The dog ate my paycheck
Tess Vigeland: Anyone who knows me will understand why this next commentary is my favorite EVER. It’s about money, a man and his dog. His poor, darling, misunderstood dog, who perhaps went looking for homework but found something else just as delightful to chow down on.
Rob Walker: There’s a lot of indignity in being self-employed. You have to hustle for work, humbly meet your clients’ deadlines. Of course, then, you have to harass them to get paid. I thought I’d done it all in more than a decade of freelance writing — until the dog ate my paycheck.
Now, he’s a young dog, name of Russell and all in all, he’s been a great addition to the household. But as we’ve learned, he eats all manner of inappropriate things, paper included. We’re also learning that he’s a bit of an acrobat. I didn’t leave this check on the floor; I left it on a counter that, I now know, he’d learned to access.
He left about a third of the thing intact. He also left me with a dilemma. Have you ever had to tell a client that you’d like them to cut you a new check, because your dog ate the one they sent already? I mean, “the dog ate my homework” is more or less the paradigm of the lame excuse. So this was not only humiliating, it’s the sort of scenario that could make a client ask, “Do we really want to work with this guy?” Besides, this particular check wasn’t going to determine whether or not I could make a mortgage payment. I seriously considered eating, as it were, the loss.
I lectured Russell. “This will come out of your chew-toy budget. You’ll have to settle for less fancy treats, and fewer of them.”
He responded with a wordless request for a belly rub. Meanwhile, I had second thoughts. Times are tight. Every penny counts. Would I simply throw this amount of money in the garbage? No. So I swallowed my pride.
And as it happens, the client was this very program — and the editor found the whole thing hilarious. In fact, she said it would make a good commentary. No wonder the dog seemed so unconcerned: His bad behavior wasn’t threatening my business; it was a revenue opportunity! So if you’re listening, Russell, forget what I said about cheap dog treats. You’re getting a Christmas bonus this year.
Vigeland: Rob Walker is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and Design Observer.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.