“It’s like an animal daycare here,” said my friend Laurie, here to give Shay some doggy acupuncture today. She was right, and with two dogs and two cats, it’s also a canine and feline exercise and mindfulness training program, continually interrupting what I thought I was doing to point my attention toward a higher power. Never underestimate the call of the dogs to go outside. Add in the cats, whose needs must be met whenever they arise because: cats, and you can imagine how much practice I get sitting down only to stand up again.
It wasn’t always like this. For years, we had a constant balance of three animals, mostly two cats and a dog, and occasionally a cat and two dogs. But the addition of Moxie — a border collie with a bit of rat terrier in her — to our trio of Shay the dog, and Miyako and Sidney Iowa, the cats — the balance has shifted even more from the two-leggeds to the four-leggeds. Working at home means I’m in the thick of Animal Kingdom much of the time, and wherever I am in or around the house, they must be also. I could be in my favorite chair, laptop fully engaged, or at the kitchen table meeting with a client over Zoom, or on the front porch, talking on the phone with someone to plan an event, and I will be interrupted. Repeatedly. Just about everyone I work with has heard barking, meowing, and doors opening and closing often.
The animals must of course situate themselves around each other and me. If I pace as I talk on the phone, sometime I’m prone to do, the animals must pace too. If I head to the kitchen to make tea, there they are, herding me toward the stove (particularly the border collie, who can’t help herself). If I need to concentrate — especially in the middle of composing a sentence, revising a poem, or editing a manuscript — someone will leap, hiss, yelp, or knock over something loud just as I’m struggling the most to find the right word or punctuation.
At the same time, I really like being part of a pack. Besides never feeling alone, the mammals do the same thing for me as the meditation bell I downloaded onto my computer, which rings every hour: they stop me in my tracks. I more or less have to look up from the bottom of my rabbit hole to see what else the world holds: three crows balancing on a branch of Cottonwood Mel, the wind picking up and clouds filling in, and a big, lazy cat in the window sill who wants back in. I use the meditation bell to make myself pause for five minutes, breathe and meditate, and check in with how I’m feeling and navigating.
Mostly, I discover that whatever I thought was set in stone or anxiously urgent actually isn’t. Instead, there’s fur-covered faces staring intently in my direction, saying, wake up as well as get off your ass and feed us! I do because I don’t want to be in the doghouse with these animals or with my own habitual deadends. Besides, there’s a lot to learn from surrendering to a higher power even if it does take the form of muddy paw tracks all over the house.