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Woof! Dogs in the office make for relaxed environment, businesses say




At some offices, dogs are more popular than people.

On any given day, seven to 10 pups bounce around Benevity, a tech firm in Calgary. Workers play fetch with their pets or let them sleep at their feet. Sometimes the furry critters play with each other, livening up the already colourful, relaxed office in Bridgeland.

« It just makes people happy, » said people and programs manager Angie Duong. « I think you see people who are fiercely focused and they’re just working away, and as soon as a dog comes into the picture, they just melt. »

People love their dogs, and businesses are booming as a result. There are pet stores and dog groomers, dog walkers and doggy daycares, and pet-friendly beaches, trails and parks — and even so-called « pet-ternity, » leave that owners can take after adopting a new animal.

Winnie, 2, is a corgi, and Indiana Jones, 11, is the little dog farther back. Indiana Jones has a kidney problem so he can’t have all the treats. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

But a few are leading the pack by allowing their employees to bring dogs into the office. It may sound like a fun idea but can take quite a lot of organizing and consideration of health concerns.

The trade-off, they say, is the less stressful, more relaxed environment that comes with a pet-friendly office.

Business owners say dogs in the office create a fun, relaxed environment with less stress, and they’re trying to balance health risks and noise. 1:11

Benevity employee Jodi Stapley, who brings her dog two days a week, says she use to worry about leaving her dog home alone.

« She’s an old English sheepdog who really likes to just be with her person. That’s a trait a lot of them have, » she said.

« She just laid under my desk, laid on my feet, and she was a perfect little angel, so I started bringing her in more and more often. »

Jack is a three-year-old dachshund. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

The company has had this program since its inception a decade ago. It now provides doggie doo-doo bags at reception and dog-specific cleaners in the kitchens. Cats are allowed, too, but aren’t as common.

Wendy Giuffre, an HR consultant for Calgary small businesses, said she’s encouraged companies to develop guidelines to avoid problems — even if things appear to be running smoothly for now.

« It’s obviously got to be a well-behaved dog, and that’s where we find some of the problems because that’s very subjective, » she said. « It’s just like kids. Everybody thinking, well, my dog’s well-behaved. »

Health risks no joke, doctor says

Another key concern is allergies. Some people get sinus symptoms — sniffles and watery eyes — but in other people, allergies can trigger asthma. Anyone with an allergy should be avoiding the trigger entirely, not managing it through daily treatment, said Dr. Joel Doctor, a Calgary allergist. Prolonged exposure to a « trigger, » like pets, can make an allergy worse. 

In allergy-induced asthma, animals could trigger a severe asthma attack, and that can be dangerous, Doctor said, so he struggled to see how a workplace could bring in pets while protecting employee health.

« The benefit has to be weighed very carefully against the risk, and so the benefit is kind of questionable, » Doctor said. « I’m not sure what the real benefit there is to having animals in the workplace, yet for some individuals, there is significant risk that would be involved. »

He said perhaps dogs could help in « some really niche workplaces, » but he’s confident the practice won’t spread widely due to the health concerns.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests there are potential benefits to dogs in the workplace, such as higher morale, productivity and attendance. But it notes research is preliminary and recommends employers consider all parties before adopting the practice.

Polly plays with Peggy in the office. Each day, there are usually seven to 10 dogs in the Benevity office in Bridgeland. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

A director for Calgary-based Rogers Insurance says staff try to keep those people away from dogs. They say they’re not scared of pulling the program if something arises, but, so far, it’s worked smoothly.

« It’s invisible now. All the fears that some people had, people being afraid of dogs, people being allergic to dogs, we never have complaints, » chief operating officer Bruce Rabik said.

He first allowed in dogs after trying to scare pigeons off the deck at work. Then other employees were curious about bringing in their dogs. Now, the office has an internal notice announcing each day’s pet guests with their photos and names, as all dogs are registered with human resources.

It’s so common, Rabik says, he forgets the dogs are there.

« I walk around, give people tours of the office and I forget we have dogs, because a puppy will come running up, » he said.

Jack explores the office. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

As insurance brokers, however, Rabik said they do take « a conservative approach, » so they banned three breeds, Rottweilers, mastiffs and pitbulls, based on research they found that indicates those are more aggressive breeds.

Benevity says all potential employees are told it’s a dog-friendly office.

« We’re really upfront during the interview process, everyone really understands that the dogs are really huge in our culture, » Duong said. « So we make it really clear that if you have really adverse allergies or have huge fears of dogs, then this may or may not be the place for you. »

Giuffre​ said that’s not a good approach and may be construed as discrimination against people with health issues. Instead, she recommends trying to find a solution.

« I think you’d really have to take those case-by-case, » she said. « It’d either be, abolish the policy or try and work around it in some way. »

Some dog owners contain their pets to their cubicles using gates. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

She’s helped several offices set up dog policies. In one case, the business moved the allergic person’s desk far away and set up an air purifier. Other options might be to allow only dogs with little dander, or give employees the option of working on a dog-free floor.

She suggests raising the idea with all employees to see if there’s interest or opposition and then develop some sort of policy.

Businesses may find their employees are keen. Roughly one in 13 Calgarians and one in nine Edmontonians owns a dog, according to pet registration data. Statistics Canada has found Albertans are the third-highest spenders on pets in Canada.

In a « dog city » like Calgary, office pets can be a way to draw in employees, Giuffre said, a nice « no cost perk. »

« It does bring a different level of casualness to the business and, in most cases, it lightens the atmosphere, no different than comfort dogs, » Giuffre said.

With files from Mike Symington and the Calgary Eyeopener.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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