REDMOND, Wash., November 9, 1998 — About half a dozen Microsoft employees regularly bring their dogs to work at the software company’s main campus. This isn’t just another example of casual work rules that apply at most high-tech companies, however, these Microsoft employees are helping to turn puppies into lifelines as volunteer trainers with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a California-based non-profit organization that provides service dogs to people with physical disabilities.
Ann Beebe is raising her fourth CCI puppy. “It’s important to me that Microsoft lets me bring my dog here,” said Beebe. “It allows me to bring my volunteer work with me into the office. It makes me value my job so much more.”
Julie Merges, another dog trainer, says being involved in the program can be a little distracting, but not in the way people might think. “It’s never a distraction when our dogs are here, it’s only a distraction when they’re not. That’s when people come by and ask, ‘Where’s Boone?'” said Merges.
The real-world office training is critical if the dogs are ever to take their place by the side of a physically challenged human. At Microsoft, the dogs learn to wait patiently as their masters spend time working quietly at a computer. They also attend business meetings and go to the cafeteria with their trainers. It’s all part of the dogs’ training, which prepares them to enhance the lives of people with physical disabilities and others who may benefit from pet-assisted therapy.
For the Microsoft workers involved in the dog-training program, giving up their canine friends is the hardest part. But they say knowing what an important difference these animals make in the lives of the people they serve makes it all worthwhile.