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“We're the happy department,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, standing in his office and addressing assembled reporters.
For Friday, May 5, Zinke made the decision to invite his employees to bring their dogs along with them to their offices. Citing morale benefits and the opportunity to foster a better work environment, the secretary explained his decision to implement a “Doggy Day,” a first for any federal agency.
Entering his office on Friday, the retired Navy SEAL and former congressman was accompanied by a smaller friend. Ragnar, a Havanese, is Secretary Zinke's family dog. “I call him the Ambassador to Happiness,” said Zinke.
The first iteration of “Doggy Day” is part of a pilot program to see if the office could permanently be opened to pets. “Today is our launch,” said Zinke. “We have rules. We looked at some corporations that have dog-friendly environments as a template, and then we had a dog committee.”
Employees who chose to bring their dogs to the office on Friday were given the opportunity to take a picture with Secretary Zinke in his office. Needless to say, the puppies were very excited:
If the Department of the Interior's “Doggy Day” transforms from a one-off event into a new department policy, Interior would become the first dog-friendly federal agency. In addition to Friday's test run, the agency has slated another pilot day for the program in September.
As employees funneled into the office one by one, Ragnar eagerly awaited the opportunity to meet all of the puppies, though he was distracted at times by the seemingly never ending line of dogs parading into his owner's office:
The secretary's dog made for a very good welcoming committee for the visiting dogs:
Zinke appeared hopeful that the pilot program can evolve into a new department policy allowing employees to bring their dogs to work more often in the future. “We're going to run this and we're gonna do an after action report and see if there are any adjustments that need to be made,” he said.
The decision to open up the Interior's workspace to dogs isn't just based on the secretary's own passion for animals. Speaking to reporters, Zinke outlined his vision for a welcoming workspace:
“People should be happy when they come to work,” said Secretary Zinke. “I don't expect people to cry when they leave at the end of the day, but I kind of expect we're a team.”
Zinke invoked his past military service in the Navy as a member of a SEAL team, as well as his time playing football at the University of Oregon and his childhood as a Boy Scout to drive home his view of the importance of teamwork.
“I don't view my job as any more important than anyone else's,” he said. “We all have our roles and missions to play and do, but whatever we're going to do, we're going to do it well.”
The secretary's commitment to teamwork was on full display on Friday, as he greeted every employee entering his office personally. Speaking about how employees have reacted to the new initiative, Zinke was positive. “They thanked me for doing it, they're happy to have their dogs at work,” he said. “Good morale booster.”
From his comments at the photo session in his office, it was clear that Secretary Zinke had already familiarized himself with some of the office dogs. “This is one of our faster dogs,” remarked Zinke about a retired racing dog adopted by one employee:
The secretary was also asked if he was concerned about appearing to favor one type of pet over others. “Well, you know, cats come up, turtles, other things,” said Zinke. He quickly dismissed these concerns by explaining that if the pilot program goes well, other pets could be included.
All of the employees that visited the secretary's office on Friday seemed to enjoy the novel idea that is “Doggy Day.” One employee even dressed her dog in an Office of Surface Mining sweater:
After meeting all of his employees' dogs and gauging their response to the event, Secretary Zinke reflected on the Department of the Interior's first-ever “Doggy Day.”
“Whatever we need to do to create a lively, energetic work environment, I'm going to focus on that,” said Secretary Zinke.