Meet the Office Staff

People often ask how I meet tight deadlines. One secret is having a good office staff. Meet mine: 


Job Title: Health and Wellness Manager

Some writers fall into an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle from spending hours sitting in front of a computer. I don’t have that option with Jet around. She’s a Border Collie on a mission: to make sure I get all the exercise I need, plus much more. She lets me know when it’s time to run or play Frisbee, even if I try to make excuses. It usually goes something like this:

Jet: Grab your Nikes, Mom! It’s a beautiful day for a run!
Me: But Jet, it’s raining harder than it has since Noah built the Ark.
Jet: Don’t be a wimp. It’s only sprinkling!
Me: I could swear I just saw the neighbor’s SUV float past the window.
Jet: Good! Let’s get our run in while the puddles are still only waist deep!


Job Title: Paperweight or Foot Warmer (depending on whether he snoozes on top of or underneath the desk)

Fiddler showed up on my garage roof as a skinny, freezing, feral cat who didn’t trust anyone. Now he’s a fat, spoiled housecat who has no desire to return to his wandering ways. I picture him saying, “You expect me to go outside? Surely you jest. The temperature has dropped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Perhaps we should go to the spa instead…after my nap.”

Just don’t expect to see much of Fiddler if you come to visit. He’s a one-person cat. He’ll make a dash for a hiding spot if he doesn’t know you, or if he does know you. (This really annoys my husband and kids, but it makes me feel special.)


Job Title: Office Supply Organizer

Twitch’s philosophy is that a neat office is a boring office. If I ever get around to putting my paper clips and pens into containers (which happens rarely), he corrects that in a hurry. He scatters them all over the desk. He took the idea too far once and decided that he didn’t like the position of the water glass next to my brand-new keyboard… Well, you can guess the rest.

Twitch was born with only two and a half paws. (He doesn’t know it, though, so don’t tell him.) This doesn’t stop him from getting around. And it doesn’t stop him from creating mischief where and when I least expect it.


Job Title: Chief of Security

I met Zeke at Indian Summers Border Collie Rescue. The big, barrel-chested dog dashed back and forth, letting out high-pitched yips at the dogs in the next enclosure. It was strange—sort of like if Darth Vader opened his mouth and sounded like one of the Chipmunks. (Picture Theodore saying, “I am your father.” It just doesn’t have the same effect.) I was a little let down. Even though I wasn’t adopting him mainly to scare off burglars, it would be nice if burglars found his bark intimidating instead of picturing a two-pound Chihuahua on the other side of the door. (No offense to any of you Chihuahuas out there.)

I didn’t know this, since Zeke was the first Australian Shepherd I ever met, but Aussies yip like that to herd sheep. It isn’t their real bark. When I got him home, I found out that he has a deep, thundering bark, suitable for scaring off burglars or starring in a sci-fi movie.


Job Title: Manuscript Tracker

Slate lived in our neighborhood for years before he decided to move onto my front porch. His torn ears and crooked paw show that he’s had to be tough to survive. The neighborhood cats and dogs are terrified of him, so I was surprised when he climbed into my lap and started purring.

Since Slate prefers spending most of his time outside, where he has a good view of the mailbox, I put him in charge of keeping track of my manuscript submissions. Now I’m wondering if that was such a good idea.

When a manuscript comes back rejected, Slate unsheathes his claws. “You want that I should make him an offer he can’t refuse?”

I picture the editor waking up to find the mangled scroll wheel of his mouse between the sheets. “Uh, no, that’s okay. I’ll just send him another story.”

His yellow eyes narrow. “You sure? ‘Cause I think THIS story is plenty good enough.”

When Slate disappears that night, as he occasionally does, I lie awake and worry. Is he hunting mice, or is he on his way to find the editor? A few days later he’s back, with no explanation, purring in my lap.