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Tales of Working at Home: The Woof Stops Here

Like most freelance writers, I work at home. While there are many benefits, there’s also a downside to having a home office. For example, it took a while to convince my mom that even though I was working at home, I was actually working. And, at times, being at home requires some discipline – like when the weather’s nice or when other household tasks need to be done. (I’m no clean freak. The dusting generally doesn’t beckon unless I’m looking for an excuse not to work on the project at hand.)

My work often requires that I conduct telephone interviews with subjects who don’t know I work at home. As far as they’re concerned, I could be sitting in an office downtown surrounded by dozens of other people. That image is forever shattered, however, when Scout, my four-year-old Coonhound mix, decides to alert the neighborhood that there’s a rabbit in the yard or another dog is passing by.

You haven’t heard anything until you’ve heard a hound barking. Truthfully, it’s less like a traditional bark and more like a “WOOOOOOO” that gets progressively louder and more piercing when the dog throws her head back and really lets go. I’ve heard the volume of a hound’s howl compared to the horn of an eighteen-wheeler. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. My friend’s Basset Hound carries on at inopportune times and another writer friend has described similar stories.

After an episode or two of Scout’s outbursts during an interview, I learned to take precautionary measures because simply yelling, “Quiet!” just doesn’t do the trick. I thought of stapling egg crates to the walls for insulation, but that’s not really practical. Now, when I know I have to be on the phone, I close my office door and roll up a towel and place it at the base of the door, much like you’d do in the event of a fire (although in that case, it’s a damp towel). This isn’t one hundred percent effective, but it definitely muffles the howling. All bets are off, however, if the UPS man comes to the door…

Written by JoAnn Petaschnick (, an independent writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

4 Responses to “Tales of Working at Home: The Woof Stops Here”

  • This is hilarious, JoAnn. My german shepherd went nuts over a squirrel a few days ago when I was conducting a phone interview. The woman asked if I was calling from a kennel. I think she was kidding.

    A dog keeping your feet warm is one of the perks of working from home. Here’s another: That same wonderful UPS man left a package on my doorstep not five minutes ago. (The dog did not bark because he always carries treats in his pocket. Smart guy.) I am now working and having a shiatsu massage at the same time with my brand new Brookstone i-Need lumbar massager. This nifty, inexpensive little thing straps right on the back of your chair. Anyone who is chained to a computer for hours at a time should run right out and get one. Unless you work in a “real” office, where the groans and moans of bliss would gather a group of gawkers to see who is in your cubicle with you.

    Nope, Brookstone is not my client but I’d sure love to test their products and write reviews for them…)

  • Lily, one of the two cats who generously allow me to share their home, perks right up whenever I get on the phone. She instantly appears on my lap, at my feet or stomping across the desk, meowing loudly as if I’ve been neglecting her for weeks. Of course, the more important the call, the more she sounds off.

    I’ve also been seriously considering changing her name to the loud expletive I yell at her when she knocks something on the floor (something that seems to be part of her mission in life).

  • JoAnn Petaschnick:

    Patricia and Mike, thanks for your comments. I knew I wasn’t the only one with pet issues.

    I think I’m going to have to get one of those shiatsu massagers – sounds great!

  • Are you talking about my Basset, JoAnn? Nine years old and louder than ever?

    Client and case-study interviews are bad enough. It’s even worse when you’re trying to do a radio interview with a critter howling and pawing at the door. I did nearly 50 of them when my last book came out; the only way I could silence her was to put her crate in our attached garage and cover it with multiple blankets. I could still hear her, but the radio audience could not.

    Then there are the cats …

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