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  06-21-2008, 11:38 PM
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Stick some candles in the lasagna; it's Garfield's 30th birthday!

Word has it that, while the fat cat's creator, Jim Davis, is taking a low-key approach to marking this milestone, the folks at Paws Inc., will celebrate the day with a picnic, perhaps an afternoon of golf, maybe even some water balloons.

And if somebody offers a prayer of thanks or two directed toward That Big Scratching Post in the Sky, that'll be understandable, too: Paws' employees know they're observing three decades of working the best gig imaginable.

"I sometimes think about how it's changed my life," said director of public relations Kim Campbell, a 24-year employee who first left a job as a cable television service office manager to become Davis' personal assistant. "I just got lucky."

She had met the cartoonist at a party, then received his job offer a couple months later. Since then she has befriended celebrities, learned lots about the entertainment business and even been a co-writer of the Garfield Thanksgiving Show, for which she received an Emmy nomination.

"If you show an aptitude for something, he'll give you a chance at it," Campbell said.

For Jon Barnard, a 22-year employee and producer/director for Paws Productions who is also a local musician, the work in his favorite discipline is equally fulfilling.

"I've had an outlet for some of my music," he said, noting that what he has written has been heard on Garfield & Friends. "My stuff was on television, so that's kind of a cool thing."

Barnard and Campbell said Davis, as a boss, is unbeatable.

"He's the real deal," she noted.

But, of course, both are also employed by someone else.

"We're working for an orange cat," Campbell said, with a shrug and a grateful laugh for his animated nature. "I don't have to worry about Garfield going into rehab."

Well, she added, maybe lasagna rehab.

Among a cadre of other longtime employees, the feelings for the cat, and its creator, remain the same.

"Jim has really 'walked the talk,'" said Madelyn Ferris, Paws' senior vice-president of operations, addressing the family atmosphere here that allows all employees, even key ones, the leverage to deal with matters of family first, knowing that co-workers -- Davis included -- will back them up on the job.

"We can handle anything, temporarily," said the 24-year employee. "It's always been that way, from the day I walked in the door."

As she spoke, her little dog Cookie lounged nearby.

"We have a number of people that bring in their pets quite frequently," said Gay Nation a Georgia native who was working in New York's garment industry when Davis hired her away. She is now the director of licensee acquisition. "It really is a remarkable environment," she said.

So remarkable, she added a trifle ruefully, that after 15 years, she's still low on the proverbial seniority totem pole.

As a rule, people just don't leave Paws, so there's almost no turnover.

She's going nowhere
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