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Dogs, Cats, Parrots and Pigs: Essential Team Members At Local Workplaces

Story and photography by Katharine Emlen


Radio Systems Corporation
Cultivating A Dog-Friendly Corporate Climate

Dogs in laps, dogs on desks, dogs under tables and dogs on the elevator. That’s what you see at Radio Systems Corporation.

The company, which is headquartered in Knoxville and is the world’s leading supplier of dog and cat products, has created a dog-friendly corporate climate. All teammates at Radio Systems Corporation are welcome to bring their companions to work as long as the pups are potty trained, current on shots and have no behavioral issues. Dogs and owners must also complete a class on Doggie Etiquette.

Given their corporate purpose, perhaps it’s no surprise that the company has created a pet friendly culture, but they’re not stopping there. Radio Systems wants to make Knoxville the most pet friendly community in Tennessee and Tennessee the most pet friendly state in the country.

The company has had a broad impact with their sponsorship of Pet Safe Dog Parks throughout the country. With ponds, toys, exercise equipment and room to roam, Pet Safe Dog Parks offer an oasis for canines and their companions. Through the Bark for Your Park grant foundation, the company’s mission is to have a Pet Safe Dog Park in every state.

At Radio Systems, dogs are an important part of the team. Providing a dog friendly corporate culture is one of the company’s top priorities. Not only are job candidates asked about their pets during their interviews, they often bring them along. Says recruiter Brandi King, “We may not remember each other’s name, but we always know the dog.”

Ellenburg Landscaping and Nursery
J.R and Buddy

It’s a cat; it’s a bi rd; it’s both! Ellenburg Landscaping and Nursery (722 VanosdaleRoad) is full of meows as both resident cat Buddy and his pal J.R., an African Grey parrot, will greet you when you stop by. Residents of Ellenburg Landscaping for over 25 years, both Buddy and J.R. have permanent spots among the plants and flowers. J.R loves children and gets excited when they stop by. He also loves peanut butter and chewing on rosemary sprigs. He can whistle the Andy Griffith theme song, and he will always say “goodbye” to you. Sometimes he’ll even meow, a talent he picked up from Buddy.

Buddy is a little on the shy side. He often hides inside the gift shop, but he does love
plants, so you might see him wandering through the greenery or sleeping in the shade.

Prism Pool and Backyard
Babette and Pugsley

You may think owner Pat Bright is in charge, but Pugsley and Babette, who have been accompanying Pat to work for 10 years, sometimes steal the show. Babette, also known as “Diva,” loves to be petted, but only until she meows.

When she is not supervising Pat at her desk, she is coaxing customers to turn on the water faucet so she can get a drink. Sometimes she seems to prefer water from the tap to her own nearby personal water fountain. You may not see Pugsley as he is rather shy, but he’ll play with a laser pointer if you have one. He loves Babette and follows her everywhere. Babette’s thoughts on Pugsley: “I hate him, but he’s mine” Both cats eagerly await Pat’s arrival, keeping watch by the glass door. As soon as her car pulls into the lot, they run to greet her. “They’re my Dats” says Pat, “Half dog, half cat.”

Castleton Events
Oliver Twist Pearl White Bentley

Castleton Events, known for fabulous weddings, also has a fabulous resident pooch, a Maltese Shitzu mix. Oliver Twist Pearl White Bentley accompanies owner Darla Walker to the event property in Loudon County and to the Bearden office (5614 Kingston Pike). She is named after Darla’s granddaughter’s future car.

“She loves visiting with clients and touring the grounds,” says Darla who has had Oliver for four years, “but not on Tuesdays when she goes in for her bath, hair and makeup.”

Oliver was found on a Grammy/Granddaughter date. “I wasn’t always a pet person,” admits Darla, “but it was love at first sight.”

Clients often spend a day planning their wedding and meeting vendors. Oliver is right there with them. And when it’s time to taste the wedding cake? She’ll be your new best friend.

Linda's Hallmark Shop
Miss Sassy

Colorful greeting cards and gifts are not all you’ll find at Linda’s Hallmark Shop in Farragut (11527 Kingston Pike). You will also find owner Linda Underwood, her friendly staff and Miss Sassy, the resident canine.

A regular feature at Linda’s Hallmark for over four years, Miss Sassy loves to visit with customers and help them with their shopping. She also likes her spot beneath staffer Joy’s desk as Joy has the treats.

Miss Sassy is so popular that when she escaped in pursuit of a squirrel, the entire community helped search for her. After nine anxiety-filled days, she returned home safely to her family and fans.

Miss Sassy, also known as Miss Sassy Carrie Underwood, does more than offer assistance with shopping. She also raises funds for the Tennessee Alzheimers Association in memory of
her human father, Al Underwood.

Pop's Wine and Liquor

She’s not 21 (even in dog years), so she can’t legally imbibe, but she’ll help you shop for wine. Lucy, an English Lab, has free reign at Pop’s Wine and Liquor (603 Emory Road). She has been coming to work at Pop’s for over three years; she loves attention and gets plenty of it.

“Everyone who comes here loves her,” says owner David Sprouse, “She guards the door and greets the customers.”

“When I visit a place with a pet, I remember them,” he says. “Businesses with pets—it’s a good thing.” When she is not at home with her pug friend Nacho, Lucy’s favorite spot is by David’s side. However, she never refuses a customer’s offer of a ride around the store in a buggy.

Morris Creative Group
Shusie and Oscar

Competition for cuteness abounds at Morris Creative (555 W. Jackson Avenue) where Oscar and Shusie charm staff and clients. Shusie, a Terrier Yorkie mix with perhaps a little Jack Russell, has been a part of Morris Creative for nine years. When you walk in, she will greet you and say hello and accept a few pats before retreating to her favorite bed.

If you hear gentle snorts, don’t be alarmed. That’s just Oscar. Oscar, a mini Julianna pig, is a new addition to Morris Creative. Less than a year old, Oscar loves Cheerios and oatmeal and sleeping in his sling. What do clients think of Oscar? Well, just look at that face. Too cute!

Wallace Paper

With her own Instagram page and regular visitors, Alice, the Scottish Terrier, curates a gallery of patterns and designs at #aliceinpaperland and introduces visitors to gift options galore, but her favorite thing to do is come to work at Wallace Paper (5508 Kingston Pike) with owner Sharon Deaver.

If you can get past the cuteness and the cuddles, Alice might let you consult with Sharon, a well-traveled, talented designer who has not only worked for the largest fashion industry in the world but also Christie’s Auction House.

Alice is so popular that when she’s downtown, people recognize her. Sharon says, “They’ll yell across Market Square just to say hello.” So who’s the most popular at Wallace Paper? Going once...going twice...

Snooty Patootie
Miss Lily

Meet Miss Lily, one of Knoxville most beloved retail dogs. A regular resident at SnooTy PaTooTie (11110 Kingston Pike), Miss Lily is well versed in vintage decor and no stranger to modern charm. For over three years, Miss Lily has been helping customers explore gifts and jewelry and learn about interior design.

“People come just to see her,” says owner Kay McGinnis. “And when she is not here, people notice.” Blending in beautifully with the ambiance and decor, Miss Lily, a Morkie, or Maltise Yorkie, will meet you at the door with lots of wiggles and love. She knows her regulars and has her favorite UPS man, too. But her favorite spot is right next to Kay in her bed behind the counter.

Robin Easter Designs
Wilbur and Charlie

Beginning with Lucy, an abandoned dog found with a litter in a mud puddle, graphic designer Robin Easter has fostered over 26 dogs on their way to forever homes. Currently Robin is accompanied to work (132 W. Jackson Avenue) by Wilbur and Charlie who are not up for grabs; they are Robin’s own.

Wilbur, a Staffordshire Pit Bull, is a gentle soul who’ll sit patiently at the door, waiting to greet clients. Charlie, also known as Wolf (and yes, he howls), is a Scottish Deer Hound who mostly sleeps, but he is elderly and deserving of rest.

Robin has had pets at her office since she opened her doors. “They keep things stress free,” she says. Her staff members are welcome to bring their pets, too. Over the years the company has had numerous pets including an iguana and a bottle-fed kitten who became an internet sensation.

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