Pets in the Workplace

August 13th, 2014
Matt,
Quick note . . . I think your dog hates me. Last time you brought Patches into the office he wagged his tail as I was petting him, but yesterday there was a coldness in his gaze that I found unsettling. I think you should talk to him. Or I could. Just let me know what makes the most sense to you.

Regards,
David

August 19th, 2014
Tricia,
Do you know if Pippy is unhappy with something I said to her this last Friday? I was honestly just trying to keep up the banter when I asked her if she was a pretty bird. I wasn’t trying to be weird. But then she didn’t say anything, and I felt like she might have taken it weird, or maybe she was just messing with me? Are cockatoos into those kinds of mind games? Maybe next time you bring her to work you should just avoid me.

Regards,
David

August 23rd, 2014
All,
I’m writing a formal apology for last night. I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress as we’ve been closing in on the merger, but that’s no excuse. To make it clear, Ben is not fired. I would never fire anyone for something his or her cats did. I do not retract my statements about Pepper and Jocasta (the sooner they’re burning in hell the better), but I admit that I went overboard when I threatened to bag Henrietta and tie her to the nearest pitbull.

It seems likely to me now that she didn’t realize what a zen garden is for and that I misinterpreted her natural curiosity—and then her natural waste voiding functions—as her calling my newfound interest in Buddhism pretentious. Normally, I would say that ignorance isn’t really an excuse, but I think animals deserve a little leeway as we humans have persecuted them ceaselessly since we dethroned them as rulers of the earth in the ‘60s.

Apologies,
David Henry
CEO of Trailway Industries

Pets in the Workplace

Friendly Dog Wreaks Havoc on Playground

Several weeks ago I saw a happy dog jumping around a playground, running up and down the stairs of one of those conglomeration of slides and bridges and climbing walls. I completely enjoyed watching the dog enjoy himself. But not simply because the dog was following the inscrutable dictates of joy. I enjoyed watching the dog because of the swath of terror he left in his wake. The dog didn’t frolic by himself around an empty playground. It was occupied, and nearly full. Children screamed. Mothers screamed. Children and mothers together fled in terror. It was a scene like something. A grown man pointed and shouted and shooed. “Go away, dammit,” he said, in shaking voice. He tried other line readings. “Go away, dammit. Go away, dammit.”

Nothing about the situation looked dire to me. But clearly no one on the playground owned the dog. His enthusiasm was upsetting for everyone. If you’re interested in keeping things humane, as everyone on the playground was, there’s not a lot you can do to discourage a happy dog from his happiness. Dogs are notorious for their disregard of strong language.

The man eventually stepped his game up to stomping. He blocked the dog’s path across the bridge leading from slide to another. He stomped at the dog in imitation of violence. This heightened the dog’s experience of the moment. The dog popped himself onto his hind legs and then brought his front paws on the bridge, in mimic of the man’s stomping.

The dog’s unswerving interpretation of every act of discouragement as an act of play made the man’s hostility ridiculous.

The dog bolted for the ground. The man ran down the stairs. He blocked the dog’s progress again. The dog stomped for him again. The man made throwing gestures at the dog. The dog followed the motions. The man yelled and pretended to throw handfuls of nothing right at the dog’s head. The dog snapped its head around to catch the nothing. The man began to change the arc of his throw. The dog continued to follow it, first with his eyes, then, as the man began to pretend to throw nothing further, the dog ran a little ways toward where he judged the nothing would fall. Then he ran back to the man and dropped nothing at his feet. The man pretended to pick it up. He threw it again. As the dog ran out it happened across a stick. He picked up the stick, assumed that this is what they’d been pretending to throw. He brought it back to the man. The man threw it and the dog brought it back. Eventually the dog got tired of this and left.

The dog saw the situation as play. The man saw it as conflict. The dog’s view of things won.

Friendly Dog Wreaks Havoc on Playground

Dog Considering His Owner

Dog Considering His OwnerThe truth is, I’m scared of the old lady. I’m still very scared, even after so many years. I’m aware that I’m not her first. She has pictures of my predecessors. Maybe they’re my betters. I don’t know. Currently, I have to be better than them, because I’m still alive. And they’re all dead. I’m not sure where they go, but there’s a canine scent and the salty tang of something dead in the corner of the backyard, underground. I usually don’t go over there when I’m out. She puts her precious things underground, which is an impulse I recognize. Stows them for later.

Reasoning by analogy, I will probably join them over there. I’ve seen a dead dog before. I know we’re not immortal. A sibling of mine, before our eight weeks with our mom were up, got thrown against a tree repeatedly by a child. It’s sad to see a puppy all still and free of this vale of tears before he even knew tears about stuff other than like not getting fed right when he wanted or our mom stepping on his foot a little as she got out of the box. He never had to spend the night on linoleum, lying in his own puddle of pee, whimpering for something familiar, like I did the first night I came here.

She’s fine. Don’t be mistaken, she’s nice. But we just don’t spark.

And she seems to have gone on forever. She’s had so many of us. She’ll be here after I’m gone. My lifespan is like a little parentheses in hers. Assuming she has a lifespan. Don’t laugh at me, but I’m not sure that she, or they, die. I mean it makes sense that they would, don’t misunderstand me. They’re flesh like us.

I’ve had talks with that flippin crazy Bouvier down the street who sunk a tooth or two into his master. It didn’t earn him any points. Then he told me he was going to before he went after that kid’s face and after that came home from the vet wrapped in an old Garfield beach towel, smelling not rotted but stopped. It makes you realize that living things have a propelled smell. It’s almost not a smell, somehow behind the smell.

The point is, even though they’re flesh too, they last, don’t they? Don’t blame me for imagining that there’s something special about them.

When she chunks the food bowl down and rattles out the bits, I always try to resist it, the way I try to stay away from my own grassy vomit piles, but I can’t. From wherever I am in the house I move myself there with speed. My tail goes. I wish I could stop it. They show it all in their faces, or that laughing. I’ve got a clipped tail with which to express myself. I think it’s unfortunate that I’m so limited, broad. Do you want to know if I’m happy? Is the tail going? Is it whipping back and forth like one of those springy stoppers behind a door after you give it a smack it with a paw? Yes? Then your question is answered.

It’s strange though that she has existed so long before me and will exist after me. They feel like that about what? About mountains? About bodies of water? They feel existentially dwarfed by what? By who? Probably nothing.

Image by Gabe Stevenson

Dog Considering His Owner