When a dog gets passed around often enough among colleagues – at least three owners over the years – then it effectively becomes an office dog. Based on that assumption, my place of work had an office dog, ever since I started there some eight and a half years ago. From the company’s origins, in fact, until just over two weeks ago, when almost three dozen people lost their pet.
I do understand: animals at work can be a nightmare. Ours was fairly lugubrious and usually quiet; his persistent barking at all visitors did lead to people with delicate ears having to move office, though; and he did get stinkier as he got older. But mostly he would pad from sunlit spot to sunlit spot, sighing when you yourself were at your most stressed, accepting enamoured attention from almost everyone, and occasionally sticking his nose into clients’ laps from under the table. He was the genius loci of the office.
Checking my email at a conference on a Friday, I found one sent that day, saying that he had had a stroke two days previously. He was refusing food and couldn’t stand, and so, on that Friday – and that day only – he would be brought into work for goodbyes from anyone in the office, and then in the evening put to sleep surrounded by the families that had been his.
There was no way I could have made it, and I still don’t know whether I would rather have been able to be there, because I don’t know – and don’t want to know – what state he was in. So I never gave him one last chuck on the head. But I like to think that, in the past few years, as he got older and less sprightly, my insistence on giving him tummy rubs whenever I was free was more appreciated by him than a hasty, incomprehensible goodbye could ever have been. After all, the greatest gift you can give to an animal is its continued welfare and basic comforts.
Since that Friday, K and I have been giving extra attention to our own, recently arrived, spirit of our hearth. As she’s a cat, I couldn’t say I’m certain that she appreciates it in the same way as a dog might; but I hope that, if anything still persists of the old boy in this world, he approves.