Gibson graduated out of her crate a couple weekends ago – we worked up to leaving her alone for a few hours in the living room, tucked happily on the sofa, instead of in her puppy crate while we were out of the house. Everything was going well – happy dog, happy people – until Monday, when we tucked her in as usual, and the mid-day received the text message you never want to get from your dogwalker: “Hi, Sara – it looks like Gibs chewed up one of your couch pillows.”
Downside: it was one of the sofa pillows.
Upside: it was not the sofa, itself.
She’s been destructive before: she likes to shred things. That behavior, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily separation anxiety … she tries it when we’re around, and we correct her; she’s also taken to destructive behavior when we leave her in the car, which wasn’t definitive: boredom? Separation anxiety? Some kind of poor conditioning timing on our part? Did she, one day, finally decide to be mischievous and dig in to tearing up a paper bag right before Ryan arrived back to the car, forever clinching in her mind the power of tearing up a paper bag to make her Ryan reappear? Who knows.
So on Tuesday, she went back into her crate, and mid-day my phone did its buzz-buzz with another note from the dogwalker. “Sad to report that Gibs has chewed up her crate bedding.”
So no mistake. It wasn’t a fluke. It looks like we’ve got a case of separation anxiety to learn how to manage, and hopefully counter condition. Thank goodness I’ve got a little bit of time off here and there during the holidays, to try to make some progress on rebuilding her confidence and trust. And thank goodness I’m scheduled to work from home on Friday, and was able to this morning, to help break the pattern of up in the morning, shower and get dressed, put on my jacket, pick up my keys and her moping because she knows from that routine that it’s another day she’s going to be left at home.
It’s strange… working from home used to be a requirement for me. I nearly quit a job when my boss told me that my schedule would be changing from two or three days a week in the office to five days a week in the office (and ultimately, did quit that job). I loved working from home full time when I was contracting – there’s the inevitable challenges with staying connected to colleagues, and fewer external pressures to maintain one’s personal hygiene, and the challenges that come with being not physically present in an organization that relies on drop-bys and water cooler conversation to keep the system operating. But with an organization that’s built for remote staff, many of those challenges are mitigated (except the personal hygiene one, which is solely my personal responsibility after all). And personally, I really thrive in those types of environments, where I have more control over my schedule, to be able to match my activity to my energy level rather than have my schedule dictated by the needs of a nine to five office and colleagues.
So it was a strange decision for me to go back to work in an office, with an organization where aside from a few long-term long-distance telework staffers, telework is not part of our culture. The decision was easy – the dominant culture in the office was relatively quiet and introverted; even at my desk in the open floor plan, I could put my “I’m sprinting” flag up, put my headphones on, and really, truly get work done. I love the building we’re located in (despite its no-dog policy); I love my bus ride to and from work, which gives me the time to knit, or read, or write (like now – I typed out this blog post on the bus). From the beginning, here, I enjoyed being able to arrive in the morning, crank my way through my work, then leave it at my desk when I left in the evening (at least, relative to other work I’ve done). And in my first half year with this job, I could count on less than one hand the number of work from home days I’ve taken, and haven’t really missed them at all until this week, when Gibson’s separation anxiety flared up.
I guess it’s a reminder that we have to make the best of where we are. Our work culture has changed – the office is noisier, the dominant culture shifting to a more even balance between extroversion and introversion, and it’s harder for me to get work done there, even with a door to close now. And that is what it is, and I’ll adapt. And I can only work from home on occasion, so we’ll make the most of our holiday time to help rebuild Gibson’s confidence about being home alone, and then dole out my work from home days judiciously, both so that she has a little extra company and a shaking up of her routine, and so that I can have the bursts of getting-stuff-crossed-off-the-list that happen when I work from home, that help me stay motivated and dig out of my buried-ness a tiny bit. On an average Wednesday morning, I’d probably have crossed nothing off my list by 11am, and instead only added numerous items to what needed doing; this morning, I crossed several items off the list and only added one or two things to the list. Net positive. I need to figure out how to make my in-office days net positive, more often than not.
So wish us all luck. Leaving Gibs and my hella productive zone to come in to the office for an afternoon full of meetings was not easy, but I made it. Cross your paws that Gibs does okay today and tomorrow, and that we can make some progress on her separation anxiety over the holiday. Any tips in that regard, we’re all ears.