Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Career Lessons I Learned From Einstein (my dog)

I thought you might like an advanced look at my next AOL piece.

Career Lessons I Learned from Einstein (my dog)

After rejecting a pound-full of scary and/or ugly curs, I came upon an white bundle of cuteness and sweetness. He kept pawing on the cage, "Take me! Take me out!"

Normally, I virtually deify intelligence but at that moment, I ignored the experts' urging that, before adopting, I assess a dog's trainability. That sweet cutie was mine. Career lesson: Look your best and be as nice as possible. Those may matter more than your competence, alas.

I was soon to understand why Einstein's previous owner, in the middle of the night, threw such a cute doggie over the fence into the pound.

Experts say dogs are more secure if left in a crate when being left alone. I didn't like the idea of caging my baby so I left Einstein in a room with the door closed but with access to the backyard. I returned to find him having destroyed the carpet next to the door: He had spent the hours trying to dig his way under the door so he could escape from his "crate."  Career lesson: Take even consensus expert advice with at least one grain of salt.

Within a week, Einstein had eaten my glasses, a bottle of my medication (He had to get his stomach pumped), and one morning when I opened the door to get the newspaper, he sneaked out and took off down the street. In my tee-shirt, shorts, and slippers, I raced after him. Two blocks later, he's sauntering up the freeway ramp with me in hot pursuit. Fortunately, traffic was stopped on the freeway and I yelled "open the door!" because I knew Einstein (his name is obviously false advertising) loves being in a car and perhaps he'd jump in. Fortunately, someone did and Einstein did.  Career lesson: New employees may need close supervision.

Two weeks after I adopted him, I had to go out of town for a day. I figured Einstein would be more secure left at home than in a kennel, and with the doggy door to the backyard and plenty of food and water, he'd be okay. Wrong! When I returned, the house looked like it had suffered a 7.0 earthquake. The poor baby was terrified I wouldn't come back. Career lesson: Be gradual in giving your employees autonomy.

I read training advice from Cesar's Way to No Bad Dogs. Alas, those authors hadn't met Einstein. Despite using clickers, treat-rewards, gentle tones, firm tones, everything short of a stun gun, Einstein remained a, ahem, free spirit. He just can't restrain himself from pulling on the leash when he sees another dog with whom he'd like to play or a tree on which he'd like to pee. But after a month of trying to be the Dog Whisperer, I decided that good enough is good enough. Einstein walks reasonably well on a leash and he comes when called, well, sometimes. Taking dog training classes and/or hiring a professional trainer felt like more work and expense than the benefit would yield. And now, five years later, while some might say that Einstein has trained me as much as I've trained him, I don't regret deciding that good is good enough. Career lesson: The perfect is the enemy of the good. There may be more important uses of your time and money.

Einstein is my receptionist. When a client arrives, he's greeted with an enthusiasm no human receptionist could match. (Of course, I'm not sure that most human receptionists would want to kiss everyone who walked in the door.) Einstein often then races around my home/office, giving a whole new meaning to the term "lap dog." One time, a rather stuffy client was waiting in the living room as Einstein did his lap. Along the way, Einstein pulled a piece of my underwear from the hamper and proudly showed it to the client. While I was embarrassed, I managed a joke: "Every new client gets a free piece of my underwear." Instead of my having lost all credibility with the client, he laughed and we got off to a good start. Career lesson: Often, the antidote to a screw-up is humor.

Oh, one more career lesson. See if you can get your boss to allow pets in the workplace. It can reduce stress and improve office culture and even productivity. Owners are allowed to bring dogs to work in the U.S. Congress. If it's good enough for Congress, it should be good enough for your workplace.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I love it! Dogs and cats are some of my favorite people! I know my cat is one of mine!

-Your reader in Pennsylvania

Anonymous said...

I have some more lessons that I learned from my cat when it comes to careers:

I never really considered myself a cat person, and three years ago, if you told me I'd be "daddy" to a cat, I would have laughed at you. That was until I went into my local Petco to buy the newest Australian Shepherd catalog for my parents, who needed a calendar and own Australian Shepherds. In their adoption center, right near the registers, was Cally, the sweetest calico kitty I've met. She sidled right up to me and rubbed herself on my leg. Leter that day, I went home with a calendar and a cat.

CAREER LESSON: Always be on the lookout for unexpected opportunities.

I got a coupon for free stuff when I adopted Cally, I bought the scoopable litter, but it tracked everywhere and who knows how often I spend scooping it. I then got the pine nugget litter, but it got totally soaked in just a few days, and it smelled terrible. I tried numerous other litter types until I found a "crystal" litter that was low maintenance, absorbed wetness and odor like nothing else, and didn't track everywhere.

LESSON LEARNED: Be willing to keep trying new things - a lot - until you find something that works.

Like most cat owners, I faced the issue of training Cally not to scratch the furniture. I used duct tape and a repellant spray, but those turned out to not work; in fact, Cally just took off the tape. I then decided to put her scratching post in front of the sofa so she would scratch that instead. Now, when Cally tries to scratch a piece of furniture, I take it as a sign that I need to put another scratching post there.

CAREER LESSON: Showing people what to do right and setting up their environment to make it easier to do the right thing works much better than yelling at and punishing them for doing the wrong thing.

-Your Reader in Pennsylvania


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