen, to observe? I had to go back to school in order to land my current job with Travis. You may have been top dog in your old career, but with your new path, you may have to be a bit humble and start from the beginning.

Ask for help

Learning a new trick is overwhelming at times. When I was in school, there was so much I had to learn about humans and how to understand their feelings. They are a lot different from cows, that much I can tell you! However, when I didn’t understand, I asked for help. And I learned that people really like to help other people, but they can’t sense your feelings like I can. You have to actually ask for the help.

Be patient

The ideal job may not fall in your lap right away. You may have to sniff around at different opportunities before you find that perfect fit for the next step in your career. This is a big step; be patient, don’t rush into it!

Take the first step

It is a big step, but you are ready for it! All it takes to get started is that first step. Put yourself out there, reach out and open doors. Or, if you lack opposable thumbs like me, scratch at the door and make yourself heard and seen!

Maggie is a 110 pound Labrador Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix. She was rescued off the streets of Austin, Texas, in June 2015 and quickly deemed fit to be trained as a service dog due to her calm demeanor and intelligence. Her favorite pastimes are sleeping, eating and saying hello to everyone she meets.

Note: Dell EMC is my employer and Direct2Dell Blog will be running a post on Sabrina and me in a few days!

Rescue Dog to Helper Dog

At two years old, Lady’s ribs protruded from her coat and her belly was swollen with milk.

Like the thirteen other Labs that had arrived at a rest stop in Union, CT on the straight 12½-hour drive from Muncie, IN, she was presented to us on a crisp autumn day amid the chaos of respective adopters.

My husband Dennis had never experienced the warmth and companionship of having a dog and well, I surprised him with Lady, who we quickly renamed to Sabrina. The very afternoon we picked her up, we raced to the park, wanting her to feel the joy of freedom and play. My husband’s face lit up and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to befriend and care for Sabrina; it meant closing the 20-year gap since our beloved German Shepard from my childhood passed away.

Until laying my eyes on Sabrina’s profile, my heart couldn’t entertain loving another dog.

And what canine isn’t after the same love?

In Sabrina’s case, she couldn’t know of the family members that awaited to embrace her presence. Within days of the initial hair-raising excitement, the cat sought out occasions to groom her ears. Our pet rat was free to waddle the kitchen floor un-bothered, and the pair of bonded bunnies in want of company stretched out beside her on the living room floor.

Dog, cat, rat, rabbit?

You bet.

And Dennis and me?

Like kids again.

Sabrina settled into the folds of our lives, well-nourished and exercised in Boston’s epic snowfall in the winter of 2009-2010, taking careful watch over all of us. The fear expressed in her eyes pre-adoption disappeared.

Eight years later, she watches over me in particular. Thirty years ago, I was struck and thrown from the passenger side of a car until my abdomen collided with the steering wheel—blunt force that called for iterative repair to my digestive system and caused permanent damage to the nerves that signal my bladder is full.

Today when I’m busy working away, Sabrina will alert me to get up every couple of hours to make a trip to the restroom by gently placing her head in my lap.

When I suffer acute intestinal cramping, Crohns-like symptoms, she’ll sit at my side and lean her body against mine. Her calm and steady source of nurturing, helps me to relax and mitigates the cramps.

In 2008, the Department of Justice amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to include digestive, bowel and bladder impairments that limit major life activities as the disabled, calling for employers to make reasonable accommodations and if the individual elects, to allow task-oriented service animals [dog or miniature horse] to accompany them on the job.

Sabrina, serving in the capacity of a sensory/medical assist – alerting me to get up and take care of myself – qualifies.

The HR Director, Debra Susler of Reputation Institute in Cambridge, MA would not allow Sabrina to accompany me on-the-job. I sent her an elaborate email explaining my condition and Sabrina’s certification. She replied “no” not to me, but to my supervisor.

My response?

I walked out of the place.

Sabrina: rescue dog to helper dog.

Respectively, Sabrina’s competencies and understanding of language cease to astound us and her behavior on-the-job at Dell EMC is so well-mannered, coworkers never run out of compliments.

And bystanders in public? The grocery store, pharmacy, gym, dentist, doctor?

Gazes from cell phones are broken, conversations fall short.

Then, come the smiles. A question. Praise. The feel-good moment.

Sabrina brings people together.

I recently read a distressing post from a woman who said every time she looks into a service dog’s eyes, she sees sadness. Even Ingrid Newkirk, CEO and Co-Founder of PETA, has told me, “the life of a typical service dog is a terrible one.”

It’s true. Any canine enslaved to servitude is doomed a dog’s life unlived.

Service animals are working animals, not pets.

The ADA confirms it.

But that’s not the relationship Sabrina and I share [and I understand it can’t be the same with other handlers and service dogs].

And what have I learned something from Sabrina?

She shows me how to exist in the moment — just like she does. To enjoy the sight of the sun shimmering through the trees, the call of the birds, the fragrance of wildflowers, the feel of the soft soil I tread a few yards behind her when we’re on our hikes.

What more could a dog do for a girl? 

Sabrina Is Just Like Heaven.

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Hopscotch: Small Bun, Big Personality

Our newest foster, Hopscotch insists on speaking for herself and I wouldn’t dream of preventing her from doing so. Here’s her pitch…

I’m an adorable lion head house rabbit, a very special breed that came into being in Belgium. This means I speak English with a Dutch accent.

Far from Belgium and anything Dutch, I ended up for sale as an 8-week old baby and was bought by a young boy who feared for my life at a New England fair. He could not keep me.

Since then, more than a year later, I have been moved around a lot and grown wary about being picked up and even touched, so I would do best in an experienced home. Experienced means you are seasoned in caring for a rabbit like me, have patience, and don’t expect me jump on your lap and shower you with kisses. At least not right away. Don’t get me wrong I want to trust you–I just need time. I’ve been with my new foster mom and dad for nearly three weeks now and already taking treats from their fingers—bits of banana and their slow movements have enticed me to do so. Banana also happens to be my  favorite thing next to Stella Artois, Guylian’s Chocolate Seashells, and Ridley’s “The Liz,” a road bike. (My foster mom is budding in here saying never give any type of beer or chocolate to a ‘bunny.’ She also says she’s never seen a ‘bunny’ ride a bike no matter how fantastically engineered it is).

“I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment.”

Most rabbits, even Belgian ones like me use a litter box and I’m quite tidy—I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment. I am “a petite” at just 3½ pounds, but I’m a spry girl and prefer being kept in a pen so I can run its perimeter as fast as my little feet will carry me and do binkies. What’s a binky, you ask? In the language of a lagomorph, it’s when rabbits become so overwhelmed in glee, we jump into the air and twist our head and body in opposing directions—to a first time observer, it looks like we’re having some kind of convulsion. In reality, it’s actually a conniption, a form of hysterical frenzy.

Talking about binkies, do you know that cats can bink too? My foster mom sometimes straightens out my pen so I have access to most of the first floor. The only bit of mischief I get into is sneaking up on and startling the cat that often shares my pen—she binks straight up into the air!

After a great while of exploring the place, I begin to feel tired and climb up on my cardboard box tunnel. Like the bun diva that I am, I survey the room feeling secure and confident until I grow so sleepy that my eyes close and I fall asleep sitting up. How I love to have room to exercise, feel safe and be cared for. And, I find, I have developed a certain affinity for cats.

Won’t you consider adopting me as one of your companions—developing a bond with me, have me trust you? I’m so much fun to have around, I just need a permanent loving home in which to blossom. 

Please contact House Rabbit Network to inquire about adopting me, the little caramel-colored rabbit with a Dutch accent and a lion’s mane.

Consider fostering too!

Hopscotch brings out the highlights in my hair nicely

Lisa Mae DeMasi lives in Natick, Massachusetts with her boyfriend Dennis and a fluctuating number of animal companions–some live with them full time, some are fostered, some board. This animal husbandry is a compulsion, saving just one more neglected cute and furry creature warms her heart. Dennis loves them too; the landlord is exceedingly tolerant. Her mother thinks she’s nuts. Lisa is also a blogger and avid writer, her work has been published in Shark Reef Literary Magazine, HuffPost and Elephant Journal. She considers Massachusetts her home, but has lived in Connecticut, Vermont, New York State and two other planets called Wyoming and Arizona. She earned a B.A. from Regis College and an MBA from Babson College, and possesses over 25 years working in administrative support roles in small Boston consultancies. She also holds a Master certificate in Reiki and practice this form of holistic healing on the animals in which she cares for.