The Academic Dog as Signifier

4 things that a dog in a professor’s office tells us.

June 20, 2016

The best part of working in higher ed is the dogs. OK - maybe not the best part - as the students, colleagues and ideas are pretty great - but dogs are right up there. (The photo at the right shows the blogger with his dog.)

I love when I go to a professor’s office and my meeting is with the professor and her dog.

I take great pleasure in watching an academic canine and his academic human commuting to and from campus.

The choice to bring your dog to campus signifies much. Dogs in a professor’s office are signals of:

1 - Gentle Iconoclasm:  Sharing office space with a working academic dog tells the world that you are willing to think (and act) differently. The choice to bring a dog to campus is one made by an independent thinker - someone likely to put humanist values above confining customs. The dog/professor pair are a quietly nonconformist duo. This is a gentle and positive form of iconoclastic behavior, as everyone (save the allergic and the phobic) feels better in the presence of a dog.

2 - Approachability:  Any professor with a dog at her feet is a professor that can be approached.  You may be worried about conversing with a busy and learned academic, but there are no worries in approaching first the dog. We all know how to talk to dogs.  Dogs - well at least academic dogs with long campus tenures - are always happy to be greeted and pet by colleagues and students.  Professors may be cranky and intimidating (or friendly and welcoming), but their  dogs are always kind and happy to see us.

3 - Privilege:  Let’s be clear here.  The ability to bring a dog to one’s office is a mark of privilege.  It takes a certain degree of status and autonomy to co-work with a dog. You need your own private office - an amenity (actually, a necessity for educators and scholars) that is increasingly rare.  Control over one’s own time is also a dog co-working must - as even the best behaved pooch will need a bio break.  Most importantly, bringing a dog to campus demonstrates both a sense of security (some folks may be unhappy with the new furry colleague), and accomplishment.  Dog office sharing academics are able (indeed must) work on their own terms - and the fact that they work with a dog demonstrates their autonomous proficiency and productivity.

4 - Scholarliness:  If you spend your working day with a canine family member, then chances are you are working with ideas.  Dogs inspire good thinking. Dogs are not great companions if you spend your days in meetings. Dogs help ease the loneliness of writing. Academia is complicated. Dogs are simple. Navigating an academic career is treacherous. Navigating your dogs needs are straightforward.  Someone should research the hypothesis that faculty who co-work with a dog are more productive (because they are happier and have lower stress) than their non-canine companion colleagues.

Should every college and university have a pro faculty dog culture?

Are you a professor who brings your dog to work?



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