How Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek Made Me Get a Dog
I picked up the book while sitting at a pool in Bali last year. For years, I heard about it regularly, and given the title and knowing the perks but also the disadvantages of remote work, I was skeptical. Those who read his books know Tim is a great storyteller and an exceptional curator. The 4-Hour Workweek is an easy read that will make you think about your personal situation, regardless of whether you crave to travel the world or not.
Tim has never actually (at least from what I remember) said one should break everything off and roam the world. He’s only made the point one should design the lifestyle one really wants. He asks you to think about what sort of life you want and then asks you to start implementing small changes to get there. For myself, I knew I missed the perks of having a dog, and not only because you don’t ever have to pick up anything from the floor that fell off the kitchen counter. But much more because you feel the seasons. Because people on the street smile at you. Because life slows down. Because there’s a little creature that is – if you’re lucky – incredibly ridiculous and gives you a million reasons to smile.
And so there I was. Following Tim’s advice, I started looking for puppies that were for sale (which is a clear downward spiral to actually getting one). I know many might say at this point, one should always take a dog from an animal shelter. I disagree because one should choose a breed and get the sort of dog for which one is able to provide a good life. Previously, I had spent a fair amount of time around Greyhounds and knew the breed is gentle, quiet, and even though they need to run free every day, they get tired rather quickly.
Greyhounds come in different sizes. My long-time dream was to get a big dog, so a Galgo would’ve been incredible, but I also knew life would be much easier with a small breed. And so I decided on a Whippet.
It was important to me to choose a dog that would be easy to take on public transport and one that others would also feel comfortable handling. Those who have followed my journey for a while know I travel a lot. Being on the road and being flexible has always been key to my business, and I knew I’d have to continue to travel a lot for work in the future. I didn’t want to put a dog from an animal shelter through the pain of seeing me leave so much, and thus decided on a puppy I could socialize to be with other people and also around other dogs.
When I first visited Orion, she was four weeks old. The second she saw me, she threw herself at my feet and didn’t stop licking them until we left. It was definitely love at first sight.
Over the next few weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about the consequences of getting a dog and how I would handle it. My friends all questioned whether I was ready to take on such a responsibility. I just laughed and said that something would be terribly wrong with me if at the age of 31, I wasn’t able to take care of a dog. Especially because I’ve had dogs before and knew what it meant. I must admit, I forgot that training a puppy is million times more work than having an adult dog. Yet that’s a different story.
I knew I wanted Orion to be social around other dogs. I wanted to make sure she’d sleep in her own bed and not mine, as it’s common amongst Whippets. I wanted her to be loved by people so that it wouldn’t be a problem to give her to others whenever I needed to travel. The preparations started...
When I first saw the price tag of Charley Chau beds, I gulped. However, I also knew making sure the dog doesn’t sleep in my bed was more important to me. When I then brought Orion home, she was so excited that she peed in my bedroom, but then she also slept through the night in her own bed without crying even once. Things were off to a good start.
The following months were tough. I won’t lie. I had a hard time getting Orion potty trained. She needed to pee every hour and a half. The doctor, and also her dog trainer in Vienna, said I needed to be patient and it was only when Orion was 11 months old that I brought her to a vet in Berlin who diagnosed her with urinary stones, which made life for her (and me and everyone who took care of her) difficult. She hasn’t peed in the apartment since the issue has been solved.
Before the summer, I had bought a modem powered by battery that enabled me to work online and without having to have it plugged into a socket. We then spent a lot of time in the park. She played with dogs. I worked. Now that she’s a year and a half, I can say that it truly paid off. She’s extraordinarily friendly to other dogs and even aggressive dogs calm down when they’re around her.
People love her too. I’ve been able to build a community of people who’d take care of her whenever I needed to leave for a couple of days or even weeks. She’s not blown away by the idea of me leaving, yet from what I’ve heard, she’s fine after the initial ten minutes. She does build an extremely close connection to the person taking care of her and seems as much in love with them as she seems to be with me. As for myself, I notice how I scroll down her Instagram after a couple of days on the road when I miss being around her. I’m okay not having her around when I travel, and I really struggle when she isn’t around when I’m at home.
For me as a freelancer, it’s been very beneficial to have such a constant in my life. Orion wakes me up every day at 7am and demands food and going outside. She makes me take regular breaks. We spend a lot of time in the park. She even has a very set time when she wants to go to sleep, which is 9pm.
Since I got her, I’ve been feeling so much more connected to my surroundings. When you have a dog, people on the street talk to you. Other dog owners greet you. Suddenly, it’s easier for everyone to recognize you. It feels like people trust you more. You become a part of your neighbourhood. It feels lovely.
On public transport, I’m no longer scrolling through Instagram. I have a dog to pet. I feel like I feel more. Like I connect more. It’s a good feeling.
And sure, of course, there are downsides too. She still struggles being by herself, which doesn’t always make things easy. And when someone comes close to me, she gets incredibly jealous. Not always fun, I admit. Yet, I also know I can train her and she’ll be able to handle these things one day. If I can make a dog walk next to my foot without a leash, teach her how to run next to my bike, make her give me her right paw when I say “Grüß Gott” (which is the Austrian way of saying “Good Day” or “Greet God” to be more precise), then I can most certainly train her to behave in intimate situations and when she’s supposed to be by herself.
Maybe it’s not endless beaches, but picking up poop a few times a day that make me feel like I live a self-determined life, and I sure know and appreciate it every time I’m throwing a ball in the park she might only sometimes bring back to me. Things feel right and for that, I can thank The 4-Hour Workweek and Tim Ferriss. It was a rather unexpected outcome of having read the bible of digital nomads.
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