Currently, one of my colleagues is itching himself rather loudly. Another is laying with her head in front of the window, eagerly awaiting the afternoon arrival of her most-hated person: the mailman.
Trust me when I say that this introduction becomes a lot less disturbing when I clarify the fact that my only “co-workers” are my dogs.
Day in and day out, I work from home—which means that my mutts, Bert and Gracie, are the only ones here to listen to my venting sessions about a difficult client or my ramblings about an overwhelming to-do list.
Here’s the thing: They never actually respond to me (save for a pitiful glance that I’m sure is meant to portray, “Why are you asking me these questions I can’t answer, you pathetic woman?”).
But, just because we can’t communicate in the way that most normal colleagues do doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot by having these two pooches as my daily team members. Here are just some of the many, many lessons these furry troublemakers have taught me.
1. Persistence Pays Off
My dogs are nothing if not determined. If I put a beloved toy or bone out of reach? They’ll literally move furniture in order to access it. When they don’t want to be stuck in their kennels? They’ll fiddle with the latch until the door opens.
But, my ever-persistent pups? They serve as a constant reminder that I’ll find a way around anything—as long as I just keep trying (by the way, Bert did eventually get the bone off of that desk).
2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
To be clear—my dogs really get worked up about the small things. A delivery on the doorstep accompanied by a ring of the doorbell clearly signifies the end of the world for them.
But, after they’ve barked and sprinted around like a bunch of crazed gremlins for two minutes? They curl back up, close their eyes, and resume their snoring—like nothing ever happened.
For someone like me—who’s a self-proclaimed champion grudge-holder—that concept seems so foreign. When something gets me bent out of shape, I’ll continue to obsess over it for the rest of the day (or, perhaps more honestly, the entire week).
My dogs? They inspire me to just let things go—at least until the doorbell rings again.
3. Occasional Breaks Are Necessary
I’ve never been great at taking breaks from my work. Pressing pause on my to-do list and stepping away from my desk always leaves me feeling totally guilt-ridden and lazy.
However, there’s nothing like a dog twitchily dozing in the afternoon sun to remind you of the fact that a little self-care is important every now and then.
Plus, a mandatory mid-day walk is just the ticket to force you to take some much-needed time away.
4. People Aren’t Mind Readers
Obviously, my dogs and I can’t communicate in the same way—but, that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate at all. In fact, these pooches are some of the most direct and honest conversationalists I’ve ever interacted with.
If Gracie wants a belly rub? She rolls over onto her back in a really pathetic way so that there’s no mistaking what she’s looking for. When Bert wants a bite of whatever I’m eating? He sits there and stares unblinkingly at my food.
Is it obnoxious? Slightly. But, it also makes me painfully aware of the fact that nobody is a mind reader. If you want something—whether it’s a promotion, a recommendation, or something else entirely—you need to make it known. After all, nobody is going to do it for you.
5. It’s Good to Try New Things
I’m someone who loves the stability and security of my comfort zone. In those rare instances when I do briefly dip my toe into some unfamiliar waters? You can bet you’ll hear me panicking about it for a solid few days.
My dogs, in contrast, are all about what’s fresh and exciting. A new walking route? So many great smells! A stranger? Even more people to pet them! An indestructible toy? They’ll take that challenge.
Even Bert wore his winter booties (a necessity to survive a winter in Wisconsin) with style and confidence—despite the fact that he was clearly uncomfortable.
There’s a lot to be said for contentment and security. But, if you ask my dogs, they’ll tell you that there’s nothing wrong with the new and slightly scary either.
Having dogs as my only colleagues definitely comes with its ups and downs (and its fair share of phone calls that are interrupted by incessant barking).
But, it’s also a solid reminder that you can learn a lot from anyone or anything—whether it’s a book, a mentor, a boss, or a co-worker (of either the human or the four-legged variety). Obviously, as much as I like to think I’m the one doing all of the teaching when it comes to my pups, they’re always quick to prove me wrong.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author