Company caters to canine companionship

By Ed Runyan

The construction company vice president selected a breed that socializes well with people.

Friday is Take Your Dog To Work Day, but Mike Coates Jr., vice president of Mike Coates Construction in Niles, takes his pooch to work every day.

Since 1992, when Coates adopted a German shepherd mix dropped off at the door of his Summit Street office building, he has brought a four-legged friend to the office, and he feels it has been a positive experience.

That adopted stray, Max, died in 2004 at age 12 1‚Ñ2 and was followed by an AKC champion Keeshond, named Mac, now 31‚Ñ2 years old who patrols the hallways and visits with anyone who enters.

The company has built some of the area’s landmark buildings, such as the Mahoning County jail in Youngstown and the new Warren G. Harding High School.

Perhaps Mac’s greatest asset is that he stays late with his owner most days and keeps people company and safe while they finish up their day’s work.

“I do work later sometimes, and it’s nice to know Mac’s still there, and he’ll let us know if somebody’s there,” Angela Arnold, an accounts payable clerk, said of Mac.

Debbie Protiva, billing and payroll clerk for the past 15 years, an admitted dog lover, said she thinks Mac is good for office morale.

“When you’re busy, busy, busy and you’re walking down the hall and you pet the dog, it is a bit of a stress relief,” she said. “I think everyone’s always thought it was an asset to have the dog here, even the customers who come in.”

During the year when Max was there and when Mac arrived, Protiva said she brought one of her own dogs into the office from time to time, especially when one was injured and needed a little extra attention.

Roughly a dozen customers and vendors come into the office on an average day, and he greets all of them, Coates said, so it’s important that Mac is friendly.

That’s why Coates picked a Keeshond, which is a breed known for its sociable personality and love of people. “I think it gives a different environment for employees,” Coates said.

He cited information from Pet Sitters International indicating that having a pet in the workplace leads to a more creative environment, decreases absenteeism helps co-workers get along better, creates a more productive work environment and encourages workers to work longer hours.

“When you come in, he comes up to you to see what’s going on,” said Joanne Coates, Mike Coates Jr.’s mother.

In addition to becoming friendly with office workers, Mac also has become close with the cleaning people and the UPS driver, Ken Paridon, who has been friendly with Max and Mac for 15 years.

“As soon as he hears my keys, he knows it’s me,” said Paridon, who brings Mac a treat on each trip.

Mike Coates Jr. has become a supporter of various animal shelters in the area since adopting Max and was happy to participate in the promotion of Take Your Dog To Work Day when a friend asked him about it recently.

The concept was created in 1999 by the Pet Sitters International, which hopes the day draws attention to the need for dogs in animal shelters to be adopted. For more information, go to the Web site

Coates also is including a brochure regarding animal adoptions in the paychecks of the company’s 150 employees this week.