SEATTLE — Casually dressed techies, blue badges flapping, dart past construction workers during morning rush hour at the global headquarters of Amazon, the juggernaut accelerating the growth of our on-demand culture.
A company food stand dispenses free bananas to commuters streaming between the sleek Amazon office towers that have invaded a light-industrial district on the shore of Seattle’s Lake Union. Gardeners in a glass and steel sphere step back to admire a rare corpse flower in bloom.
Through it all weave hundreds of dogs, whose presence may be the ultimate workplace perk — especially in Seattle, where canines outnumber kids. More than 7,000 dogs are registered to come to work at Amazon’s offices here, compared with 6,000 a year ago.
That amounts to a dog-person ratio of 1:7 at the mothership, where about 49,000 people are employed. A host of dog-oriented enterprises, including doggy day-care and trendy pet-friendly bars and restaurants, contribute to the beehive of activity in the neighborhood where Facebook and other tech firms are also opening offices.
On a recent day in Amazon’s 12-story Apollo building, a Havanese named Cooper accepted a customary snack from a receptionist at the lobby counter, his owner hurrying upstairs to teleconference with London. There was scarcely time to sniff Sparky, a Shih Tzu-Maltese trotting to an elevator, or Murphy, a goldendoodle running out on his person’s coffee break.
“Nobody knows me,” says Shefali Duhan, Cooper’s human companion and a sales team program manager, but “everybody” knows Cooper.
Duhan had jumped at the chance to get a pet to bring to work after she transferred from Amazon in Hyderabad, India, which doesn’t allow dogs. Now she wouldn’t think of leaving Cooper at home.
“You can’t focus at work if you know there’s someone at home you have to take care of,” she said.
Studies have extolled the benefits — for employees and companies — of having pets in the workplace.
“The benefits of dog-friendly workplaces may manifest as lower rates of absenteeism and higher worker morale and productivity,” according to a 2017 paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
As lines blur between work and home, and people and pets bond in new ways, companies nationwide are finding that dog-friendly perks are relatively cheap compared with health plans and other conventional benefits — and they’re a useful recruiting tool, as well. Newer West Coast businesses lead the pack among employers catering to canines, according to a recent national ranking of “best dog-friendly companies” by Rover, a pet services clearinghouse that is based — not incidentally — in Seattle.
On any given day, more than 800 of the 7,000-plus dogs registered at Amazon come to work at the company. Popular breeds include corgis, golden retrievers and any kind of doodle, pets that answer to names like Kona, Luna and Winston.
Amazon dogs can stop to lunch on flank steak or New Zealand venison purchased by their owners at a newly opened branch of Just Food for Dogs, an Irvine-based chain offering “human-grade” meals. They can eat cream-filled cannolis from Puddles Barkery. Some have their own Instagram accounts.
When their owners have meetings, dogs can pop into a doggy day-care spot for a shampoo, blow dry and “nail pawlish.” They can play on a 17th-floor deck in Amazon’s Doppler Building, created just for them and featuring ornamental fire hydrants and artificial grass.
“I’m pretty sure Amazon dogs have the best life,” said Lauren Lee, an Amazon Home senior product manager, as she nudged Emmy, her black Lab, into an enclosure surrounding her desk. “She’s my favorite co-worker.”
Not everyone is jazzed about the company policy. Skeptics include Amazonians with allergies and those who prefer cats, such as Henry Berg, a former Amazon principal technical program manager who left the company this month after four years.
“For people who are really into dogs, it’s great, but for many of us it is a quirky aspect of the company,” Berg said. “Sometimes you are trying to find somebody and you find yourself having to climb over dog fences and navigate past multiple dogs, which was often hilarious in an otherwise serious place.”
Veterinarian Cherri Trusheim, who has strategically located her Urban Animal clinic amid Amazon buildings, strives to work with customers who acquired puppies soon after joining the company. First-time owners in their 20s or early 30s, accustomed to instant gratification and one-day Prime delivery, often expect immediate cures for animal ailments, she said.
“We do our best to help them navigate,” she said. “The dogs that seem the happiest are the dogs that are not treated like humans.”