When Michael Walley-Rund, who manages MICA's print publications, brings his dog to work, he can reach down and rub Budge's head as he works at the computer. In fact, if he had to choose between this and a higher-paying gig where dogs weren't allowed, he says he'd probably skip the extra money to be able to spend days with Budge.

Fearing of the Humane Society points to studies showing that when people can bring a pet to work, absenteeism drops, people work longer hours, office communication improves and morale increases.

She helped write "Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces," after working for months to help the Humane Society's Gaithersburg headquarters become pet-friendly four years ago. Of the office's 300 employees, about 50 bring their dogs to work every day.

Dogs are permitted in the office only after an application is approved. All dogs must be vaccinated and there's a zero-tolerance policy regarding aggression toward humans.

New dogs are on a six-week probation. They enter through certain doors and stick to agreed dog zones — no bathrooms, no kitchenettes, no meeting rooms. No exceptions. Baby gates keep each dog confined to the owner's cubicle.

"We're not going to jeopardize our employees or the dog program by bending the rules," Fearing says. "People should, if they want to, be able to go through their whole day without dogs."

Like MICA, the organization has yet to eject a dog from the program or have any employees complain about an animal. However, a few new entrants to the dog club needed reminders of things Fearing thought were obvious. Like cleaning up accidents immediately. And disposing of dog business in outdoor, rather than indoor, trash cans. "It was like, 'I cannot believe I have to say this but …'"

In Timonium, the people and pets seem to be coexisting amicably at Gramophone. That's despite one puppy who has soiled the carpet on occasion. And the time a visiting ferret gave a programmer a serious case of the willies.

Just the other day, several small dogs held court in one of the sleek conference rooms. Assistant operations manager Sue Bauer's 2-year-old bichonpoo frolicked under the table with Charlotte, marketing director Kate Hudkins' miniature poodle.

The women say their boss, whose dachshund makes regular appearances too, has made it clear that as long as the work gets done, the pets are welcome.

And as long as the pets are welcome, these women are thrilled. As far as they can tell, so are the dogs.

"Sometimes in the morning," Hudkins says, "Charlotte will give me a look that says, 'I need you today.'"

jill.rosen@baltsun.com