Working at home, but never alone

my two dogs, one curled up on the love seat and the other stretched out on an arm

my two dogs, one curled up on the love seat and the other stretched out on an arm

I work at home. But I don’t work alone.

Above is the mellow Lab assistant, Maggie, curled up on the loveseat in about the smallest circle her 85ish pounds can make. Above her is our high-spirited puppy, Abbey, whose parents are a black Lab and a fox-colored golden retriever. (Apparently the whole “fox” thing is controversial in the dog world. We don’t care.)

The occasion for the moment? Watching the mail carrier from his truck a block-plus away, walking the opposite side of the street, past us, down a block and a half, then crossing the street and getting EVER CLOSER, until he’s finally AT OUR HOUSE. MOM! He’s AT OUR HOUSE!

Never mind that the same thing happens six days a week. It remains of great fascination. And while Matt The Mailman likes dogs, he does not like being jumped on, and the dumb white one does precisely that, so she has to stay inside. Plus it’s about 10 degrees right now just off the Saginaw Bay, so it’s not like she can spend very long outdoors anyway, certainly not long enough to watch his whole loop.

Maggie is no less excited about the mail, and when she is outside she wags her whole hind end, sometimes barking deeply in appreciation. Matt has learned that despite how frightening she looks to some people, the only danger is in being licked to death.

At 7 1/2, she is becoming selective about how she spends her energy. When she became the only animal in the house a few months ago, we thought a puppy might perk her up, both emotionally and physically. She did indeed lose weight, and although she never has had a litter of her own, her mothering instincts proved solid.

puppy chewing on older dog's leg while getting face licked clean

Here’s something else that happens pretty much every day.

Abbey has entropion, which means her eyelids turn in and the lashes irritate her eyes, causing a steady tearlike drainage. (It’s better some days than others, but if she doesn’t grow out of it in the next few months she’ll have surgery.)

Being an 8-month-old puppy, she also gnaws a lot. So Abbey chews on Maggie’s front leg while Maggie licks Abbey’s eyes and face clean.

Other notes from the photos: Yes, that is a kennel under a table covered by a cloth. Maggie has not been crated for years, but Abbey is still prone to adopt and chew on inappropriate objects, so she is kenneled while we sleep.

And the Eggo box in the top photo? Abbey was given that. I keep a stash, especially handy when some uninterrupted project time is needed. Because boxes are the BEST. THING. EVER. (Mom, are you done with that?)


The Lab assistant

The Lab assistant

The Lab assistant

Growing up, I often wanted a dog. I’m not sure why, other than we didn’t have one and, well, didn’t all kids want dogs? I don’t recall the reason given for not having one, but I’m sure a) it was BS and b) it did me no lasting damage.
I remember being around dogs. There was Lucy, my grandmother’s beagle mix. There was Ringo, my grandfather’s beagle, who was the subject of a very bad poem that ended with “poor dead Ringo.” There was my friend’s arthritic Chihuahua that screamed shrilly every time it took a wrong step at the end of the driveway.
At my house, no such luck. We had a chameleon and later a turtle. These are both about the lamest pets imaginable.
Sometime as a young adult I got the idea that I preferred cats, and as a newlywed I acquired two of them. When we bought a house, my Brittany-loving husband got one of those, and I became convinced that I didn’t like dogs. They had to be let in and out all the time and Lord, were they needy. And hyper? Don’t get me started.
Then my son announced that he wanted a black Lab. We protested that we didn’t need a loveseat-sized animal whose care surely would fall to us, but eventually we relented and I learned two things: My son really could and would take care of his dog. And I could and would love her.
Turns out, it’s not dogs I dislike. IT’S BRITTANIES. We are on our second one and I try to calm her by greeting and petting her most days, but I don’t think her temperament and mine ever will meld that well.
The Lab, on the other hand, is the picture of contentment. She is the ultimate companion animal, happy to hang alongside as I attend to … whatever. Outside this is unfortunate sometimes, as I have swung a trowel in my hand into her head more than once; she seems not to notice.
More often, she is encamped next to me on the couch. Sometimes her head slops onto the laptop and she has to be nudged aside; sometimes my foot falls asleep beneath her and has to be dislodged. Sometimes, though, the head or the foot stays right where it is.
Maybe I’ve become a companion animal, too.