When I entered the world of dog walking, one of the aspects I was most looking forward to was NO PEOPLE. NO PEOPLE sounded heavenly. I’d had it with the rudeness of the general public and the mood swings and whims of others. But what I failed to realize at the time is how NO PEOPLE would affect my personality, my outlook, my every day existence.

Because you know what else has NO PEOPLE? Novel writing. You just can’t be creative in the middle of a melee. Well, at least I can’t. I need absolute silence and no human energy within a fifty yard radius of my laptop.

So I found myself involved in two professions in which I was completely alone, save for intermittent dogs and/or cats. And, yes, it’s great, but I think it has kookily affected me in that don’t-worry-Wilson-I’ll-do-all-the-paddling kind of way.

I noticed the change when I first began writing my book last year. I happened to look up from my computer screen one afternoon and there was a Daddy Long Legs spider in the top corner of my dining room ceiling. For several days I forgot to catch him and put him outside, and after a month he sort of became like my writing friend. Sometimes I would say hi to him. If I was stuck on a scene I would gaze up at him and wonder if he was judging my very loose and liberal use of commas or perhaps silently critiquing my plodding narrative. I named him Voltaire and he and I collaborated on many chapters. He wasn’t a real big talker but we had some mind melds over character development, and he whole-heartedly agreed with me when I  told him I wanted to veer away from my original storyboarding outline. (Yeah, you could say he was on board.)

But after a few months of studious camaraderie, Voltaire simply disappeared from my ceiling, and my life. I don’t know if he moved on to another house to peer over another human’s shoulder, or if he decided he’d eaten any and all available bugs in my house and it was time to find greener insect pastures. I started to fret that perhaps I had been taking too long with the book and he simply grew bored of me and escaped our banal existence while his eight legs were still young enough to carry him away.

I think I really realized I had crossed over the NO PEOPLE bridge when my mind took a sharp turn into the abstract, and, horrified, I wondered if Voltaire had become so literarily frustrated that he’d taken his own life à la Ernest Hemingway.

That all took place last year and I’d sort of forgotten about my aloneness up until recently. (Forgive me, but another spider is involved here.) I was outside picking up doggy poo when I came across an adorably fuzzy jumping spider sitting on one of Larry’s ginormous Boxer poopy’s. The jumping spider looked at me warily and I stopped mid-air with my hand in a clean up bag. If I picked up the pile the poor spider would suffocate and die alone mashed into Larry’s recycled dinner from the night before. I couldn’t bear to do that to the poor thing so I sort of waited and he and I stared at each other for several moments. Then, as though he’d understood I didn’t want his mortality to end in number two, he jumped off the poo and scurried off. I told this story to my Aunt Verline who stared at me in horrified fascination and said, “You spend a lot of time alone, don’t you?” I suppose communing with spiders could be construed as a cry for help.

And then right after that I had a pet sitting interview with an extremely elegant couple in their huge and gorgeous home. The couple wanted to hire me to watch their dogs while they were out of town the following month. The meeting seemed to be going well, except I felt a strange twinge at being amongst people and wondered if I were being professional enough. Sometimes my humor is appreciated. Sometimes it is not. Knowing your audience is key.

The woman asked me about my company being bonded and insured and we moved on to the topic of my being the only employee. I think what she was trying to say was, “Who will feed my dogs should you have an emergency and not be able to come to my house?”  I do have provisions for that in my contracts and it was a valid question, but, for some reason, my mind went into freak out mode and I thought, “If I say ‘in case I’m sick’ that will sound like I’m unreliable. I have to go with the worst possible scenario!”  And I’m talking out loud before I can stop myself: “OH!  Well, if I kick off then, yes, I have someone who can take care of your dogs.”  The man repeated, “Kick off?”  And I tried to be funny which wasn’t funny, but extremely awkward, as I laughingly said, “Yeah, you know… die.  In case I, well, die. I mean, none of us know when our time is. I could, well, get hit by a bus or something. And if that happened, your dogs will still be cared for. Well, um, cared for by someone else obviously since I’d be… well, dead.“  The couple exchanged uneasy glances.

Soooo… they didn’t hire me. Because sometimes NO PEOPLE means you only know how to talk to spiders now.

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