Katie Adkins’ five-year-old corgi, Goliath, had a name that didn’t really fit.
“It was kind of a joke at first, because he was so short,” Adkins says of her dog. “But he certainly thought he was Goliath-sized. He was so full of energy and so smart.”
When Goliath unexpectedly died, Adkins says it was “like losing a best friend”.
“Goliath was the first dog I ever truly called my own. He’d been with me through a lot: friends, roommates, moves. He was there when I bought my first house.”
So, when Adkins’ employer let her take two days off to mourn Goliath, she was incredibly grateful. Her boss “was very sympathetic. She immediately told me not to worry about anything work-related and to take as much time as I needed.”
Most bosses are not so generous – such a request might be met with surprise at many workplaces.
But as pets become more popular in the office and at home, and as people spend more money on their furry friends, it raises the question: should we get time off if a pet dies?
Pets as office fixtures
According to GfK, Germany's largest market research firm, over half of people in the world kept at least one type of pet, such as dog, cat, fish or bird, in 2016.
“The proliferation of [pets] and how they impact our lives have really exploded in the last five or ten years,” says Dan Ryan, a recruiting expert at the US Society for Human Resource Management.
He points to things like pet chemotherapy, pet antidepressants and joint replacement surgeries for pets that have become increasingly popular. Pet care is big business – last year, according to Euromonitor International, the industry reached $110 billion globally.
That popularity is being seen in the workplace, as more offices offer perks like ‘Bring your Dog to Work Day’. Others have enshrined it into their daily culture: the offices of Silicon Valley behemoths like Google and Amazon are filled with dogs, ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s welcomes its employees’ “K9-5ers”, and Ferray, a Tokyo-based IT firm, doubles as a home to its staff’s cats.
越来越多的公司提供“带狗上班日”这样的特别福利，由此可见宠物在办公场所受欢迎的程度。还有将宠物融入公司日常文化的。比如，硅谷巨头谷歌和亚马逊的办公室里就有很多狗。冰淇淋公司本杰瑞（Ben & Jerry's）欢迎员工带爱犬来，并称狗狗们为“K9-5ers”。而总部位于东京的科技公司费雷（Ferray），如果算上公司里员工们的猫主子，成员就翻了一倍。
One marketing firm in the US state of Minneapolis even offers “fur-ternity leave”, which gives staff the opportunity to take time off to spend with a new pet.
Still, embracing pooches at the company HQ is one thing. But when tragedy strikes and we have to say goodbye to our animal companions… will management be as supportive?
Adkins works in Tennessee as a digital brand specialist at Mars PetCare, the largest pet food firm in America.
While it seems obvious that a pet goods company would be quick to grant workers time off after the death of a pet, even at Mars PetCare workers aren’t allocated specific pet bereavement days – each case is treated individually.
But could this change?
Should you be allowed to take time off for a pet’s death?
I put this question to Susan Stehlik, director of the management communications programme at New York University. “My immediate reaction, from an HR perspective, is no,” she says, and that many of her colleagues rolled their eyes when she canvassed their own opinions.
我向美国纽约大学（New York University）管理交流项目主任斯特利克（Susan Stehlik）提出了这个问题。“从人力资源的角度来看，我的第一反应是否定的，”她说，而且她的许多同事在被问到时都翻了个白眼。
But the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Stehlik says from a human perspective, managers need to show compassion: “You have to honour how people put love in their life,” she says. “The day a manager doesn’t show compassion, then the worker turns around and says, ‘this is a hostile work environment.’”
Turning down such requests can create unproductive workers, adds Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester. Without proper leave to mourn, a bereaved employee’s “body is there, but they deliver no added value.”
英国曼彻斯特大学（University of Manchester）组织心理学教授库珀（Cary Cooper）补充称，拒绝这样的请求可能会导致员工工作效率低下。如果不能休假哀悼，一个失去心爱宠物的员工只会“身在心不在，无法创造额外价值”。
A note from the vet?
Pet bereavement leave could be easier to abuse than policies for people, Ryan says. “How can you prove they really had a dog?”
“Are you going to get a note from your veterinarian saying your dog died? It becomes challenging to implement.”
Ryan isn’t singling out pet owners as opportunists looking exploit generous bosses. Rather, “some people are always looking for an opportunity to exploit a rule or a policy within the workplace.”
Cooper thinks that people abusing the benefit would actually be quite rare. He says job security isn’t what it used to be – “jobs are no longer for life” – and he reckons shady behaviour would leave an unsavoury trail for HR if it ever came time to cut costs.
“There’s a psychological contract between them and the employer” when an employee benefit exists, Cooper says. “They have to honour their part of the contract, which is to deliver added value.”
Do we grieve for pets as much as we do people?
Coming up with a clear definition of a “pet” can complicate matters, says John Bradshaw, is the foundation director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in the UK, who has long studied the relationship between pets and humans.
英国布里斯托大学（University of Bristol）人类与动物关系学研究所（Anthrozoology Institute）的基金会主任布拉德肖（John Bradshaw）长期研究宠物和人类之间的关系，他认为给“宠物”下一个明确的定义可能会使问题更复杂。
“I don't think it's feasible for employers to offer days off for the loss of a pet,” he says. “Not because the owner's grief may not be genuine, but because it's difficult to produce a hard-edged definition for ‘pet’.”
For example, while owners may consider fish and reptiles as pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association includes only dogs, cats, cage birds and horses as ‘companion animals’.
比如说，有人会把鱼和爬行动物当作宠物，但美国兽医协会（American Veterinary Medical Association）认为只有狗、猫、养在笼子里的鸟，还有马算是“伴侣动物”。
“I can see difficulties in deciding who should be entitled to time off, and who shouldn't,” Bradshaw says. HR expert Ryan agrees, and that if a company were to roll out such a policy, it needs to be as black-and-white as possible.
Bradshaw also argues that there are “subtle differences between the grief felt for pets and that felt for close, human relatives”: that, for example, many pet owners get a new pet within a few months, whereas grief lasts for many years when a close family member dies.
“It's commonplace for owners to speak of their pets as ‘one of the family’, but this may be no more than a convenient way to describe them,” Bradshaw adds.
However companies decide to accommodate the changing needs of their workforce, and as pet ownership is so widespread – 68% of families in the US, for example – the topic of employee pet care is unlikely to go away.
“You can’t ignore the numbers,” Stehlik says. “So if the majority of the population is experiencing this, then companies need to get with the programme.”