Shay the dog is right at my side as we step outside to the sleeping porch. “I got this one, boss,” Shay tells me with his eyes. Then he barks while I give Forest the option of waking now or later (Forest is 17, so of course it’s later).
Back inside, as I sweep the hall, Shay is with me every step of the way even though much of what I’m sweeping up is his dog food, spilled from his bowl when, earlier this morning, he carried that bowl (in his teeth) to place it beside my bed. How else could he eat breakfast without being away from me?
When I walk from room to room to put papers from the kitchen in the office or a banana peel from the bedroom in the compost, Shay flanks my right side, his head positioned to dovetail with my right hand. If I sit, he sits next to me. If I start working, he lies down within a foot of me. If I go to bathroom, he waits outside the door, and when I take baths, he guards the door, alerting any who approach to back off because the boss is in a very important meeting.
Having wood floors, and having a dog with long nails, you can imagine the constant clicky-clack trail of sound when we’re in motion. When we’re working — my fingers on the computer and Shay’s eyes on me — the only sound is loud panting at my right elbow, or if Shay needs to go out, his loud marching in a continual figure eight between my chair and the door.
I used to fantasize about having an assistant — someone to answer correspondence, send out queries, organize my files and bring me iced coffee. Remarkably, such dreams came true, but in a Dada kind of way: Shay answers the call of nature, sends out the worst farts in dog history and brings me half-eaten baseball caps. But he’s an assistant all the same, without office politics, gossiping behind my back or making fun of how my hair sticks up. I couldn’t ask for more.