I like to put twists on well-known slogans. Often these are inspired by my dog and are best uttered followed by a heavy sigh. For example, according to those touching Johnson & Johnson commercials, “having a baby changes everything.” But shortly after acquiring our dog Graham, I realized that having a dog ruins everything—furniture, the lawn, the freedom to travel at will, etc.
Someone else beat me to the canine variation of “God is my co-pilot.” Now both the original and “dog is my co-pilot” are popular bumper stickers sayings meant to reassure us that we do not travel alone through life. If we have faith, the original version says, God is always with us. The latter affirms the benefits of life with a dog (for dog lovers, at least).
My adaptation, “dog is my office mate,” is more lament than celebration. I theoretically believe that dogs do make good companions, but the benefits don’t necessarily extend to the home office.
Graham is unquestionably my office mate, having established his own headquarters under my desk. I do enjoy his company and having a warm, soft place to rest my feet, and I’m grateful for the excuse to break for an afternoon walk every day. But it’s another story when a phone call is drowned out by hysterical barking or I’m disconnected from the Internet when a 90-pound dog gets tangled in the computer cables. I’m sure other dog-owning telecommuters have similar experiences, but “working” with this dog has raised an unanticipated issue.
I had imagined one of the joys of freelancing would be working from my back porch on nice days. But Graham is unable to relax outside, like normal dogs, I tell him. Summer is not his season, particularly when there are bugs about. He tracks flying insects with wolf-like intensity and attacks with lightning speed, using his entire body as a frog would use its tongue. Not only is his vigilance distracting, it’s exhausting for us both, and after a short session he has to retreat inside. As he also has separation anxiety, if I don’t go in with, him he wants to come back outside—for thirty seconds, so I spend a lot of time getting up to open the door.
This may be good for my quads, but it really cuts down on my productivity. That’s my excuse anyway, though I’m sure I could find other work-avoidance distractions if needed. It’s another twist on an old saying—my office mate ate all my work time! Dogs are convenient for getting us out of stuff. Now it’s time for our walk.