Pets of Tri-I: Working from Home with Pets Pt. 2

Gretchen M. Michelfeld

Heading into June, many of us in the Tri-I community are still working from home, grappling with the uncertainty of tomorrow’s news, the loneliness of quarantine, or the frustrations of too much family togetherness. Our pets continue to be comforting companions.  

As a Patient Representative at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), David Jay Smith Chang works from home four days a week. His two dogs, eight-year-old Maxwell (who is half Pomeranian, half Pekingese) and Reno Sweeney (a five-year-old Pekingese) have  become role models, reminding him how important it is to stay grounded. 

David, Maxwell, and Reno Sweeney

“They are present in the moment, enjoying where they are, fearless,” Chang told me. “The amount of emotional support they give me is incalculable. They are willing to provide love 24/7.” 

Chang’s colleague, Karen Wexler, the Associate Director of Patient Relations at MSKCC, finds that seven-year-old Daisy (a domestic shorthair “tuxedo” cat) makes it much easier to work from home. 

Karen and Daisy

“Although she has disconnected me from more than a few calls by walking on my keyboard or playing hockey with my iPhone, she usually gets settled into the morning workflow after a nice tear around the apartment and a light breakfast,” Wexler said. 

Daisy can also be a considerate colleague. According to Wexler, “Recognizing the confidential nature of her mother’s work, Daisy is great about taking some time on her own. She will sometimes stay in bed until 2 p.m. So dedicated, that one!” Daisy is also great at helping Wexler choose which “work from home” overalls to wear each day and whether or not to employ the Oxford comma in her letter-writing. 

On a more serious note, Wexler credits Daisy with helping her feel human during this time of social distancing. “I live alone [and] my partner is isolated in Los Angeles, so Daisy’s presence is essential to my feeling another breathing being next to me.” 

Ainslie Durnin of Rockefeller University’s Development Office feels lucky to be sheltering in place with her five-year-old lop-eared rabbit, Charlie. 

Charlie

“Charlie loves that I am home all day every day,” Durnin said. “Every morning we sit on the floor together. I have a cup of coffee while he enjoys lots of treats and cuddles. He loves Life cereal and will sit on my lap while he munches his breakfast. For much of the day he naps, moving from one favorite spot to another, but whenever I emerge from my office for a break, he will follow me around the house.”

Durnin pointed out that Charlie can be a bit of a demanding coworker. “If my attention is not forthcoming, he will go into his bunny house and throw a temper-tantrum, scratching and throwing his food dish around to make lots of noise. He actually did this in the middle of my husband’s virtual thesis defense a few weeks ago!” But mostly Charlie is “sweet, funny, and quirky, and he fills our home with love and joy.” 

Bernard Langs, also of the Rockefeller University Development Office, said his one-year-old calico cat, Pippa, is overjoyed to have the whole family home with her all day. 

Pippa

“My wife and I are working from home remotely, and my daughter is finishing her final college semester via Zoom classes,” Langs told me. “Pippa roams from one of us to another while her much older “sister” Roberta sleeps all day. 

As we wait to find out when Rockefeller and her sister institutions will fully reopen, Natural Selections would love to hear from more of you about working from home with your pets. Feel free to contact Gretchen M. Michelfeld (gmichelfel@rockefeller.edu) with your stories and photos.

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