My Favorite Office Assistant: Freelancers have a special bond with their pets

Michelle V. Rafter

When he was with me, my office assistant always let me know when a package had arrived, or if it was time for a break. He loved hanging out in the car while I ran errands, and lived for walks we took when I was frustrated with an article, or needed to stretch my legs.

It’s been almost four months since I said goodbye to Riley, my family’s wirehair fox terrier. He’d been my faithful office mate ever since we brought him home as a tiny fur ball 14 years ago. Riley was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in April 2013 and hung on for more than a year before cancer got the best of him and we had to let him go.

The initial ache of Riley’s passing has subsided, but I think about him all the time – when I get the mail, he’d insist on coming too, to wag hello to the neighbor’s dogs and sniff for squirrels. When the UPS truck pulls up now, there’s no advanced warning system telling me someone’s coming to the door.

When I wrote about losing Riley on my blog, I got an outpouring of support from freelancers whose pets past and present have been their favorite coworkers. Writers may have different interests and work habits, but the affection we feel for our dogs, cats and other pets is universal. Perhaps it’s because the unconditional love they show is the perfect antidote to a life full of rejection.

Charles Bosdet was on assignment in California when his Samoyed, TJ, died at home in Canada. “I was crazy about that dog and was so angry and hurt that I couldn’t be there to comfort him,” Bosdet says. “It’s hard to say goodbye.”

Stephanie Smith’s office dog Sandy died in July. Smith lives in Hunt County, Texas, and people abandon unwanted dogs in the area all the time. Sandy, an Australian Cattle dog, was about eight months old when she wandered onto Smith’s property. “I brought Sandy into the house and thought I would keep her until I could find her a good home,” Smith says. That was 11 years ago. In cold weather, Sandy stayed under Smith’s desk on an old piece of carpet.  When it was hot, she stretched out on the wooden floor at Smith’s back. “In reality, she always has my back,” Smith wrote me only weeks before Sandy died. Smith still has two younger dogs, “but it isn’t the same,” she says.

Jen A. Miller adopted Emily when the Jack Russell terrier was four months old. That was more than 12 years ago. “I got her about 11 months into freelancing, I even moved apartments so I could get a dog,” Miller says. “When I bought a house it had to have a backyard for her.” The New Jersey freelancer keeps early work hours, and in late afternoon, Emily bugs her until she stops for a break. “It’s her break too – she loves snoozing on top of me.”

I can see a time in my freelance future where I’ll walk and snooze with a furry office mate once again. Until then, I have memories of Riley for company.