As an RVer, I was already familiar with the concept of working remotely. My job working for an internet media company that caters to the RV lifestyle affords me the opportunity to do so as frequently as I wish. I have the luxury of working from the road or even working from home, if desired.
With that being said, I still cling to my more corporate roots and tend to go into the office daily when we are not RVing. COVID-19 has changed that. I am quickly learning the difference between working during those extended RV trips and working from home. Working from home has gone to the dogs.
Working in an RV
As any RVer will tell you, life exists in a 200-400 square foot living space, depending on the size of your camper, travel trailer, 5th-wheel or motorhome. If you are a dog owner, your K9 companions share that space with you.
Life revolves around meals and taking the dogs out, whether for an invigorating hike, or a nice walk to the dog park. It’s a fairly structured existence, and your furry friends generally know what to expect.
Working from home
It’s quite different at home. At home, the little furballs are on their turf. They have free reign in the house and yard, traversing between the two, courtesy of a well-worn dog door. Despite the extended square footage my home provides, I’m finding it harder to work from home than I did in the RV.
In essence, working from home has gone to the dogs, as an outline of my day will show. You should know now that my wife and I have seven miniature dachshunds, so I’ll understand if you don’t fully trust my judgment.
4:30am – For some reason, this is the approved time our pack of little dogs seem to have mutually agreed that I should wake up. I was not privy to the vote that must have occurred, nor was I given a chance to appeal. I suspect the younger dogs may have bribed the oldest one with a dog biscuit, as I’m quite sure he had no intention of getting up this early either.
4:45am – The pups have all had a morning treat, went outside to do their business, and are firmly ensconced in their beds and sound asleep again. I, on the other hand, have just managed to get coffee poured and made it to my office for some quiet time. Looking around I see the three youngest pups layered upon each other as they inhabit a large dog bed in my office.
6:30am – Having had plenty of time to wake up and get my day started, it’s time to work out. With the gym closed due to the coronavirus, I’ll have to do so from home.
I have a nice set of barbells, courtesy of my dear wife and a highly celebrated December holiday. I also have a pair of those spinning push-up disc things that cut your palms when you use them.
The workout goes well, as long as I’m standing. Once I hit the floor, however, it rapidly decays. Somehow, doing push-ups has triggered an instinctive response for the dogs to surround me. Some go underneath me, some climb on my back, and still, others are attempting to lick my face. The push-ups are over barely after they begin. I’ll have to remember to go to a different room or shoo them out before I start next time.
6:52am – After my failed workout, I opt to work for a bit before grabbing breakfast and a shower to officially start my day. The experts say that keeping a normal routine at home helps you feel better and makes you more productive. Those same experts have little to say about being productive with a pack of weiner dogs circling your feet every time you get up and move.
8:00am – My wife makes her first appearance. As an R.N. working on her Master’s Degree and a work-at-home pediatric triage nurse, she keeps unusual hours. On this day, she has worked overnight and had quietly secluded herself away in her office, unbeknownst to the pack. At the sound of her office door opening, twenty-eight little feet start their cartoon scramble out of my office towards hers, assuring themselves of their second treat of the day.
10:15am – I’ve been working hard, so much so that I didn’t realize it had started raining. Our short-haired Doxies have a strong aversion to rain. Our little long-haired beauty however seems to be unfazed by it, probably due to her extra insulation. I realize why I have suddenly lost my focus…she’s barking. Barking is a strong word here, it’s more of a squeaky yelp similar to the one you hear when you accidentally step on her tail.
As I listen to her continued “barking”, its frequency and pitch tell me what I need to know, squirrels. I’m fairly convinced that the local squirrel population around my yard, courtesy of the pecan tree growing in it, are playing their own version of truth or dare. Apparently one young squirrel, having refused to divulge the location of its secret stash of nuts, has opted for the dare. In this case, that dare seems to be to run along the top of the fence to the pecan tree and back. This does not go unnoticed by my little long-haired girl affectionately named Meg.
The sound has now escalated to a “report the neighbor’s dog” level, so I opt to intervene. It appears that the young squirrel is taking the dare to a new level, teasing my poor little dog by bouncing around on the branches above her head.
Now oblivious to the rain and to the mud she is trouncing through in her efforts to get to this little creature, Meg is running on pure animal instinct with a non-stop string of what surely must be dog obscenities. She’s like a canine version of Ralphie in The Christmas Story, beating up poor Scut Farkus.
11:30am – I’m back to work. I’ve lost over an hour cleaning up the dog and blocking the section of muddy yard off from the pack. Fortunately, we have plenty of dog fence panels we keep in the RV, which is parked here at my home. In fact, I contemplate moving to the RV to finish my day, but that would leave the pack unbridled for my wife to deal with. That’s not a good plan.
The dogs love the RV. Whenever I exercise the generator or start up our diesel pusher for a trip, they go crazy. If they hear the clank of the gate that leads to the RV pad they all come running out, wondering if this is a real RV trip or not. For the most part, their reaction is tempered. However, if they see my wife start to carry supplies to the RV, their doxie-sense kicks into high gear, knowing that a trip is imminent.
1:00pm – I had lunch while I worked, feeling it necessary to diligently account for my time and put in an honest full day of work. I prepare for a conference call. If there is one good thing about everyone working from home, it’s that the dog excuse is now universal to all. The dog excuse, or we might call it the dog disclaimer, is that statement you make at the beginning of a conference call.
“Hi everyone, thanks for joining me on this call today. Let me say ahead of time that I am stuck working from home today, so my apologies if you hear the dog bark.”
During times such as these when so many are working at home, some for the first time, this seems like a benign and plausible statement. However, it can also be a thin guise, a fabrication if you will.
What goes unsaid here is that the claimant often works from home and that they have several dogs that they can’t control in the slightest. I foresee being part of that latter group for the near future, and resolve to fine tune my own dog disclaimer.
2:03pm – I curse the inventor of the Ring doorbell for the third time today. Each time we receive a delivery or some child that can’t be in school right now walks across my lawn, the little chime from this clever invention dings.
At the first tones, dogs from all corners of the house scramble and converge on the front door ready to assault an invisible intruder. I have no doubt that any criminal dumb enough to enter my home would leave on their own accord rather than risk getting annoyed to death by their barking and howling. I really need to tweak my dog disclaimer.
3:11pm – To loosely quote a popular TV commercial, the squirrels are back. At the sound of the first chatter, the cartoon feet are off and running again as they charge through the dog door one after the other. Swoomp, swoomp, swoomp, swoomp, swoomp, swoomp. My mind registers the count as I hear them burst outside and add their various howls, barks, and whines to the squirrel’s cacophony.
While the cognitive portion of my mind immersed in an email reads that another RV manufacturer has shut down due to COVID-19, the back of my mind registers that there were only six swoomps. I poke my head out of the office and see the oldest dog slowly heading out to join the fray. The look on his face seems to say, “I’m too old for this.”
4:30pm – I realize now that my idea for a permanent standing desk was a bad idea. With the intent of only occasionally working from home and reasoning that standing all day would be good for me, this great idea has backfired.
I’m ready to sit down, but the minute I grab my laptop and change locales, the dogs seem to take this as a sign that I am done for the day and it’s now their favorite time….dinner time. Those old enough to recall Snoopy’s suppertime dance will have a good idea what I am about to experience, sevenfold.
4:35pm – With some kind of sixth sense, or in my case seventh, the pack begins to circle me. On days when I go to the office, they don’t eat until after 5:30pm. With me at home however, they sense my vulnerability. Like a pack of wolves circling helpless prey, I’m unable to resist.
Rather than trying to fend them off for an hour, I give in to their demand and head for the kitchen. Those with small dogs that are easily stepped on can relate to what I call the Doxie Shuffle. Reminiscent of Tim Conway’s old man character, I shuffle my way to the kitchen, trying not to pick my feet off the floor too much for fear of stepping on one of those twenty-eight little feet or seven tails.
5:00pm – With the dogs fed and settled again, I take one more stab at work. Although I’ll wrap up quickly and call it a day shortly, I never really shut everything down until bedtime. With the flexibility of working at home, comes the responsibility of dealing with issues that come up late or answering customer questions during nearly any waking hour. It’s a pretty decent trade-off, and I know our four-legged crew appreciates it.
6:20pm – I make my last of many sweeps around the yard cleaning up after the dogs. While not the most glamorous part of dog ownership, it’s necessary. As an RVer, we are meticulous about cleaning up after our pups when traveling.
I am amazed at how this simple courtesy is often completely ignored by many RVers, despite the signs and warnings every RV park displays. It’s not uncommon for us to completely pick up everything in a small dog park, lest the blame be pointed to us. Granted, we’ve put that target squarely on our backs ourselves.
7:30pm – With our dinner eaten and cleaned up, my wife and I relax together for a little chat and TV to close out the day. Dispersed on and about our two laps, several of the pups are contentedly sleeping. They’ve had a tough day barking at the squirrels, the mail carrier, and the Amazon delivery folks. Much like we did when the children were sleeping, we look upon their cute snoozing faces and are thankful we have them.
9:30pm – Anticipating another early morning, I get ready to head for bed. No doubt the squirrels have a big day of torment planned for tomorrow, so I need my rest. Being able to work from home is a luxury, and a blessing. Nevertheless, as I begin to nod off I am praying for an end to the coronavirus, or at the very least, an end to the rain.