By Charlotte Mulhern
You're surrounded by hair balls, wet noses and wagging tails. The sounds of rhythmic scratching and jingling collar tags reverberate in the background. Meows and barks are commonplace. Where are you?
Nope, it's not the vet's crowded lobby; more likely, it's the thriving home base of a business near you. That's because a host of homebased entrepreneurs with pets--too many to count, really--don't mind if Fluffy or Fido (or both) stretch lazily across keyboards and monitors, or sleep peacefully on important documents during the workday. In fact, many wouldn't have it any other way.
"It kind of adds a different dimension to your business," says Rochelle Balch, founder of Glendale, Arizona, computer consulting firm RB Balch & Associates Inc. And she should know--her 20-pound orange tabby, Stripey, once accidentally saved and printed an entire file of payroll documents with just a swish of her tail against a trackball.
Yes, furry friends do have their downsides: Hair floats about the office, jamming equipment and scratching CDs; dogs bark and get into the trash when you're on the phone. And then there's the time Balch's cats decided to gnaw on a stack of envelopes before a mailing: "There were probably about 100 envelopes that went out with little cat teeth marks on them," she remembers.
It's not like her clients have any complaints--but one recently called her company's help desk in a panic: What to do when the cat throws up on your keyboard? Well-versed and well-prepared, this computer consultant was able to answer with confidence: Go buy a new one, of course!