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Dogs Bring EVERYONE Together

, , , , , , , , | Working | June 1, 2021

I’m a bubbly, gregarious woman who’s been with the company for over four years. Last year, an older man came and joined our team. He’s a lone wolf who works away quietly in his office, only joining us to eat his lunch silently while the rest of us chat. He has a service dog that he keeps in his office and, one rough day, I ask him if I can pet his dog for comfort. He invites me in and I sit on the floor for his Schnauzer to come console me. This starts to become a semi-regular occurrence where I go in to visit his dog right before home time.

At first, we don’t talk past the pleasantries, but after a few weeks, I begin talking to him. It is one-sided talk about stock market issues, which I was just dipping my toes into, or a huge hack that has just happened. A few weeks after that, he begins to respond and my soliloquies become a pleasant back and forth where I learn that he has a full and interesting life. We begin sitting together at lunch and I start dragging him into the group’s conversations.

Months later, as I sit with his dog smushed bodily against me, he quietly thanks me for inviting me into the group.

Me: “What? No. Of course. Everyone thinks you’re great.”

He lowers his head as he confesses to me that he was let go from his last two jobs because of harassment claims from women.

Coworker: “I’m on the spectrum, so I have a really hard time interacting with people. I can’t read people so I can’t really tell if I’m being inappropriate or something. I figured it would just be best to stay quiet here so I wouldn’t upset anyone.”

Me: “Man, that’s horrible. My dad’s on the spectrum so I guess you kind of remind me of him. Everyone here likes you, and listen, I’ll let you know if I see you’re making anyone uncomfortable, okay?”

He smiled and nodded as I extricated myself from under his adoring dog so we could all go home.

He’s doing great and feeling safe in our group. I think it helps that I grew up with an autistic father. I subconsciously keep him focused on a topic, but not bogged down. I also make sure he’s heard but doesn’t overwhelm the discussion. Other coworkers have started doing the same thing.

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