Find yourself at home these days? What does your pet think about it?
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By Ned Lundquist, ABC
Editor and publisher of the “Job of the Week”
Many communicators are at home these days, either because they’ve become independents by choice or their employer made them so. This has a big impact on pets that now have humans around during the daytime.
“What you humans fail to understand is how the basic cat mind works,” says Safira, whose business card says she’s a “Purebred Siamese-Dominant Cat.”
“The server of my food is forever asking me why I don't want her attention when she is not on the computer,” says Safira, who “belongs to” freelancer Cindee Lee Thomas of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Woodbridge, Virginia. “I would think that would be obvious. If I demand attention when there is nothing else competing for it, there really is no triumph in winning it. However, when that computer fires up, I can be pretty sure that, not only will I have some competition for it, but that said competition will be of fairly major significance. Not like winning her away from marginal television fare. Oh no, this is a task that she is fairly devoted to completing. So, if I win her away from this I have won something truly worth winning.”
Working from home can be traumatic for people as well as pets.
The first time Sandy Nelson tried working from home was in 1999 after she'd been unceremoniously fired from a DC PR firm. Nelson, vice president of public affairs for MemberWorks, was living with her best friend in a town house on Capitol Hill at the time. Several of her clients asked me to continue working for them on a contract basis, so her roommate generously suggested I turn their dining room into a temporary office.
“What a total disaster!” Her two dogs (name) a lab-Chihuahua mix and (name) and a 150 lb. Rottweiler agreed. “The house was a mess. Sandy felt that there's just no way to really get organized without a proper office, and we felt she had no right working when we wanted to play. We found it terribly amusing to wrestle and make a ton of noise whenever she was on an important phone call. Her office was in the middle of our house, and she always left that damn computer on. She couldn’t walk by the PC without checking on it every time she went to the kitchen. She lasted six months before she jumped at an opportunity in another firm downtown.”
“ We think she wanted to get out of the house more than she wanted a job!”
Bristow, Virginia-based freelancer Jim Parsons has been sharing a home with his VP of sales and marketing, Bob the Cat, for four years. They’ve worked out a good partnership.
“As with most other newly minted freelancers, I had a lot of time on my hands during those early months, explains Parsons. “I shared an apartment at the time, and my roommate had two cats. One day, frustrated by a silent telephone, I told the cats that if they helped me get a new project, I'd give them some tuna. Well, a day or two later, the phone did ring with a new job. Being a man of my word, I doled out the tuna, which they happily lapped up. When things slowed down again, I made the same offer. Rrrrrinng…meow meow…lap lap lap. I figured I was on to something.
”Not long after moving to my own place, Bob “joined” my household. I immediately made him the same offer–new work for me means tuna commissions for you. Now, it's become a bit of ritual/celebration; the Friday after getting a new project, Bob and I share a can of tuna at lunchtime.”
And when you think about it, Bob has a pretty good deal.
“I get the title, the salary and the sales commission,“ says Bob. “I get room and board, medical coverage, and a constant supply of toys. And Jim doesn’t like to talk about this, but I also have I full death benefits when the time comes.”
Bob provides an additional benefit to Jim. “There is more here than just rewarding a cat for sleeping all day,” says Parsons. “As you know, Ned, our profession has a large percentage of women, who generally dig cats. (I think it's a chromosome thing, along with their loving chocolate and hating the Three Stooges.) Describing this little ritual with Bob has become an ideal icebreaker, and a source of conversation with clients and colleagues. I get lots of “How's Bob?” questions during calls and at IABC. Bob is also featured on my website, and some new clients already know all about him when they first contact me. I sometimes think the critter is better known than I am.”
Bob usually keeps his own daily schedule of eating, sleeping, pooping, shedding, peeing, and monitoring activity in the neighborhood. “He'll often come into my office looking to play fetch (he retrieves little nerf balls), or parade in front of my keyboard and monitor to remind me that he is one to be adored, or that he hasn't been fed in an hour or so,” says Parsons. Other times, he'll plop down on my desk (usually atop the notes I'm working from) to provide what I suppose is his version of quality control.
And here's the topper, says Bob. “When our day's work is done, and if it's still daylight and warm outside, Jim takes out the leash. I walk him.”
Eccentric? It may explain why Parsons is still single. “But,” Jim admits, “it's also another story that wows clients and keeps me in their mental rolodexes.”
Pat Valdata, a communicator from Elton, MD, thinks people who work at home should have animals. One of the big pitfalls, to working at home is the tendency to work more than 9-to-5. “It's very easy to merge personal time with business time and to spend more time than you should in front of a computer screen. I am lucky to have a dog with a good internal clock.”
Chunks, her black standard poodle, lets her work all morning with no
interruptions. “If she hasn’t taken a break by mid-afternoon,” Chunks says, “I swat her with my with her paw to remind me that it's break time. After we go outside and throw the toy of the day, I let her continue working until around 6
pm, at which time I swat her again to say ‘enough already.’”
As I sit here at my computer, my son’s cat, Thomasina, is sitting on my lap and biting me each time I use the shift key. Our dog, Pua, is looking out the window, ready to warn us of people walking down the street. My daughter’s cat, Cappucina, is asleep on the pillow. She couldn’t be bothered.
*** Ned Lundquist, ABC, (email@example.com), who writes this column when he gets mad about something, also writes the free Job of the Week networking newsletter for communications professionals from his home in Springfield, Virginia. (To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to: JOTWfirstname.lastname@example.org. To read this list on the web, visit: http://www.topica.com/lists/JOTW.) He will be leading a seminar at the next Ragan Communications Conference for pets on working with humans. This column was prepared while wearing a U.S. Navy Supply Corps Bicentennial (1795-1995) “Ready for Sea” T- shirt; The Sopranos/HBO/IABC ball cap; and drinking coffee from a Fox News Channel – “We Report – You Decide – Easy Decision” travel mug.