Thanks for your responses, Les.  I wonder if you could clarify a few things for me:

Why don't you add a 'search' directive to qualify a bare hostname into
your (real or made-up) domain to keep it in your own namespace?

What would you suggest here?  The servers that have static IP addresses have DNS records for hostname.loc (e.g., backuppc.loc).  However, I'm not having any problems resolving those.  Where I'm struggling is with staff laptops that connect to the network via DHCP.  How should I qualify vostro1400 to make it resolve correctly?  If I append ".loc," there still won't be a vostro1400.loc record in DNS; vostro1400 could connect with a different IP each time it comes into the office.
That seems wrong - but so does qualifying the name with a terminating
'.' in DNS.  The other way to avoid the problem would to remove the
forwarders from your dns server and let them do the job right.

I thought using forwarders was the right way to do DNS.  I admit I could be mistaken here, but if my DNS server is just mapping a few local hostnames to IPs, I need some way to return the right IP when someone asks for or some other domain outside of my control.  Is there a better way to do this?