“You work from home?” our friends asked, “How do you ever get anything done with these pets around?” It was a legitimate question. As they asked, our younger cat, who at 2 years old is a hilarious perpetual motion machine, was chasing a toy mouse under a paper bag. Our dog, a 7-years-young standard poodle, was dancing around the living room, excited to impress our guests by showing off his entire toy collection. Our older cat sat stoically in the windowsill, watching all of this activity with disdain.
“Yes,” I admitted, “sometimes it is hard to get things done around here.” My partner and I are freelance computer consultants: he does back-end server administration, I build websites. We have spent the past five years building up a successful business, and one of our big reasons for becoming freelancers was so that we could have the freedom to work from home. As anyone who works from home can tell you, balancing life and work when it all happens within the same walls can be quite a challenge, and one of the major elements in that challenge for us is our pets.
In some ways, the pets can hurt our productivity. Pangur Ban, our younger cat, is extremely active, and often gets bored. He’ll wander around the house yowling for someone to play with him, and it’s hard not to oblige, especially because he is so fun to play with. He’ll steal food from our older cat, Adeen, which means that we have to sit in the bathroom with her while she eats to make sure she gets all of her food. And I won’t even go into how hard it is to debug code when a cat has been sitting on the keyboard. Our dog, Archibald, is always eager for a belly rub, and so appreciative that it’s hard to resist. He is a very active dog, and needs lots of exercise. Of course, our mid-day walk/run around Seattle’s Greenlake with him is great for our minds and bodies as well. Sometimes, though, he needs that walk right when we’re in the middle of accomplishing things, and it can be tough to get back into the groove after an hour outside.
But there are times when the pets are good for productivity. Adeen often wants to sit in someone’s lap in the afternoon. Being stuck under a purring cat means we can’t get up and get a cup of tea or go to the bathroom or wander around the house – we’re stuck at our desks, so we might as well keep working. Even though walking the dog sometimes breaks up a productive day, I think it is more common that problems that seemed unsolvable before the walk are suddenly easy to handle after a walk, with the mental clarity that comes from outdoor exercise.
From our pets’ perspective, of course, it is absolutely wonderful having the humans around all the time, and you can see it in their personalities. When we first rescued our dog at the age of 5, he had separation anxiety problems. The fact that we are home most of the time, and usually only leave the house for short whiles, gave him confidence that we will always come back for him. Now his separation anxiety has almost entirely gone away. Working from home made it possible for us to rehabilitate a wonderful dog that other people might not have been able to help.
Since our pets interact with us all day long, they are incredibly social with humans. Lots of people have come to our house and, after just a few minutes, have said, “Wow, I don’t normally like cats, but your cat is wonderful!” This is because Pangur Ban has been raised from a kitten in a household with humans around all the time, and he interacts with humans all day long. He’ll play hide and seek with us, and loves to be chased around the house, and to chase us back. He might attack in play, but he rarely uses his claws or teeth. We are very fortunate to be able to work from home, and despite our occasional grumbles about being distracted from work, we are even more lucky to have such a wonderful household full of loving pets.
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