I'll have that pen, thanks
Stellar canine staffer, you say? I’ll handle this one.
First, a technicality. I’m not so much an employee as I am the boss. I mean, it’s a pretty flat hierarchy around here but I think it’s well understood that without me on the office floor, nothing much would get done.
Nothing of consequence, anyway. Plenty of things happen in the home office without my input, but nothing important. There’s a lot of paper shuffling, some tapping at keyboards, a bit of mucking around with wire and scissors. But when it comes to progressing the world in a useful and meaningful way, meh. Could do better.
I’m not the micro-managing type; I crack no whips. I lead by suggestion, mostly. I’m all about balance. As long as we hit the main KPIs – three walks per day and some judicious thinking-lying-down – I figure the resident worker can squander a bit of time doing whatever it is that floats her boat. I want her to be happy. Frankly, I need her to be happy. The last thing I want is another recruitment drive. It was emotionally exhausting when I went through that 12 years ago. Once is enough. Okay, twice. But never again.
I was just a tiddler back then; nine months old and a bit unsure of myself. No wonder; I’d been born into a grim, commune-style situation – crowded and filthy and noisy with desperation. My depleted mother was sad and afraid, and then she was nowhere to be seen. Someone nabbed me and flew me across the continent in a really loud, really cold tin box.
I was barely 10 weeks old when I was thrust into the first big decision making role of my life: recruiting a servant. Talk about learning curve. Trapped behind glass under fluorescent lights, I relied on my wits and my youthful good looks to get out fast. I chose a family with two little kids, figuring they’d be light on boring bits and heavy on toast crusts. I was right, but they turned out to be flakes. When I had a growth spurt and woke up taller than the toddler, they all quit. On the same day.
It rattled me a bit, but I went back to the drawing board. What else is a retriever with no opposable thumbs to do? I had my eyes open this time. Scores of hopefuls filed past my virtual kennel for the next recruitment round, begging for the job. I scoured the references for someone who promised to be a bit of a pushover, with decent baking skills, no demanding co-workers and a proclivity for working from home. I offered a handsome package (wouldn’t you say?) and landed my ideal candidate.
There was never any quibble about me assuming the mantle of boss in the home office (and out of it, come to that). My new recruit accepted this with equanimity from the beginning. Like I said: pushover.
I quickly identified several vantage points from which to best supervise the goings on – under her feet, mostly – and she soon learned to be responsive when I suggested she stop messing about with screens and take us both promptly to the park, or fix something to eat, or both.
Years later, I’m pleased to say we’ve got an excellent working relationship. By now she’s quite good at intuiting my needs. Only very occasionally do I need to insist – with my death stare, usually; sometimes with a loud huff – that she drop whatever she’s doing and attend to an itch on my belly.
I’ve been a fair boss, I think. I pull my weight, too. There are some things in the office that nobody else can do quite as well as me, and I always step up for these.
Mentoring the underlings, for instance.
A bit of product testing.
Organising the social calendar
Championing non-screen time.
If there’s one thing an office doesn’t need, it’s stress heads. I like to lead by example, by lying very still. I do that in places that require the resident worker to step over or around me, rather than enjoying an unobstructed passage from A to B. This keeps her limber. She could, of course, avail herself of the office yoga amenities for that, but she never seems to. I suspect she’s a bit intimidated by my poise and ease on the mat. Not everyone is blessed with an effortless Downward Dog.
Lately I’m spending less time in the office, and more time on the big picture. Working on the business, rather than in the business, as it were. I like to reward the worker with a sense of trust; she seems to know what she's doing. To that end, I’ve taken to passing many hours stretched out in a triangle of sunshine on the daybed. I do some of my best strategic work here, a lot of blue sky thinking, some serious reflecting. I think it’s healthy to spend time away from the daily grind. It’s got nothing at all to do with my hips being arthritic and the office being up one flight of stairs.
I get interrupted a bit. Sometimes the worker appears out of nowhere (my hearing is shot, so it scares the bejesus out of me every time) and throws herself down beside me, wraps her arms around my neck, ruffles my hair and tells me she’ll miss me when I’m gone.
I’m not sure how this would fly in the face of a #MeToo-style inquiry, but I turn a blind eye. She’s just a bit needy. Sometimes she gets teary. That’s where I draw the line; I don’t think displays of emotion at work are really appropriate, unless it’s about something serious like imminent starvation or similar. I try not to encourage it. I walk a few paces, stretch out long and sigh heavily. It’s my way of saying ‘Yeah, just let me know when you’ve really got something to cry about.’ Perspective is a top-down thing, as I see it.
I get a sense something’s coming. Maybe it’s a gold watch and a handshake, but I kind of hope not. I mean, sure, I’ve put in some solid years of service, but retirement? I think it’s clear things would fall apart pretty quickly without me.
The post-walk walks would stop. The power naps would go by the wayside. The days would get frittered away in a litany of mind numbing ‘tasks’ that contribute nothing to the bottom line. Heaven forbid, the worker might even accept a job off site, which is something I made clear was absolutely forbidden when I first hired her. What would be the point of that?
Let’s just say I’ll keep the boss’ seat warm until some young upstart comes along with their new-fangled ideas, nipping at my heels. I’ll be gracious, don’t worry. I’ll accept a ceremonial position. ‘Top Dog at Large’ has a nice ring to it. Maybe ‘Top Dog at Large: the Original and the Best.’
I can live with that.
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