Animals At Work

It turns out that watching cat videos at work just might be the ticket to great office morale. A 2015 study by Indiana University found that people who watched cat videos reported feeling more energized and happier and a lot less anxious and annoyed. If these virtual connections can have such a positive impact, imagine what the real McCoy can do.

Indeed, a substantial and growing body of research documents the psychological and physical health benefits of human-animal interactions, says Dr. Richard Meadows, the Curators Distinguished Teaching Professor of Small Animal Community Practice Medicine at the University of Missouri. “The bottom-line evidence is staggering. The benefit of the human-animal bond is profound,” he says.

Studies have shown that dog and cat owners make fewer doctor visits and are less likely to be on medication for heart problems and sleeping difficulties than non-owners. Other studies, some going on right here at the MU Research Center on Human Animal Interaction, demonstrate the value of animal-human interactions in:

• Reducing loneliness and isolation

• Lessening worry, anxiety and pain

• Improving the ability to cope with stress

• Decreasing blood pressure

• Improving morale and well-being

Children exposed to animals in utero are healthier. Animals help children with autism with positive social behaviors. Therapy animals in pediatric cancer settings can motivate kids to stick with their treatments. They can quiet the demons of soldiers’ Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or serve as our surrogate arms, legs, ears and eyes.

“We all need to be needed. It’s embedded in our DNA,” Meadows observes. “It’s good for the animal and for us, too. Often there’s nothing better than the non-judgmental love of a pet.”



We tracked down some of our local businesses who consider their animal companions an essential part of their team. Here are a few of their stories…


Bluff Creek Terrace | 3104 Bluff Creek Drive |

The residents at Bluff Creek Terrace love sharing their space with Katie, a stray cat the senior care community took in after she showed up on the doorstep a few months ago.

“We began feeding her, and she just stuck around,” says Holly Baker, Bluff Creek administrator. “The residents all begged me to keep her.” So Baker did.

Katie was taken to the vet for a check up and chipped. Resident Mona Laird, a retired University of Missouri nurse, chose the name: “I just thought that she needed a name, and that’s a nice one.”

For now, Katie resides on the porch, with her food dish and bed. There are plans to relocate her indoors once winter comes. In the meantime, the residents have been working hard to help Katie grow comfortable with them. Laird, in particular, does her part by plying Katie with treats.

“I have them in my refrigerator,” she confides. The efforts seem to be paying off. Katie now comes when she’s called. “She stretches out and turns onto her tummy and you can stroke her a little bit but then she leaves,” Laird says.

Katie’s gradually becoming less aloof: “She walks along with the residents, just like a dog would,” Baker says.



City Of Columbia Parks & Recreation Department
1507 Business Loop 70 W. |

Visit the City Of Columbia Parks & Recreation Department’s Business Loop location and you’d be hard pressed not to notice “Blondie.” A 7-year-old gold and white cat adopted from the Central Missouri Humane Society, this office mascot has the run of the place, says senior administrative supervisor Melinda Pope.

Blondie was acquired to help with a mouse issue once all the employees had been surveyed and it was determined that no one was allergic to cats.

“We took up a collection. Everyone in the office contributed to pay for her adoption,” Pope says. Blondie was originally named “Tabitha,” her adoption records show, but Pope’s coworkers, John Hensley and Margie Finlay, didn’t feel that suited her. “Goldilocks” was a contender for awhile, but “Blondie” ultimately won because of her coloring.

Though she loves to be petted and is treated like a pampered pet, you won’t find Blondie lying down on the job. Well, OK, you will — she’s been known to catnap in people’s outboxes  — but she takes her mousing mission seriously and has proven quite adept at catching the critters. It’s all in a day’s work for Blondie.



Cyclextreme | 19 S. Sixth St. |

Tom Brinker of Cyclextreme hadn’t planned on bringing a souvenir back from his 2012 backpacking trip to Roby Lake south of Rolla. But on the last day of his trip, he encountered a woefully malnourished, tick-infested dog, with no collar or tags, who appeared to be about 8- to 12-months-old.

Brinker couldn’t just leave the dog behind, so he brought him back to Columbia, christened him “Roby” and took him to the Horton Animal Hospital-Forum for a checkup. As Brinker had suspected from the remote location where he had found the dog, he wasn’t chipped. Because his girlfriend already had two dogs, Brinker was reluctant to introduce a third one into the mix so he tried to find a home for Roby.

He wrote an email, extolling the dog’s many virtues, and perhaps it proved a little too persuasive, because in the end, Brinker ended up keeping Roby himself.

These days, Roby is a happy member of a blended family, sharing Brinker’s home with Brinker’s girlfriend’s two dogs, Mylo, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Murphy, a Shih Tzu. “All three dogs get along great,” says Brinker. But only Roby is Brinker’s constant canine companion at work.



Read to Rover

by Katherine Foran
Studies have shown animal companions in the classroom can enhance relaxation and focus and improve performance, especially when children are reading books aloud. Even for able young readers, reading aloud can be a daunting prospect. Yet, fluency, comprehension and even public speaking skills are built through regular practice. So why not make it fun?

That was the genesis of a nationwide “Read to Rover” initiative that the Columbia Public Library has been part of for nearly 14 years, partnering with human and dog “graduates” of Ann Gafke’s Teacher’s Pet obedience and therapy dog training school.

The second Monday of every month, anywhere from three to five volunteers and their dogs head to the children’s program area. The parents are encouraged to skedaddle, or least give their children lots of space. The handlers remain with the dogs but encourage children’s direct interaction with the animals on their own.

“Dogs are never judgmental. They don’t interrupt or correct the children, making them feel self-conscious. They are just great listeners,” says Youth Services manager Sarah Howard. “And children, you know, always love to help. They’re doing something nice for their new furry friend. It builds their confidence and keeps reading fun.”



Achieve Balance Chiropractic

1000 W. Nifong Blvd., Building 8, Suite #100 |

Olaf, a 5 pound Malti-Poo, isn’t just an office mascot, he’s the whole building’s mascot, says Chris Scrivner, office integrator at Achieve Balance Chiropractic. “People from other companies come in to see him. He gets treats and plays fetch.” People don’t only bring edible treats — they bring Olaf wearable treats, too, such as sweaters. They enjoy dressing him up. As if he wasn’t doggone cute enough!

Patients are always happy to see Olaf, too, says Scrivner. Olaf is a true part of the Achieve Balance team — so much so that he even has his own bio on the company website under “Meet The Team.” Olaf joined the team as a puppy in August of 2014, at first making short appearances. Now grown, he’s a permanent fixture and the first team member to master “chiropuptics.”

And, yes, Olaf shares his name with the famous “Frozen” snowman. “He was named Olaf when we got him as a puppy and when my 6-year-old son, Jackson, heard that was his name, there was no changing it, because he was really into ‘Frozen.’ That’s what happens when kids get to name things,” Scrivner laughs.


Tango Reloaded

Bob McCosh Chevy/Buick/Cadillac

1 Business Loop 70 W. |

Bob McCosh was devastated when Tango died in 2014. The little black poodle had been his constant shadow — accompanying him to the dealership every day for nearly 20 years. After six months, General Manager Jeff Miller gently mentioned that a little black poodle was coming up for placement through Second Chance: “If you’re interested, you need to fill out the paperwork now.” Not 20 minutes later — by coincidence or providence — McCosh’s friend Pete Kemper called about the same dog: A gentleman he knew was going into assisted living and needed to find a home for his little black dog.
As soon as McCosh pulled up to the house, a little black blur shot out “and in one leap, cleared my lap, sat down on the center console, and started licking on me like, ‘Hey, let’s go!’” McCosh laughs. McCosh and Tango Reloaded (or T2 for short), as McCosh renamed him, have been inseparable ever since.

“It’s spooky sometimes how much he and the original are alike. He visits the same people at the same time in the same way every day. He’s just a calming force for a lot of people here. The kids all love him. He brings lots of happiness and laughter to us all.”



Docent Dog

115 Business Loop 70 W. | 573-882-3591|

The University of Missouri’s Museum of Art and Archaeology has an army of volunteer docents who are passionate about sharing their love of art and history with visitors. But one docent, Kathie Lucas, is happy to share something else — her 7-year-old standard

poodle. Emma is themuseum’s “Docent Dog” — a certified therapy dog available, with Lucas, for free tours upon request.

“In the somewhat austere environment of a museum, where the ‘just look, don’t touch’ rule is in effect, it seemed worthwhile to add the warming presence of a well-trained therapy dog,” Lucas shared by email. “Also, there are so many wonderful animal-related themes embedded within the art. Including Emma brings those themes to life in a way that my words alone can’t do.”

Emma also is a positive, calming presence, helping children focus on the art. “Children often sit beside Emma, touching her as I talk,” Lucas observes. “Their good eye contact with me as I point out the animal themes in the art tells me they are paying close attention, and their interesting responses to my questions indicate that they are thinking and learning about the art in front of them.”

Dr. Cathy Callaway, museum educator, was hesitant to bring Emma on board. “When Kathie suggested we experiment using her therapy dog on tours, especially with children, I was dubious, fearing that a dog would distract from the appreciation of the art in the galleries. But the idea of a tactile experience and a calming effect in the galleries, along with the support of the director, made it seem worth a try and ultimately a success … We hope at some point to engage in a study with Emma, the museum, and the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, especially its Research Center for Human Animal Interaction.”


Thanksgiving & Co.

Helmi’s Gardens

7201 S. Nursery Road |

Helmi Sheely, owner of Helmi’s Gardens, is more than happy to talk turkey — and peacock, chickens, cats, rabbits and parakeets. Her garden center is home to them all. However did she come to have such a menagerie at her place of business? “My husband wouldn’t let me have them at home!” she laughs.

The aforementioned turkey is aptly named Thanksgiving, and he likes to be carried. Sheely discovered that fact after repeatedly having to retrieve him when he wandered off. 

“You can’t really herd a turkey,” she says. “I had to just scoop him up. I was afraid he might peck me but he didn’t.” Thanksgiving is so tame he can be petted, and lives in a pen with Vishnu, the peacock and the too-many-to-name chickens.

Sheely’s main cat, Lynx, was a nomad who spent stretches on different streets in the neighborhood where Sheely lives. She took him in and brought him to live at the center. Lynx is not the mouser he used to be, so Sheely says, “I’ve added two backup cats now:” Jinx and Minx, two tailless males.

The three rabbits came about because Sheely’s daughter, now 13, was in 4-H. Jeff, Hon Bun and Pistachio have produced quite a few offspring, one of which gained notoriety as a Mill Creek Elementary School classroom rabbit.

Last, but certainly not least, is the plethora of parakeets (unnamed like the chickens, for the same reason) in a giant outdoor cage. Like the rabbits, they are prodigious producers of progeny: some 30 babies will need new homes this winter.


Frank & Clyde

Bur Oak Brewing Co.

8250 Trade Center Drive |

Bet your animal companions will be jealous when they hear about a certain Bur Oak Brewing Co. duo’s claim to fame. The on-premises pets — Frank, a Golden Retriever, and Clyde, a black cat — have their own beers named after them: Frank’s Zapp-A-Bone Golden Cream Ale and Clyde’s Caramel Cream.

Furthermore, their likenesses grace the ales’ labels, designed by Tim Flanner at Zimmer Marketing Group, with direction from the Bur Oak team. You could say these ales are two of the brewery’s pet projects!

Clyde has called Bur Oak home for the past two years. You may find him asleep on the forklift or on a sack of grain, although he also likes his bed up on the brew deck. Adopted from the Central Missouri Humane Society, Clyde was named by a contractor who was at the brewery to stain the concrete floor. “He started calling him Clyde and the name stuck,” says Kraig Bridgeford, Bur Oak’s head brewer.

And when you call Bridgeford’s cell phone, his message makes it clear that Frank is a fixture, too: “…If you have found my Golden Retriever, Frank, running outside the brewery, he is not lost. Please just bring him to the front door and leave him be. Thank you.”


Coco and Aspen


1605 Chapel Hill Road |

Walk into Tryathletics, and you’ll find a study in contrasts: Coco, an 8-year-old female Bichon who weighs in at less than 20 pounds, and Aspen, a 7-year-old female Harlequin Great Dane who tips the scales at 110. Despite their disparate sizes, they are fast friends.

“We’ve had lots of shop dogs over the years and we encourage people to bring their dogs in,” says Nate Smith, one of the owners. “We keep treats for them.”

Aspen is the second Great Dane to grace the shop in the 11 years it’s been open, and she’s rather unique. Deaf since birth, she responds to hand signals and has “super astute smell and eyesight,” Smith says. “She’ll sniff the heck out of you.” She loves to play with other dogs and gets pretty excited, but Smith says she then settles back down pretty quickly and goes to sleep. “She doesn’t startle, since she can’t hear. She’s just a big sweetie.”



Puppies with a Purpose

by Katherine Foran

TerriAnn Tucker-Warhover’s awards dinner tablemate couldn’t say enough about the great program her niece was part of at Texas A & M, helping to raise puppies for service training.

“If Texas can do that, why not Mizzou?” Warhover, a retired veterinarian, thought. In August of 2012, after months of research and planning, Warhover began Puppies with Purpose. She works with University of Missouri students to raise and socialize puppies in training for the CHAMP Assistance Dogs training program. Most of the group’s roughly 40 students help raise awareness around the importance of service dogs and disability issues; only a few meet the qualifications and commit to becoming raisers or relief puppy-sitters.

Generous breeders in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Jefferson City donate the Golden Retriever and Lab puppies. Raisers have fulltime responsibility for the puppies from the time they are about 8 weeks old until 6 months. The dogs then start rotating in and out of the intensive CHAMPS service training program, working with trainers at the women’s prison in Vandalia. Dogs with the right temperament and aptitude eventually stay with the trainers full time until they are placed at 18 to 24 months. (Dogs that aren’t a good fit for service become therapy or family dogs.)

Warhover and her own service dog, Dewey, work closely with the students and CHAMPS. Right now there are six active dogs at some phase of socialization or training, and each duo has a special story.

Sophomore Abbey Cumnock, who volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House with J.C., for instance, recalls the day a mother returned from the hospital and dropped to the floor in tears, hugging the puppy. Seeing J.C.’s capacity to provide comfort makes their eventual separation bearable.

“The first time he put his little head on my lap, I thought, ‘Oh no, whatever did I get myself into!’” Cumnock says. But after that encounter, “I’m comforted and inspired, knowing that he has a bigger purpose.”

Gemma is the second dog Kalynn Bumphis is raising: “It’s like sending your child off to college. You love them. You don’t want them to go, but you understand they have to leave to go on and do something better with their life. That’s way bigger than just Gemma and me.”