Forgea, a scrappy two-year-old terrier, was a crewmember of Insiko 1907, an Indonesian refueling tanker. On April 2, 2002, an engine room fire got out of control, crippling the ship and its communication system. Forgea was inadvertently left behind when the rest of the crew abandoned ship.

Helicopters flew over the ship and got television footage of Forgea scampering over the ship’s deck. These pictures spurred animal lovers to action, and the Hawaiian Humane Society funded a rescue mission. More planes and helicopters were dispatched to look for the drifting Insiko 1907 and its lone sailor. Sadly, the pilots reported that they couldn’t find the boat. It may have sunk, taking the little dog down with it.

More money was raised, and the rescue efforts continued. On April 20, a U.S. Coast Guard plane spotted the tanker. The crew dropped their lunch to the deck of the ship – pizza and oranges – and Forgea gobbled it up. What had she been living on? Rats and rainwater, they supposed.

The rescuers made several attempts to retrieve the dog. But Forgea was reluctant to leave the boat and hid when they came looking for her. On April 22, the dog was finally rescued after spending 20 days alone and lost at sea.

Total cost of the rescue: $50,000 plus countless volunteer hours.

Hmmm. Was the rescue worth the time and trouble? After all, she’s just a dog. Right? Not quite.

As a member of the crew, Forgea joined the lauded ranks of The Working Dog. All dogs stink, chew, puke, poop, bite, whine, scratch, swallow objects which must be removed surgically and sleep in newly planted flower beds. The Working Dog offers these additional benefits:

If your best customer calls, The Working Dog will alert the staff by barking incessantly within three feet of the phone.

The Working Dog will keep the UPS and Fed Ex drivers from getting within 50 yards of your office. While it would be convenient to have packages delivered directly to your door, consider allowing a possibly armed and dangerous FedEx employee to actually get out of his truck on your property.

Crotch sniffing is a sure-fire way to make co-workers feel loved and appreciated. The slimy nose print on your pants acts as a friendly reminder that a Working Dog is on the job.

While attempting to close a big sale, you will notice a Working Dog-delivered tick attaching itself to your forearm.

The Working Dog will provide necessary excitement to the job site by seeking out and picking a fight with any other Working Dog on the site.

And…if she has been abandoned on a burned-out hulk of a ship, a Working Dog will bite the hand that rescues her.

A Helping Paw

A Working Dog in Dayton, Ohio, specializes in marketing. On one occasion, Jake ate $510 worth of postage stamps intended for a direct-mail marketing campaign. Thank goodness! Imagine if the mailers had gone out and created a flurry of business. That business could interfere with relaxing afternoons spent stretched out in front of a silent phone.

Rocky boasts the sharpest nose in the Rocky Mountains. Rocky, a Park City, Utah, Working Dog, once tracked a Tic Tac from three stories away on a hotel construction project. Certainly, you get what you deserve when you leave your lunch box unattended. Rocky found – and freed – a bologna-on-white sandwich supposedly secured within a locked lunch box. Count on Rocky to keep employees from overeating and developing weight problems.

One of my dogs has a talent for protection. Not long ago, I opened the door to our office and Rocket greeted me with a coyote head. I never learned what happened to the rest of the coyote, but I can assure you it never bothered anyone again.

The “Roll In It” is perhaps the most interesting tactic of The Working Dog. The “Roll In It” involves finding the most vile and disgusting organic material around and then rolling in it. One can only wonder at the motivation behind such a brave and bold act. Jacques of Wilmington, Del., perfected the “Roll In It.” After rolling around on a long-dead squirrel, he trotted to the job site and deposited the squished squirrel on newly laid carpet. There he continued the “Roll In It” to the delight of his boss and the carpet’s owners.

Pooch…or Profits?

Surely if you are the boss of a Working Dog, you can relate to the stories above. And, if you really want to have a professional, profitable business, you are best served by leaving The Working Dog at home.

It is never appropriate to take a dog on a service call. (Although, I do know a service plumber whose unique selling proposition is an ape named Annie, who tags along on service calls.) The dog hair buildup alone will offend even the most tolerant customers and employees. Even if the quadruped is confined to the office, the Working Dog will be sure to turn the air green with an untimely fart. Excellence and dogs are mutually exclusive events.

Yet…I still vote for The Working Dog. There is something about a dog that makes us more human.


In 1990, Hot Rod gave me a puppy for my birthday. It wasn’t a puppy, exactly. It was a certificate for a pound puppy…to be redeemed at the Humane Society.

“I picked one out,” he said, “but she is an unusual dog. Kind of funny looking.”

I went to the Humane Society to retrieve the pup from the obligatory shots and spay. I signed the paperwork and waited. Like rain on a tin roof, I heard her scrambling down the corridor. She ran into my arms and decided to love me right away. I loved her back.

Her head is too small. Her tail is ridiculously long. She’s brindle-colored; striped like a Great Dane, but shaped like a Buick.

“Must be the pit bull in her,” the Humane Society employee offered.

Hazel is a Working Dog. She apprenticed on new construction sites. She guarded the truck. She sat down on Hot Rod’s feet if he stood in one place for a full minute. Of course, she also scarfed unattended lunches and “Rolled In It.”

When we graduated to service work, she was transferred to the office. One day she was sleeping on the job, and was startled by a visitor. Jumping up, Hazel bumped her nose on my desk. Her nose started bleeding, and this triggered a sneezing fit. She sneezed blood on every surface of the office. Before the day was over, Utah Disaster Clean-up was handing me a bill for $250 worth of carpet and window cleaning.

In 1985, we moved to Pipe Dreams, our place in Missouri. It’s a gentleman’s farm, like Green Acres. Hazel loves farm work. There’s lots of stuff to roll in.

Hazel is the definitive Working Dog. She is sweet and loyal. She smiles like Kermit the Frog when you scratch her ears. When you talk to her, she talks back…a low, friendly growl. And, she keeps us from scoring too high in lifestyle and professionalism.

Whenever someone comes to the office, they greet Hazel first. She breaks the ice and gets the conversation rolling. I’ve seen lots of Working Dogs have this softening affect on strangers and shy people.

Hazel’s aged in the unjust way of dogs, much faster than humans. She’s mostly gray now, except for a patch of black fur, like Jay Leno. She’s been slowing down for a while. Recently, she’s been unable to stand up at the end of the evening.

Hot Rod and I took her to the vet last month. The vet pointed to an X-ray image of her right front elbow. It looked like a train wreck.

The vet said, “The official medical diagnosis is that Hazel’s joint is ‘trashed.’ It may be arthritis, or a form of cancer. We could amputate her leg. But the rest of her joints don’t look much better.”

If Hazel were human, we would discuss a knee replacement. But she is just a dog.

We headed home with an arsenal of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine. We agreed to visit the vet again in a month. If it’s cancer, the next X-ray will show more damage. If it’s just arthritis, well, the joint is still trashed.

“These medications aren’t a long term solution. We are talking ‘term care’ here. The drugs themselves will cause her health to deteriorate,” the doctor warned.

We are narrowing in on day 30. Like Forgea, it doesn’t make sense to spend any more money on her. She’s just a dog. It’s time to put her to “sleep” – a well-meaning euphemism for killing her.

Today, Hazel is getting around pretty well. Today it’s easy to pretend that she’ll be around for a long time. Today, I’m off the hook. As with Forgea’s rescuers, reason doesn’t play a part in my decision.

“Dogs are dogs; humans are humans; and the remarkable and ennobling thing is that the twain can meet, and communicate, and enrich one another’s lives in spite of their very different minds and very different ways of conceiving the world.” — Stephen Budiansky