The headquarters of dick clark productions, inc., in Burbank, California, would be notable purely because Dick Clark, a show business legend, works there. It is also remarkable, however, because it has to be one of the few corporate offices in America where every day a pack of friendly dogs rides the elevators in search of masters and friends.
“They’d rather ride the elevator than take the stairs,” explains Dick, as if it is the most natural thing in the world. For his dogs, apparently it is. “There have been several generations of dogs that go and stand by the elevator, and someone will punch the button and they get on,” Dick chuckles. When they reach their intended floor and the door opens, they just walk off. His people-loving pack has the run of the place, and Dick wouldn’t have it any other way. “They wander the whole office,” he says. Under the watchful eyes of their owners and lots of dog-loving employees, that is.
Dick’s current crew of “working dogs” is not unique. He and his wife, Kari, have been taking their dogs to work with them for years. They both work long hours and have a long commute, so the arrangement seemed to make sense in order to keep “the family” together.
How well does the informal canine crowd mix in with the working world’s business suits and bagels? “Very well,” says Dick emphatically. “It can really break up the stress to have this big old dog wandering into meetings,” he laughs. The “big old dog” Dick is talking about is Henry VIII, his 110-pound weimaraner, which Dick describes as “like having a baby elephant in the house.” Despite his imposing appearance, Henry is a peace-loving soul. “He’s a gentle giant,” Dick points out.
HUNGRY FOR YOUR…FOOD
There are, of course, occupational hazards to having dogs in the office, as Dick and Kari have found out. An unattended sandwich is no match for an inquisitive canine nose. And warm-hearted employees have a hard time refusing those pleading, big brown eyes. “We have had to put notes on their collars to say, ‘Don’t feed me!’,” says Dick. Another of the Clarks’ canine clan is Lucille, who “looks like a table top,” Dick says with mock dismay, referring to the Dalmatian that was a gift from friends Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Lucille, like almost all of their dogs, is named for a rock and roll song. In her case, it’s one of Little Richard’s.
The third pooch in the Clark family is a diminutive black pug named Mrs. Jones (quick quiz: who wrote that rock and roll song?). Despite her tiny stature, “She rules the roost,” says Dick. “I don’t understand it. She’ll be out on the beach with 10 or 12 dogs, all bigger than her, and she’s still the boss.” Henry is quite gentle with Mrs. Jones and often gets down on the floor and plays with her. Lucille, being the elderly grand dame of the household, usually sits out most of the fun and games at this point, says Dick.
WHO LETS THE DOGS OUT?
At home, Kari takes the dogs for morning walks on the beach, then comes back and gives them breakfast. At work, dog duty is delegated to all available hands. Kari, Dick, or their office assistant will take them out for a run at lunch. If no one else is around, the switchboard operator will make sure they get out to stretch their legs. “They have the run of a large beach on weekends and every morning, and the run of an office during the day. I don’t think it gets any better than that,” says Dick.
When the Clarks were building their home in Malibu, they put in a special dog-sized shower to accommodate bathing their pups. Because they’re working dogs, “They get a bath every Sunday and go to work every Monday,” says Dick. On Sunday mornings, when Kari yells, “OK, it’s shower time!,” the dogs trot right in. Another way that they pamper the dogs is to make a fuss of their birthdays. Kari makes them special treats on the big day, complete with candles. Each dog gets as many treats as he or she is old. “That’s sort of a tradition,” Dick shares, noting, “Everybody says when they die and go to heaven, they want to come back as a Clark dog.”
Dr. Mark Nunez, one of the Clarks’ veterinarians, would agree. “Dick and Kari are exceptional pet owners. They are very loving people,” he says. “The thing that has always impressed me the most about them is that they come in with their own pets.” Because he practices in Burbank, the heart of Southern California’s entertainment industry, Dr. Nunez sees a lot of celebrity pet owners. Some celebrities send their animals in with staff. “Not the Clarks,” says Dr. Nunez. “They always personally bring their pets in.” He feels that personal interaction is important to make sure the owner is getting accurate information and that the pet is getting the best medical care. Dr. Nunez says another sign that the Clarks take their pets’ veterinary care seriously is that, “When I reach the switchboard, they know my voice,” he laughs. Some of the Clarks’ dogs have returned the compliment. The practice is two blocks away from their office, and “Molly, one of our older dogs, used to go to the veterinarian a lot,” notes Dick. “We’d say, ‘Molly, let’s go to the vet!,’ and she would go right out and start walking down toward their office.”
THEY CALL IT PUPPY LOVE
Before he married Kari, Dick never had a dog. A favorite uncle had given him a figurine of a dachshund when he was a boy, so the first dog he picked out when he was an adult was a member of that breed. Since then, Dick has had a long list of dogs, as well as some cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chameleons, and turtles. Not too long ago, he lost a particular favorite, Bernardo, a dachshund/Chihuahua mix that he and Kari had found as a stray. “He was a sweet little guy,” says Dick. One of the “penalties” of owning dogs, Dick notes sadly, is that they just don’t live as long as we would like.
While they are with us, however, they are a joy. These days, Dick seems to get a particular kick out of Mrs. Jones, who often sports a rhinestone collar. One night, she was transfixed by the Westminster Dog Show, which was being nationally televised. “She was mesmerized. Her nose was a foot from the screen,” Dick laughs. He thought it was funny to see his little dog fascinated by all those big show dogs. A few days before that, she had barked herself hoarse at a couple of ducks that live behind their house—she kept having to run back into the house to get a drink of water to ease her sore throat.
While Clark says he puts no limits on the number of pets in his house (“You can never have just one pug, they say, so we may have another in our future”) and has had as many as five, he says he might not get any more big dogs like Henry. He apparently would like to put a limit on the number of dog belongings in his household, however. “The other day I told Kari, we’ve got to get rid of some of the dog toys. I counted 21 different toys in the sitting room next to our kitchen. There’s a tennis ball with all the fuzz rubbed off of it and stuff peeling off it in strips, but we can’t throw it away because it’s Mrs. Jones’ favorite toy!” he exclaims in mock exasperation.
AS FREE AS A DOG, NOW
What do animals do for the Clarks? “We live with a lot of time pressure and stress in our business, and they have practically no schedule at all, or virtually none,” Dick says. Maybe they want a little something to eat, some affection, but they don’t ask for much. “They’re pressure relievers,” he continues. “You’ll be on the phone at work dealing with something stressful and they’ll just walk up and want a pat.” That kind of “puppy love” is a priceless form of stress reduction.
And while the Clarks’ dogs seem to love being at work with Dick, they don’t seem to share his passion for it, despite their Top 40 names. “I play the jukebox every night, but they don’t seem all that excited about it,” he laughs.