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Doggie treat

Most dog owners know their pets would happily follow them to work if they could -- and some fortunate canines get to do just that.

Two Great Danes greet visitors to Dan Hagen's office at Lakeshirts. One carries a stuffed bear the size of a small child.

They are as friendly and sociable as any two dogs could be. They have a large bed in one corner, and drinking bowls in a raised stand in another corner.

They look like small horses, and can be intimidating at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that they are as friendly as pugs and are, in fact, "just big lap dogs," Hagen says.

The two Great Danes --Diesel and Lucy -- are both rescue animals and both will turn 2 years old in May.

They are numbers 5 and 6 in the line of Great Danes owned by Dan and his wife, Irene (another Lakeshirts employee) since 2002.

"I was on the board of the Humane Society for six years," Dan said. "My wife loves Danes (but they carry a price tag of $800 to $1,000 around here). "I said 'if you can find one that's free, you can have it.'"

Diesel, a blue merle, came from a Crystal Lake, Minn., man who was in a snowmobile accident and could no longer care for him.

Lucy has a black coat and came from a Duluth family that welcomed a new baby and felt the dog had to go.

The fun-loving Lucy "is the worst we've had" for getting into mischief, Hagen said. "She doesn't do anything here, but at home she'll chew on remotes -- I've spent $300 on remotes."

And she's something of an escape artist -- she's been known to find an open door and end up swimming and chasing geese in the pond across the street from Lakeshirts.

The two big dogs are well-trained and follow Hagen -- the maintenance and engineering manager at Lakeshirts -- as he does his rounds around the plant. Some employees keep bits of food for the dogs handy, and others like to pet them and say hello as they make their rounds.

"Everyone has little treats for them -- they know their favorite spots," he said.

"One of the things they always say on the floor," he added, "'It's nice to have these dogs around, you don't have to bend down to pet them.'"

A few others at Lakeshirts also bring their dogs to work. There's a poodle in accounting, controller Mitch Buboltz has a golden retriever, and co-owners Mike Hutchinson and Mark Fritz bring in their black labs. The dogs mix and mingle and get along well, Hagen said.

"It's great working for a company that's animals-in," Hagen said. "If you're having a stressful day, they're great stress relievers. I come in the office and here they are."

Great Danes are a cross between mastiffs and greyhounds, and were originally bred to hunt wild boars in northern Europe, Hagen said.

"They need exercise and they're fast, too -- it's the greyhound in them," he said.

They love to play with horse balls -- which have handles and are used by horses for play. 'These guys just love them -- they wing them everywhere," he said.

They have an acre to run on at home near Maple Hills golf course, and the Hagens are trying to teach them to ride in their four-seat Gem car - one in front and one in back.

After exercising, they're tired out and just like to hang out with their owners.

"They're very affectionate dogs -- we spend a lot of time on the couches," he said.

Erv Cahlin, who owns Erv's Towing and Tune-ups in Detroit Lakes, has had a dog with him at work since he went into business 44 years ago.

He has owned a number of Great Danes, but they only live seven to 10 years, and when the last one died, "it left a very large hole in my heart," Cahlin said in a notice on the wall to customers explaining about his current dog, Onyx.

He is a black lab cross who watches the shop at night and goes virtually everywhere with Cahlin during the day --  including riding along in the tow truck.

"Where I go, he goes," Cahlin said.

Onyx is 11 years old now and is grey around the muzzle. "Hopefully he'll make it a bit further," Cahlin said. "I've always had a dog, and he's been awesome."

Onyx has a few quirks. He barks at diesel trucks -- as demonstrated by his response to a delivery truck idling outside the shop on Tuesday.

"He got run over by a diesel truck when he was one year old. He doesn't like them," Cahlin explained.

And Onyx likes to sing along to Charlie Pride's "Kaw-liga."

"Every time he hears it on the radio, he howls to it -- and that's the only song he does that to," Cahlin said with a laugh.

There's no downside to having a canine companion at work, he said.

"You may have a few people who are scared of dogs -- I just put him in back," Cahlin said. "Slide a board across (the hallway) and there he sits."

Onyx is popular with the customers -- sometimes too popular.

"I've got several people who stop by to see my dog. They don't even stop to see me -- they just come to see the dog," he said with a laugh.

Erin Foley, who owns Muttley's All Breed Dog Grooming, located in the Lucky Dog building, brings her two dogs, Hank and Donald to work.

Donald, 7, a boxer, is a retired show dog. Hank, 2, is a bull mastiff.

"I adopted both these guys from Lucky Dog," Foley said.

"Every day, since Day 1, I've brought them both to work," she said.

Hank is a highly-trained therapy dog.

"We're a registered therapy team," Foley said, which means they can work in nursing homes, schools and hospitals.

"I love having them here," she said. "If I'm having a bad day, they comfort me ... I think there's a lot of benefit to having your dog at work, if they're well behaved."

One goes to a kennel and the other to a blanket when ordered, but they try to help Foley with her work.

If a dog is having a hard time in a kennel, "Hank will take one of his toys over and drop it in front of the kennel to help," she said.

"If I have a dog on the table that is trying to bite me or being unruly, they will both come and sit on the other side of the table -- they want to help," she added.

Foley said that owners should make sure their dogs are well-trained before bringing them to work.

She recommends the Canine Good Citizen program, in which a dog must pass a series of tests involving interaction with humans and other dogs. Lucky Dog offers that training as well as other programs.

A day at work can leave Hank and Donald dog tired and ready to go home.

"They go where I go," Foley said. "They're just as tired as I am at the end of the day -- it's another work day for them. We go home and relax in front of the television and do it again the next day. They know the routine."