A Lifetime Companion

This post originally appeared in the Women of HR Series:Random Encounters. Check out that site because, as the headline says, those writers have your back. I am re-posting it here as a personal tribute to the dog discussed in the post, who was euthanized last Friday. I will be back with fresh content very soon, including the return of #SHRMChat, so check back or sign up for email notifications.

 

JoanIke2

I used to be a lot of things: politically conservative, impatient, intolerant, and demanding.

I also used to be a shopaholic. To me, going to the mall or a shopping center was as necessary and important as breathing or eating. My husband hated doing errands with me because I would enter a man-centric store with him – like a hardware store – and never leave.

So going to a mall on a Saturday afternoon was not random at all. But on one particular Saturday in the fall of 1999, a trip to the mall changed my life.

I stopped in the pet store, which was near my usual entrance, just to look. I had a dog at home who had been adopted from the humane society, and I certainly wasn’t in the market for another. But I loved to look. Did I say I was just looking?

Inside of one of those cages was a Border Collie puppy.

Maybe it was because my daughters and I had really enjoyed the recent movie Babe  (which features BCs, as they are called), but the sight of that puppy excited me like no other dog ever had.  I called my youngest daughter and said, “Guess what? There’s a Border Collie puppy at the pet store!” She asked if I was going to buy it, and I said, “Of course not.” Then I left the store and went about my shopping.

But for one entire week I thought about that dog. Constantly.

By the following Saturday I couldn’t stand it any longer, and returned to the pet store with my two teenage daughters. I bought the dog (my husband was out of town, thank goodness) and took him home.

And he changed my life.

You have to understand a little about the BC to understand why.  BCs are considered the smartest dog in the world. Consequently, they need special attention – they need to be trained, encouraged, and engaged if they are going to be successful pets. (Yes, just like employees.) So I set out finding a job for my highly intelligent, driven boy.

What I found is flyball. And within flyball, I found a totally new world. It’s a dog-centric world, where the care and compassion for animals is overwhelming. It is a world where people cooperate and encourage each other – at least most of the time – in order to give their pets, and themselves, something special and rewarding.

Author Jon Katz writes about the “lifetime dog”. By his definition, it is a dog that touches your heart in a way no other animal can or does, often at a critical time or juncture.

Ike, as he was named, became a lifetime dog to me. I got him as my children were becoming adults and entering their own world. I was also at a professional crossroads, having left the practice of law and wondering what else I was suited for. Then he took me into the world of flyball, where I learned so much about dogs and animals – their need for care, compassion, tolerance, and their love of play, affection, and attention.

And that laundry list of me that started this post?  Ike, and his ultimate love of flyball, changed all of those things for the better.

The professional crossroads? That’s when I went into HR.

 Thanks to a random encounter of the most wonderful kind.

 

 

 

 

 

My Dog Is Not A Rock Star – Does Your Employee Have To Be?

Gypsy, the pit bull-lab-rottweiler-who know what else-mix

Yesterday I took all four – yes, four – of my dogs to the vet for routine care, like vaccines and wellness exams. They each weigh around 40 pounds and the bill was enormous.  During the exam, the vet asked the same kind of questions your doctor does during a routine physical, trying to determine if there are any issues or problems that need to be addressed.

During the exam of Gypsy, who was rescued from an abandoned crack house in an ugly part of the city of Detroit, it occurred to me that she has never had any physical problems at all.  She has never thrown up on my carpet or floor, never had kennel cough (despite plenty of exposure in closed quarters to other dogs), and never has ugly gunk running out of an eye.  I will admit that she had a genetic defect (luxating patella) when she was very young, which had to be surgically repaired, but that knee has never given her, or me, a stitch of trouble since. Even her teeth looked the best of the pack, per the vet, even though she is the second-oldest.

My other dogs are Border Collies.  BCs, as we are fond of calling them, are premier athletes.  They play silly dog games like agility, disc dog, and flyball (my game of choice).  They are considered the smartest breed of dog in the world.  They are rock stars of the doggie world.

These rock stars can have health issues, though.  Vomit, kennel cough, eye infections, torn or ripped pads and toenails – my dogs have had or done them all.  One dog has a mysterious arthritic condition in his spine that required two MRI tests and means monthly visits to the chiropractor.  Don’t even ask about the costs.

Gypsy doesn’t play flyball or any other silly doggie sport, but she is loving, energetic, and devoted – the perfect companion dog.

So, to the recruiters and HR pros of the world who might read this, I ask a favor:  The next time you need to hire an employee, think about whether you REALLY need to hire a rock star.  I know the market is buyer friendly right now, so you can get big talent for less money.    Rock stars can do amazing things, but at what cost – particularly in the long term – to you and your organization?

Non-rock stars need and deserve good jobs, too. They may come from humble circumstances without a fancy degree, and they may need a little coaching or patience in the beginning as they find their way in your organization.  The long term return on investment will be substantial, though, and you will find yourself with a rock-solid, devoted employee.

Or would you rather have an employee that burns more brightly for a shorter period of time, with substantial upkeep costs thrown in?

Ike the Border Collie playing flyball
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