Working With Pets

14 March 2019

Writing partners can be beasts. I know mine is.

When our big orange tabby cat was a kitten, he would sleep on my desk, often stretched out on the keyboard and typing zzzzzzzzzzzzzz or yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy in his sleep. Today I work at a standing desk and he sleeps nearby in one of those embarrassing cat jungle gyms. Embarrassing for humans. Cats love them. I call him my editor because of his constancy. He’s always there. When he was a kitten, he maintained proximity because of the warmth of the computer. Now he stays for the companionship.

The real work of writing is done alone. On TV shows, you can chat around writers’ tables. You can have a writing partner. You can bat ideas around. But you need to bring ideas to the table and for me, ideas start alone. They are born in the pages of a notebook or by talking into my recording ap. Editing together,” even in Google Docs, requires patience and surrender. Video or audio editing? Only one set of hands works on the controls, even when you are taking notes from your director.

Collaboration goes smoothly with a pet. I feel a little silly calling our pet a pet. He has many human characteristics. Approval and disapproval. Love and rage. Contentment and agitation. Jealousy. He once watched a documentary about sushi all the way through, hardly blinking. He understands more than the 150 words most pets understand. I work through my ideas with him, set goals together, propose a time to take a break. He likes the breaks. It means when I go into the kitchen to make tea or coffee he gets a snack. He demands it with a certain loud meow. He has mastered the purr-meow — a mix of purr and meow that has many meanings for him. The nuances are as subtle as those you hear in Korean or Arabic.

Just another cat nut? I am not alone. Many creative folk depend on an animal companion. The guy who created Tito’s Handmade Vodka (his first name really is Tito and his last name, appropriately, is Beveridge) had only one companion for days at a time while he cooked up test batches of his libation — his dog, Dogio. Tito’s workplace is dog friendly. The canine count there is so high the dogs are called co-woofers.” Clinical studies have shown that dogs at work reduce stress hormones and increase those that make you feel lovey and fuzzy. The people doing those dog studies would seem to have a pretty good gig.

Cats would probably not cooperate in a study. My cat would not dress in a funny costume even if it were hilarious. His Instagram presence is relatively minor. I’m grateful for his companionship, though. He makes the work lighter even when it’s hard. He always agrees with me. His edits are razor sharp, or at least, his claws are.

Thanks for reading,

Lee


(c) Lee Schneider 2021. Take care of each other. Subscribe.