If you listen carefully as you browse the shelves at Daedalus Books in Columbia, you might hear the clicking of seven or eight sets of paws from the offices above.
Those paws belong to the French bulldog, Cairn terrier, border collie and other canines that enjoy the dog-friendly culture that Daedalus owners Helaine Harris and Robin Moody pioneered from day one back in the '80s.
Even if they're out of sight, says store manager Denise Hagvall, know that "if their owners are here, the dogs are here."
But it's Hagvall's dog -- company spokesdog Bernie -- a half cocker spaniel, half shih tzu rescue from Tennessee, that most often parades about the store, where he has a following of fans, especially kids. (Check out the Daedalus Facebook page for a series of videos of Bernie, paradoxically named for the cranky Irish bookstore owner in Britcom "Black Books.")
"Some customers are a little hesitant about dogs," Hagvall says, "but Bernie is very friendly. The staff just loves him."
Now science has verified what the folks at Daedalus Books (and pet owners everywhere, for that matter) already know: It feels good to be with our pets.
A 2012 Virginia Commonwealth University study measuring stress hormones in three groups of workers -- those who brought their dogs to work, those who have dogs but didn't bring them to work and those who did not own dogs -- showed that bringing dogs to the workplace reduces stress and increases employee satisfaction. The first group reported lower stress, while it was higher in both other groups as the day progressed.
No wonder businesses such as Google, Ben and Jerry's and Build-a-Bear Workshop host dogs at work, notes the Huffington Post. And it may be no surprise that "Capitol Hill has been going to the dogs for decades," according to an article on the AARP website in which Charlie Martel, counsel to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, reports that canines are the norm in both houses. His own husky, for example, wanders into any old meeting, regardless of party or topic.
VCU researcher and professor of management Randolph T. Barker does point out that only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets should be permitted in the office. And what's sauce for the dog, so to speak, seems to be sauce for the cat and the bird as well.
At A Journey from Junk on Ellicott City's Main Street, customers may not readily see Osiris (named for the athletic shoe, not the Egyptian deity) either, but that's because the 8-month-old toy poodle knows to stay out of the way, often camouflaged on a bed whose blanket matches his coat.
"There's no reason for him to be home alone when he could come in here and sleep all day with us," says store owner Kelli Myers.
Besides being hypoallergenic, the popular puppy "is a showstopper," and, although tempted, Myers did refrain from tinting him pink during the historic district's Pink Window contest.
When Erin Matthews took over Books with a Past in Glenwood three-plus years ago, she didn't see its shelves and counters as a kitty catwalk. But now, two years after a large male tabby joined the customer service staff, followed by a petite tabby female, "a bookstore cat makes sense," the owner has concluded.
An employee brought in the first, found in her yard, "just until we find the owner." Famous last words. So intelligent and laid back, "such a people person" was he that Atticus he became, named after the heroic lawyer of "To Kill a Mockingbird." And later, when the gregarious, hyperactive, nutty and feisty kitten found behind a trash bin arrived, calling her Scout after the attorney's daughter seemed "strangely appropriate."
The pair comes to work several times a week. Characteristically, Scout "runs around like a crazy person," then naps in the back while Atticus does rounds and lounges on his cushion on the front desk.
Only one person has left citing allergy during the store's two-year feline tenure, and one other turned and left without further explanation.
Fans are much more numerous, making the pair "delighted recipients of toys, treats and fresh catnip in season," says Matthews. "Their pictures are on our Facebook page, and those posts get three times the views and likes as the others," she admits.
At Fulton Art and Framing in North Laurel, shoppers are greeted by the ever-cheerful Jake.
"African greys are as smart as 5-year-olds," asserts shop owner Marion Quinn, regarding the parrots known as the best talkers of the species.
And like kids, Jake has strong opinions and tastes and is interested when she's the subject of conversation. Yes, she -- at age 4, Jake was identified as female and became Jacqueline, but she'll always be Jake to family and friends.
"She must know I'm talking about her," says Quinn as the grey girl rings her bell, dances around and sings "Jake, Jake, Jake birdy."
At work, a sign on the door alerts customers that "Jake the African grey parrot is out: Ring the Bell." But once inside, especially at her more chatty times of day, she'll answer questions if they know what to ask. Q: What do you do with water? A: Take a bath. Q: Do you want a treat? A: Is it corn? And so on.
One client was so enamored with her, says Quinn, that he purchased an African grey of his own.
It's a good life at the framing shop, what with "the never-ending supply of leftover brown paper for her to pick up and shred" and after a dozen years, plenty of regular fans. "I consider her advertising," Quinn says.
Fellow feathered friend Tequila, a blue and gold macaw, wakes up, takes a shower with her owner (horticulturalist Craig Sherman) and comes to "work" in the greenhouse at River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville. Almost daily for the past several years, weather permitting, the 24-year-old bird's chatter, squeaks and "laughter" from within tropical foliage replicate the call of the jungle.
"She talks but doesn't have a conversation," says Sherman; it's more to pass the time when she's bored or to get him to come back when he tells her "bye-bye."
On her high perch she knows she's boss and mingles with hoi polloi only on her own terms, preferring to study visitors.
She manipulates and we entertain her, Sherman maintains. Example: Tequila uses her long tail to flip Sherman's father's comb-over. After several flips, "Three times and you're out," says the baseball fan, giving her a swat with a paper flier. Tequila then grabs the flier and rips it up. The kicker, Sherman says: She only does this when the paper (her real incentive) is there.
If you want to meet this gorgeous girl you'd better not put it off too long, since Sherman plans a move to the very land of flowers, Hawaii, once he figures out the best way to get his feathered companion there.
But until then, he adds, "nothing like a shot of Tequila to brighten the day."