I think they must be freelance dogs. The two that live with me, I mean. Liam, the tall one, came along about 15 months ago. Daphne, the short one, arrived just last October. Neither one of them is what you’d call a “normal” dog, not a typical pet, nor a traditional companion. Both are of unknown heritage and rather large gene pools.
They’re quite fond of me, I think. Well, Liam is. Daphne is still rather sassy and standoffish. But neither of them appreciates other people at all – so I suppose I should feel special in that regard. They both prefer freeform lives that are highly solitary, borderline isolated.
In the language of a “freelance” lifestyle, they choose to work at home – no groups, no large gatherings, no office-style community. They define their own hours, disregard corporate management requests, regulations, rules, and routines. They answer calls with hesitancy. They determine their own areas of expertise and responsibilities, and they take direction if and when it suits them. They take no meetings. They refuse anything that requires them to stray out of their comfort zones. They also nap a lot and eat a great deal of junk food (in their case: worms, cardboard, toilet paper, sticks, shoes, dust bunnies, lint, and oh so much worse).
They have virtually no social skills. They are easily frightened, terrified in fact – especially of the new and different. New people, strange places, unexpected experiences – all scare the bejeesus out of them. And so, when confronted, their best idea is to hide out in the bushes. And bark.
They decline to be “go-with” buddies. They hate to ride in the car or walk in the woods. Only Liam (the tall one) will willingly even walk the neighborhood with me – as long as it’s a known route, within scent of home base. Daphne (the short one) prefers to just run solitary speed-course circles or figure-eights in our own yard – safely behind a fence, separated from the unknown and possible strangers. Neither of them sleeps in my bed with me because the cat is already there.
I have come to accept that they are probably always going to be tentative and noncommittal – simply “freelance” in their approach to life, to their very way of being dogs. Which, admittedly, is sometimes an embarrassingly recognizable reflection of my own lifestyle as a freelance writer. The good and the bad of it is that I thoroughly understand how they feel. I think they may sense they are missing out on some of the joy of life. But I also suspect that their fear of the unknown out ranks it. I’m sure they would love to feel the wind through new trees and the dirt of a new path, to know the scent of new places, and the touch of new friends. But it’s just too hard for them to let go of the security of keeping to their own space, their own place, just watching from the windows. I know it’s hard for them to be afraid of the dark, and strange noises, or to feel trapped in closed rooms, and to always have to know where the exits are. I know.
I have always greatly appreciated the company of truly companionable animals – the ones with confidence and joy, the ones with a happy sense of self. But I suspect that it is not meant for me right now – that my freelance dogs are here with me for a reason.
For both have come to me out of harsh realities and painful backgrounds. And now they feel safe. They have enough food now, and they sleep in peace. They feel wanted and valued and accepted as they are. They enjoy their own bit of company, and mine. They are loved beyond their understanding.
They also show me who I am, without a whit of judgement.
I have a favorite quote from Emery Allen, and it is this: “Do you think the universe fights for souls to be together? Some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences.”
Liam (the tall one) and Daphne (the short one) may be a couple of freelance dogs, but I suspect the universe fought for them to come to me, and that it is no strange coincidence.