Jennifer Bement Has a Dog Lover's Dream Job
Jennifer Bement couldn't imagine a dreamier day job than the one she's already got. She's thankful that she gets to hang with dogs, write about dogs, and advocate on dogs' behalf. She even shares her office with a handsome black bear of a Lab named Fozzy, the "ambassadog" for her workplace.
But Bement also enjoys an extra office perk: The cutest co-workers known to man (or woman). In the middle of the work day, Bement gets to visit a passel of puppies whenever the spirit moves her, because she works as the media relations manager at the Palmetto, Florida, campus of Southeastern Guide Dogs, the nonprofit that trains those pups to serve as blind persons' eyes. (The rest of us can virtually visit the pups thanks to the Puppy Cam on their website.)
"If you ever have the chance to go to a guide dog graduation, and to see people that before were unable to leave their house or cross the street without holding someone's arm -- then you see them at graduation walking confidently and striding forward just like the rest of us, it's the most amazing feeling in the world," Bement says. "And it's these incredible dogs that make it possible."
She's speaking from her heart, which makes Bement exceptionally good at doing her job: spreading the good word about the remarkable achievements of Southeastern Guide Dogs, their puppy raisers, trainers, and handlers. "Some people have no idea of the work that goes into creating world-class guide dogs. I'm lucky enough to be able to share the Southeastern Guide Dogs story with anyone who will listen," says Bement.
An impressive multitasker, she's constantly on the go: Writing a weekly column for the Bradenton Patch, taking photographs, and posting news about Southeastern Guide Dogs on Facebook and Twitter. Bement never wants for content to spread via social media. Dogs and their endlessly adorable antics are a constant source of visual and verbal inspiration, as Bement's charming tweets and Twitpics prove.
When she gets home, she doesn't exactly slack off -- she hangs with her own two dogs, a pair of Miniature Schnauzers, Freud (named in honor of the father of psychoanalysis) and Anna (named after Dr. Freud's daughter). "I was a psych major, so I actually wanted to name Freud 'Pavlov,' but my husband didn't think anybody would get the joke," Bement recalls. The trio go running together four to five times weekly. Plus, Bement is also an accomplished horsewoman, who's been riding regularly since age three.
And in her down time, Bement hand-knits hats and scarves for her Etsy business, where she decribes herself as a "one-woman maker of super-cool accessories." (She tweets from @RdheadStepchild if you want to follow along.) Freud, Anna, and Fozzy all have their very own custom-knit scarves!
Whether at home or at work -- or working at home -- this busy, creative PR professional is never far from four-footed comfort. The dogs love to cuddle up to their multitasking Mom while she's knitting, sometimes resting their little heads on skeins of yarn! And, as a person with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) who's refreshingly open about it, Bement is grateful for all that constant canine companionship.
"Dogs help keep me in line with what's going on, which reduces stress," she explains. "And if you're not stressed out, you can focus much better on the task at hand." At home or at work, she adds, "I rely on my dogs for love and support, but when you see someone rely on their dog for mobility and independence, it just goes to show how very special dogs are, and I get to see that every day at Southeastern Guide Dogs."
Pointing to scientific studies that prove that when you start petting a dog, your blood pressure drops, Bement adds, "If I'm ever stressed out at work -- which happens very rarely! -- I can just hop on a golf cart and head over to the puppy kennels, which I consider the happiest place on earth. I'll hug a pup, and everything's right with the world again." Bement is not the only one who can benefit from some puppy love, as Southeastern Guide Dogs opens its campus five days a week for Puppy Hugging and Dog Walking. "It's great for our puppies, because it exposes them to lots of different people, and it's great for the public, because who wouldn't want to get some puppy kisses?!"
Is she ever tempted to grab one and become a puppy raiser herself? Often, but she strictly controls the impulse. Bement explains, "I wish that I could, but I tend to be a collector. When I worked for a casual furniture manufacturer, I ended up with about four sets of patio furnishings. Then I worked for Tervis Tumbler, a manufacturer of drinking glasses, so we have an entire cabinet full of tumblers."
"When I got the job here, my husband got really nervous," she adds with a laugh.
She did, however, bring home a guide-dog-in-training, named Pat, just for Thanksgiving last year, with hilarious results. "Because our dogs are little, we were not used to counter surfing," Bement recalls. "We left our carved turkey out and Pat ate half of it!" In her typically upbeat, lemonade-from-lemons style, Bement wrote her Patch column that week about the incident, and took a picture of the pitiful "leftovers" -- which, she wryly recalls, "fit into one small, sandwich-size bag. I can't blame Pat though, it was my lack of supervision that was our downfall. Really, what dog could resist a freshly carved turkey?"
"I think that I was meant to work here at Southeastern Guide Dogs," Bement concludes, marveling at her good fortune in landing the job of her dreams. "I get to wake up every day and go to a job where I'm respected, where I can be successful and make a difference -- and, best of all, work with dogs! Southeastern Guide Dogs is the most amazing place. We get to do wonderful things here."
This post is sponsored by the Southeastern Guide Dogs