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Dogs, pigs and dragons: how not to do office pets

It’s not uncommon to visit an office and be greeted by a furry, four-legged friend rattling around your ankles.

More and more, it would seem, animal interns are a regular staple of office life, perhaps driven by a number of studies that heap praise on the effects they can have on the team. As Rikke Rosenlund - founder and CEO of BorrowMyDoggy- explains, petting a dog releases the happy hormone oxytocin and decreases stress-inducing cortisol, while Central Michigan University found that dogs make employees more likely to trust each other and find collaboration easier.

But if dogs don’t float your goat, you can always innovate.

That’s exactly what Nick Jenkins thought. The founder of Moonpig and one of the UK’s most revered entrepreneurs - immortalised as a Dragon in the popular BBC pitching contest - felt an office pig (or two, to be precise) would be more on-brand.

There are reasons why some animals are domestic and some aren’t.

Enter Stephanie and Kew, two micro pigs from a small farm near Chiswick who would make regular visits to the Moonpig office. Nick had been granted a temporary farming licence from DEFRA so he could host his piggy pals. They had their own custom-built pigsty but were free to roam the office as the team worked around them, and at lunchtimes would be taken for walks round the square in front of the Tate Modern near the Southwark based office. They became quite the tourist attraction, so we’re told.

But as with many an entrepreneurial pursuit, the idea should have remained just that - an idea. “There are reasons why some animals are domestic and some aren’t,” Nick advises. It would appear he learnt the hard way, as he explains how they’re incapable of controlling their bodily functions and aren’t any easier on the ears than they are on the office carpet. “There are only so many board meetings that can be interrupted by a squealing pig before you have to reconsider your options,” Nick explains, wryly recollecting a conference call one afternoon where he failed to concentrate for Stephanie urinating on the hems of his trousers.

Don't get a pig.

In the end - and after some years of loyal service - they were retired to squeal elsewhere, but that wasn’t to be the last encounter between Nick and at least one of the duo. He recently ran into Stephanie at a conference up in Manchester. “She was enormous,” he exclaimed, but the reunion did nothing to reignite the flame.

“Don’t get a pig,” he concludes. As a man perfectly accustomed to swinging for the fences, this was clearly a time he regrets going the whole hog.