Gretchen Roufs' portraitRoxy is Universal Gold’s superstar employee. Universal Gold, based in East Providence, R.I., is a full-service janitorial and industrial distribution company.

The company’s chief public relations representative, Roxy, has her own special place in the boss’s office, works without a job description, and hails from a long line of hard workers. In her freetime — including every lunch hour — she goes running with Universal Gold’s owner and president, Jonathan Weitzner. She also sleeps with him.

Roxy is a Portuguese Water Dog, a breed introduced to the United States in the late 1950s.

“Our customers love her,” said Dona Ouellette, sales manager for the company. “When Jonathan brings her to work every day, she greets all of us with a big wag of her tail. Roxy has become quite an employee of our company.”

Four-year-old Roxy is an excellent judge of character. “She sleeps under my desk unless there’s a visitor. When she hears someone arrive, she barks and sniffs them out. We can always tell who the dog lovers are, because Roxy wags her tail when she meets them,” according to Jonathan. Roxy doesn’t like everybody, though. Everyone watches her to see how she reacts to new people. “I’ve had some vendors walk in, and if Roxy doesn’t warm up to them, I’m suspicious. I use her as my character barometer.”

Roxy, all joking aside, performs valuable services on the job. According to the Delta Society, an international, non-profit organization that promotes improved human health through service and therapy animals, having a dog in the workplace translates into measurable health benefits. A 2001 study found that people with borderline hypertension had lower blood pressure on days they took their dogs to work. In an earlier Delta Society study, it was demonstrated that dogs are preventive and therapeutic measures against everyday stress.

Jonathan says bringing a dog to work is great. “It’s a growing trend because of the type of schedules we all keep. I recommend it, not just for the pet, but for the benefits to employees.” Jonathan works long days, and says that having Roxy with him until he leaves the office in the early evening makes the day more bearable.

Portuguese Water Dogs historically have been loyal companions and excellent guard dogs. For centuries, they have been considered valuable employees.

Originally kept by Portuguese fishermen as part of a ship’s crew, the dogs carried messages between vessels, herded and caught fish, and retrieved broken fishing nets and equipment from the sea. Technology — specifically the radio — ultimately replaced the breed on the boats. Portuguese Water Dogs almost became extinct, but in the 1930s a shipping tycoon saved the breed.

A faithful, low-maintenance employee (aside from the six-hour grooming appointment she has every five weeks), Roxy has gotten into trouble a few times both inside the office and on her lunch-hour runs. “When she was a puppy, she chewed through telephone cords when I was on the phone. I had to hire a telephone repair technician two different times,” Jonathan reported.

Then there was Roxy’s infamous encounter with the skunk (or was that foul odor caused by rolling in raw sewage?). She had to be bathed in alcohol to get rid of the stench. That was the only day Roxy didn’t make it back to work after lunch.

Gretchen Roufs, a 15-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns Auxiliary Marketing Services of San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “freetime,” contact her at (210) 601-4572 or e-mail.