The Warbling Woofer: You Can't Just Tune Him Out

Janet's world

August 16, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

When you work out of your home during the summer, you have to learn to tune out all sorts of sounds and activities that would be major distractions in a typical office setting.

You might not think this would be too difficult, but picture yourself working away in a cubicle, only the person sharing it is practicing "Lady Madonna" over and over on the piano. It could be tricky to take your conference call. Better yet, what if one of your co-workers liked to stroll about, strumming a ukulele? Could you finish your expense report on time if this traveling office minstrel was just outside your door? Finally, what if your people insisted on shouting out their urgent requests from the conference room throughout the day: "Can we keep this turtle?" "How long do you cook a soft-boiled egg?" "Have you seen my khaki pants?"

Welcome to Janet's World.

I have developed an incredible capacity to ignore stuff around here - whether it's waffles burning in the toaster or leggy petunias withering in the August sun on my front steps - in order to finish my work. And because my office window is less than a foot from my front walkway, I watch solicitors walk right up to my door, but I refuse to answer the doorbell. I don't think it's rude; in fact, I think it's highly professional of me.

The way I see it, if my office were in downtown Baltimore and not in the hub of my suburban home, I would not interrupt my work to answer personal questions about the existence of God with strangers. And if I worked for a Fortune 500 company, wouldn't it be against corporate policy to let random salespeople into my office to spot-clean my rug or polish my door handle with their miracle product? Would I even consider walking out of a business meeting because I had to attend a demonstration of Cutco knives?

No, I work hard at working hard at home, disregarding these and other productivity busters to focus instead on whatever deadline is looming. And the benefits of working at home truly outnumber any of these minor inconveniences. For starters, you can go right from your early morning workout to your desk without offending anyone. You can snap your gum loudly. You can just say no to the entire line of painfully slimming undergarments. And you can play music while you work, as long as it's not live music.

Recently a new challenge has emerged on my work-at-home front, and if the situation were not so outlandish, I'm certain I could ignore it. But no one prepared me for a dog that ... sings.

Sure, when our dog, Moose, was a puppy, he used to bark or howl a bit whenever anyone played a musical instrument. But recently he's begun contributing zealously to any live musical performance. Even when he is napping, he perks up and dog-hums along to the music from his prone position in the front hallway under the ficus.

Curiously, it's a very stylized sort of dog singing, wherein he executes different tones and textures, exhibiting dynamics changes from pianissimo to fortissimo. He seems to give every song a blues bent with his expressive yowls. And we are all inexplicably drawn to his singing, the way I imagine you would be if you kept dolphins in a tank in your family room and were exposed to their complex clicking communication all the time. We can't help ourselves - we all stop what we are doing and we listen; we want to understand what he's thinking, feeling and expressing. He's earning our respect the way the Harry Connick Jr. of dogs should.

And I guess I can't honestly say that he's disturbed my writing, because he's inspired this singing-dog column. But that's this week. Next week, I have to find a way to tune out the woofer.

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