On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog

He’s asleep. Finally. I thought I’d never get him down” John sighs as he stares at his laptop screen. I did not hit all of his goals today…tomorrow’s going to be another long one.” He logs his time, checks a few boxes, writes a vague statement describing the day, shuts the laptop and hangs up his headphones.

Hey man, Sorry to keep you waiting. We should be good to go now. Unless there’s an emergency or he wakes up and tries to do something the auto-pilot can’t handle, I should be free until morning.”

John’s friend Patrick was waiting, sitting at the kitchen table , nursing a beer and staring blankly at his phone. No worries,” he says, Pretty cool you get to work from home.”

It sounded cool,” John said, except I feel like I never leave home. I took this weird job, so I could be at home and write while I wasn’t working. It was supposed to be about 4 hours a day, but it feels more like 40. Today was extra long.”

The first thing Richard did when he got out of bed was wake up his dog, Mac. He’d gently kick the dog’s bed wake up you dumb mutt.”

The dog woke up, extended its front legs out to stretch and let out a deep yawn, then ran down the stairs ahead of Richard, and waited for him, wagging its tail.

Richard moved slowly and deliberately down the stairs, keeping a tight grip on the handrail. When he got to the bottom the dog ran ahead again. As it darted through the living room it grabbed his shoes, that had been left on the floor from the night before, in its mouth and ran into the kitchen where it dropped them neatly by the back door.

Damn, dog!” Richard shouted, as he shuffled toward the kitchen. He thought if the dog was actually smart it would figure out how to make a pot of coffee in the morning, not chew on his shoes.

Richard pulled a carton of eggs, half of a sleeve of sausage, and a stick of butter out of his refrigerator. Mac sat, tongue hanging out, watching Richard cook his breakfast.

Richard put his plate of sausage and eggs on the table. He shuffled back across the kitchen to get his toast as it popped out of the toaster. As soon as his back was turned the dog put its paws up on the table and snatched a sausage patty.

…First thing, I’m already behind, I missed the wake-up call. The auto-pilot is supposed to ping me as soon as it has physical contact - but because this old guy just kicks the dog bed instead of patting it on the head I miss the wake-up call half the time. The AI sucks at image recognition, especially in low-light. By the time I get logged in he’s already down the stairs, I’m lucky he didn’t leave shoes on the steps again…”

Patrick says, Man, you take it too seriously. Whenever I’ve seen you supposedly working it just looks like you are playing some super boring video game.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought when I started too, That I would just play this crappy dog simulation video game for a few hours everyday, then spend the rest of my time working on writing the great American novel.”

But, the thing is, you can’t just have fun, be nice, and get bonus points for every time they say good dog.”

Customer Satisfaction is only part of my rating. I don’t get paid to be a good dog. My pay drops if I don’t to keep my person in certain biometrics. I have to keep his blood pressure in a certain range, get his heart rate up a couple times a day, I get dinged if he gains weight. If this asshole sneaks any more pork sausage his cholesterol is going up and my paycheck is going down. I can’t steal it off his plate every morning.”

After breakfast Richard retreats to the bathroom with his news tablet. When he emerges his dog is pacing by the door, whining next to where the leash is hanging. Quit whining, Mac, it’s too cold for a walk.” Richard barks at the dog. I thought the health insurance company said you were supposed to be smart, that it’d be good for me to take care of you. But, you’re just a dumb spoiled mutt.”

My person, this old guy, Dick, is supposed to get 7,500 steps a day.” John continues, He’s 75 years old, he moves like a tortoise, and I’m supposed to get him to walk 3.5 miles every day.… I can’t even get him to walk to the mailbox if it isn’t 72 degrees and sunny.”

When I finally got him to go for a walk late in the afternoon he tied me up outside a bakery when he stopped to get a cup of coffee and a donut. He’s so stupid. He knows they’ve got everything wired up, the fridge, the scale, the toilet, the pill bottles. You can’t sneak” anything. The next time this guy takes a dump the system is going to increase the number of times a day I’m supposed to get his heart rate up. I can’t win.”

At the end of the day, Richard is sitting up in bed, doing the crossword on his news tablet. He was exhausted, miserable with heartburn, and regretted the afternoon donut stop. His dog was in the bed with him, radiating heat, snoring softly with deep, rhythmic breathing.

As he finally felt himself drifting off to sleep, Richard patted his dog on the head and said, You stupid dog. I can’t believe you pulled your head out of your leash and I had to chase you around the whole damn neighborhood. That’s the last time I leave you tied up anywhere. You may not be very smart, but you’re a good dog.”

Up next More than this. Kicking off this new iteration of my personal site with a rant, a tiny manifesto on my dissatisfaction with so many of our online interactions. Divine Selection A short story about making tough decisions – originally written it for a First Line Journal submission.
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