When people discover that I own my own consulting firm, one of the first questions they ask is, "What is the best part about working from home?" While it is cool to be able to write e-mails dressed in my pajamas or do a load of laundry as I hammer out a strategic marketing plan for a client, nothing compares to what I feel is arguably the best part of working at home: having a dog as a business partner.

Penny the Wonder Dog, a 62-pound hunka Goldendoodle love, is an indispensable member of my team. Nay, she is the boss.

She sets the schedule, waking me early for a walk so that she can do her business and I can meditate on the hours ahead. It's the one bit of quiet time I can count on each day to sift through and prioritize what needs to be done; it allows me to focus on the extremely important rather than the merely urgent.

Penny is a canine human resources department, giving me a nudge with her nose when she thinks I've been sitting in front of the computer too long without a break (that these nudges occur at the exact times of her morning and afternoon chewie treats, I find purely coincidental).

She is a one-dog mailroom, personally announcing then overseeing all front-door deliveries from the post office, FedEx, and the evil brown truck that she can hear coming a quarter-mile away.

She handles conference calls with ease (usually sleeping under the desk), and is not afraid to stare someone down (usually me) when she feels a meeting has gone on too long.

She has been the uncomplaining audience to hundreds of rehearsals for speaking engagements, giving a tilt to her head only when I finally deliver an opening sentence with the punch she's looking for.

Most importantly, she's a presence. She reminds me that when you're an entrepreneur, there's a delicate balance between personal and professional life that must be maintained, especially when you work at home. And it's never the work part that suffers. It's too easy to forget that play is just as important for the head, heart, and soul as work; Penny the Wonder Dog reminds me of that each and every day.

Work/life balance? You can keep your day planners and how-to books -- give me a dog and I'll be just fine.