Monday, October 10, 2005

Take Your Dog To Work Day

The oft-referenced unnamed e-commerce giant for whom I work has a couple of odd holdovers from its days as a startup. One is that we all work on "door-desks", which are fashioned from a birchwood door you might buy at a hardware store, four two-by-twos, and some corner braces (and which, when our founder famously built them by hand when the business was headquartered in his garage, were surely cheaper that buying office supply desks. Now that we've got 50,000 of them, I imagine they aren't). Another is that they allow dogs in the main corporate offices, so on every floor of the Pacific Medical Building in Seattle, there are four or five dogs roaming the halls.

We are the proud owners of a very intelligent, very neurotic border collie (the fact that she knows the word "neurotic" about sums it up) named Calli, and until Friday, I'd never brought her in to work, reasoning that she doesn't play well with other dogs, and likes people a little bit too much (so much so that she'll readily jump up on somebody who appears like they might pay her some attention). Also, not everybody likes dogs, and even if it's already part of the corporate environment, you never want to add to the annoyance of someone who's already having to suffer the hostility of a dog-ridden place of employment.

Unfortunately, the "Not Everybody" who likes dogs has lately included the people who live in our building, who have started complaining to us that she's barking all the time when we're not there, and since we're never ever ever ever going to find a house, it seemed like a good idea not to anger them all. With me working and L. teaching full time, Calli was spending a lot of the weekday alone, so on Friday I brought her in to the office for the first time, with not a little trepidation that she might freak out in a new environment. She is, after all, almost completely neurotic.

I believe about dogs the same thing I believe about very small children, which is that they are pretty much reflections of the energy (substitute for "energy" your favorite word that encapsulates the concept I'm about to outline) that's in their environment, filtered through their own dogness, or small-child-ness (actually, I believe that about people, too, it's just that dogs and small children don't have spoken language, and that makes the phenomenon more interesting). (Okay, what am I saying, I believe this about everything, animate and not: a topic for a future post, no doubt). A barking dog is reflecting stress in its environment, a crying child reflecting sadness in his or hers. You could argue that the dog is barking because the dog is stressed, the child is crying because it is sad (or hungry, or whatever), but like the Buddhists and a fair share of philosophers, I argue that such an isolated self doesn't exist (or, I should say, this model is less illuminating), that there is no barrier that distinguishes between the self and the non-self, just one long slippery slope (again, post for another time). And it's funny, but I think being a dog owner is the thing that solidified this concept in my mind.

Calvino: Whoa! Hold on there. Are you about to make some point about how your dog is some essential and inextractable part of your own self?

The Stoat: Well, actually, this was supposed to be a post about how Calli came to work and was an incredibly good dog and everyone loved her. But it, like everything else that ever appears in this blog, has devolved into a mass of Existentia. Anyway, yes, I would make that point.

Calvino: This is your dog you're talking about, right? Your pet. The thing that obsessively fetches tennis balls and is terrified of bugs?

The Stoat: And spends hours lying on the floor, idly chewing on her own paws, yes. That dog.

Calvino: You are one weird dude. And I'm pretty sure "Existentia" isn't a word.

The Stoat: Whatever. Language doesn't work that way.

I don't know if I meant this entry to be a Chicken-Soup-For-The-Soul, Lessons-Our-Dogs-Teach-Us story (as reflected through the Odds Are One's metaphor for being, whatever that is), but I brought the dog in on Friday, she met the other dogs and the other people and settled right in. She curls up on the floor or wanders through the halls into other people's offices (so that they can pet her, natch)--a coworker said to me, "You should bring her into work every day, it's so relaxing to have a dog just walk into your office. You can pet her for five minutes and then go back to what you were doing." I felt like a proud parent.

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