An Irish Pup Called Guinness Saved My Work Life
My emPAWee of the month--nay, the year
I had to reprimand my emPAWyee at the end of his first day on the job. He’d broken all of the office rules: no making out with the owner, no pooping on the floor, and no licking of one’s own butt. But I saw something special in Guinness—and he encouraged me on rungs no other employee’s ladder even reached.
I don’t let Ted from Marketing jump in my lap and smother my face with kisses. And Becky in HR would have a field day firing my dog hire. If I didn’t work from home, my employees would accuse me of favoritism—and they’d be right. But Guinness will stay on my lap despite the naysayers. The part Black Labrador and full phenomenal puppy proved vital to my work progress.
Guinness jumped into work and, into my heart
In September 2020, my intelligent, encouraging little brother, Matt, tragically and unexpectedly, passed away. In the haze of a grief tsunami, I scurried to fly 1300 miles from my home in Colorado to my family in Maryland. I spent twenty-four hours treading through a molasses swamp while I booked my flights and tried to lock away my life until I could return to it.
I had just started work as an editor for a humor publication, and the submission queue awaited me in a long, snaky line. I couldn’t leave my work behind. I lugged my laptop on my flight, but the blinking cursor served as an alarm to my heartache. And, I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t write or edit a word.
After I landed, my sister Heidi and brother-in-law, Jamie, met me at the airport. We shared hugs and tears before journeying to the Annapolis Bed and Breakfast that served as our home for the next week. At week’s end, we drug our fatigued souls two hours away, to their home in Berlin, MD—just outside of Ocean City.
My head swam in stormy emotional seas, and I continued to dive into the molasses until we hit the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Often considered one of the scariest bridges in the U.S., the Chesapeake Bay Bridge soothes me—no anxiety here as the bridge shakes over the majestic span of the Atlantic Ocean’s Gateway.
I found myself yearning to greet Heidi’s dog, Guinness. Guinness and I have become best friends through my visits, and I needed the unconditional overwhelming love of a dog.
Guinness greeted me at the front door. I hadn’t seen him in almost a year, but he recognized me right away. As soon as Jamie opened the door, my best dog friend pushed his way past his owners. Guinness leaped up and poured his love onto me. Joy spread through my soul and landed in my heart.
I commented on the need to catch up on work in the next few days. Heidi beamed with an idea.
“Guinney can be your helper while we’re at work,” she exclaimed. “He’s got a great eye for writing!”
We jokingly set up a chair at the dining room table next to my makeshift writing office. The sign-on bonus perks of a comfy pillow and a bone enticed Guinness. I hired the pup with only the promise of snuggles and walks.
Guinness never left my side as I sat with my family and decompressed from our week of grief and intensity. When my sister admonished him for jumping up on the couch, he shot her a look that said, “Sarah needs me. I’m not going anywhere.”
I fell asleep on the couch with Guinness curled up by my side. Warmth flooded my soul. I felt safe and loved. I was happy about my assistant hire—no interview or talk about “our team,” “thinking outside the box,” or his strengths and weaknesses needed.
In the morning, after I’d settled in at my laptop, an internal heavy metal band pounded at my brain. The same overwhelming grief and panic I’d experienced on the plane smacked me again. I froze—unable to write any of the words trapped inside. Guinness watched me for a moment from his Assistant Chair and then jumped into my lap. The kisses commenced until I fell in a fit of giggles.
I’d given Guinness a Code of Conduct to sign, but he gobbled it up and wagged his tail instead. His expertise in how to love a human surpassed any employment rules. And, I began to write with my best friend sitting in my lap.
Guinness never made my coffee or answered any emails. His PowerPoint skills are zilch. In regards to work, he was worthless. But he gave me the strength to work.
Although he’s my sister’s dog, I’ve adopted Guinness as my own too. An ache in my heart stabs me when I hear him bark over the phone. Our connection is real and valid. This ten year-old dog has always served a special purpose on this Earth, and I’m so grateful he has made me part of his mission.
The dog born to heal hearts
Guinness, a mutt with apparent Labrador heritage, spent the first five years of puppy life with a smart, compassionate, creative twenty-something boy who I’ll call Rory. Rory grew up in Ocean City, MD, and like so many in resort towns, he found himself with nothing to do in the off-season.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Ocean City swells with tourists and fun, ocean-based activities. But by mid-October, most shops have closed, and a bleak gray pallor hangs in the air. Bitter cold Atlantic winds stab through layers of clothes, and those with little money or career prospects can find the demons of depression lurking around the winter corners.
Rory fell into the” hidden in plain sight” world of opiate addiction. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t shake the habit that devoured his life. He spent some time on the streets and couch-surfing with friends. When Guinness found him, Rory had a reason to commit to life again. The young pup appeared, and Rory devoted himself to giving Guinness the best dog life possible. Unfortunately, Rory succumbed to his addiction. Through a serendipitous journey of events, Rory’s mom reached out to Heidi and asked if she could home Guinness.
My sister has been a dog parent many times over. She’s notorious for having out-of-control dogs that don’t “gel” with her household. But Guinness won Heidi over in seconds. She and Jamie fell for his open heart and affable wags and kisses. And, Guinness barked with loyalty and deep love for them too.
When Guinness became my temporary emPAWyee, he had many years of healing broken hearts under his belt. His actions didn’t fit his job description, but he gave me what I didn’t know I needed.
The EmPAWyee of the Month and forever
Guinness’s days under my employ included an unfortunate “Circle of Poop” incident. Engrossed in my writing, I didn’t realize he needed to go back outside again. He didn’t bark but waited patiently at the back door. When he couldn’t get my attention, he pooped on the living room floor—in a circle.
Once, when I read a paragraph aloud, hoping for feedback, he ignored me. I glanced over my shoulder and found him licking his butt. I would never let this outlandish behavior slide with anyone else. But Guinness gets a free pass.
On day two, I had a mini-breakdown. Nothing sparked the tears—just the rawness of the loss of my brother, still painful when nudged. Guinness sprinted from the other room where I’d sent him on his lunch break. He could sense my tears and decided his job was to kiss them away. He didn’t leave my side for the rest of the day.
For now, Guinness works remotely. I haven’t gotten home for a visit in many months—although I have a desperate desire to do so, life issues have kept my butt firmly planted in Colorado’s Rockies. But Guinness barks when I chat with Heidi. He reminds me he’s always ready to get back to work. I chose Guinness as my emPAWyee of the Month because his love and loyalty never waver. He sees into the hearts of people and stands willing to heal hurting humans in need. I’m looking for my own dog now—a puppy who will work in my “office,” but no animal can ever take the place of Guinness.