Buster Brown is a forever dog at the Knox County Humane Society in Galesburg, Illinois. He's the office dog, hanging out behind the front desk, greeting visitors as they come in and "helping" staff members in general. The only problem is that Buster Brown has never been thrilled with his dog bed, which is on the floor. He would much prefer to squish his relatively massive frame into the chair behind whichever human is sitting at the desk. Comfy for him, but not so conducive to actually getting work done.
Shelter director Erin Buckmaster decided Buster needed his own chair. A local company had donated some office furniture, which was placed in the shelter break room. But a big red leather chair was hauled up front just for Buster.
"We put it behind our front desk and he absolutely loved it," says office manager Louann Kramer, who no longer has to share her personal chair with the popular pooch. But Buster's furniture revelation hatched a bigger idea.
Why not give chairs to more dogs?
Beanie, also a long-timer, got his own chair. As did Tango, Mickey and, of course, Goober.
"Then we decided that maybe the other dogs would want a chair, too," says Kramer. "We had kennels up front in our lobby, and they absolutely loved it. So then we decided everybody needed a chair."
So far, nine chairs have been donated, making for some happy pooches. The pups are more relaxed and calm now that they're lounging on comfortable furniture instead of pacing the kennels or sitting on dog beds, says Kramer. When people come in to meet the dogs, the pups aren't so jumpy and nervous, she says.
The shelter posted a short video on Facebook, showing some of the dogs lounging in their chairs.
"The shelter pets absolutely love their chairs! If anyone has any older chairs they no longer want, please think of the shelter pets!" the shelter wrote. So far, the video has been viewed more than 4.6 million times with more than 209,000 shares.
Many people praised the shelter for finding a way to make dogs less nervous in such a changing environment. Some offered chairs from as far away as California and Minnesota. Several people even offered to send money if local people would head to Goodwill and buy chairs for the rest of the dogs in the shelter.
Of course, some people pointed out potential negatives in the plan. Many were concerned about how the shelter could disinfect the chairs and keep them clean from fleas or disease. Others say the chairs might come with built-in pests, like bed bugs.
Kramer says the chairs are not shared among dogs (except when Tango takes over the front desk duties and stakes out Buster's chair). The same dog is kept with the same chair and then the furniture is thrown out if it gets too nasty or if the dog leaves. The chairs are sprayed down each day with a disinfecting mixture. Plus, the only dogs that are in the chairs are those that have already received a clean bill of health, including flea treatment.
Others point out that the dogs might be picking up habits that future adopters might not want them to have. But some people responded that pets can be re-trained not to hop up on the furniture in their new homes.
But, for the most part, commenters commended the shelter for the innovative approach to making the dogs feel at home.
"Every.single.shelter. needs these!" wrote Holly Winters-Steiger. "Love, love, love this idea! These sweet doggos most likely feel safe and secure laying in these!"