What I am learning from my wheaten terrier

When I sold my business after 16 years of being at the helm, many believed that I was retiring, moving on to the “good life”, permanently withdrawing from my career trajectory. I am NOT retired, nor am I semi-retired…I am underemployed. I get the occasional gig as a consultant in my field of nursing and healthcare continuing education. I keep myself busy with semi-annual independent contractor roles with my professional organisations. However, my time is typically spent exploring other aspects of life and living on.

The realities that my years of experience, my advanced education, my diverse abilities, are not causing employers to stand in line to hire me is…well…eye-opening, to say the least. I have spent many years building a resume that I have been proud of. Starting out as a nurse in a nursing home, I very quickly rose through the ranks of Clinical Nurse, to Inservice Educator, to Education Director, to Director of Nursing, to Chief Nursing Officer, to business owner. I considered myself a bit of a whiz kid, one who understood the systems in which I worked. I learned from my mistakes. I developed a keen understanding of power and politics in the healthcare sector. I was an “intrapreneur” and an entrepreneur. I embraced change and spurred innovation. I was GOOD!

So what has changed? Nothing – I am still THAT GOOD. But I am a person of age. It is time for some attitude adjustment employers! And it is time for some attitude adjustment for me as well…

I have decided to embark on some online soul searching and utilise tools available to assist people of age restart their engines. I am going to chronicle this journey in the blogs.

My first stop: taking an online assessment of my job seeking skills. Through a series of questions, I was informed that I had room for improvement in the area of being proactive. It asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up…well actually it asked what I wanted to be in one year, two years and five years, not about my Peter Pan problem, but you get the gist. I had trouble answering these questions, so I forged on to the first reading, a metaphor about how dog behaviour can exemplify good work habits. There were some very interesting and important points (qualities that I have always believed I espouse) as the author described an energetic and engaging animal, and what he learned from his dog.

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I decided to take his points and compare them to my dog…

Wakes with a mission

Every morning, my husband, just before leaving for work tiptoes to the bed in an effort not to wake me. He reaches out blindly until he finds the furry friend that sleeps with us. Sometimes he finds my need-of-a-shave leg, but most often he finds Finn, our Wheaten Terrier. Finn does not wake easily. He slowly stretches. He stands…then moves up to my husband’s vacant pillow and snoozes again. My husband tries to quietly call to Finn to no avail. Finally, he must pick up the 44-pound dog and carry him like a large sleeping toddler to the door. After his morning duties, upon returning to our abode, he jumps up on the bed, looks me straight in my half-closed eyes, and then moves over to the vacant pillow again. His mission is to start his morning nap.


Concentrates on the task-at-hand

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Well, let’s see. Instead of single-minded determinedness, our Finn could be seen as being stricken with attention-deficit disorder. We live in an urban environment where the sounds of life engulf us. Finn has become a bit agoraphobic as the sounds confuse and perplex him. I am strategic in my timing when taking him out in the afternoon. I listen to the noises coming from outdoors. If construction noise is at a lull, I hook him up on the leash and head for the elevator, where he trembles more with each declining floor. Once outside, the quite afternoon stretches before us and Finn starts to “do his business” – then a helicopter hoovers overhead, an evil school bus arrives dropping off happy-to-be-home children, the delivery truck arrives, and the booming of the crew pounding pylons into the bedrock in the river start up. Finn’s sphincter tightens in an iron grip. All is lost…all is lost…


Stays wholly present in the moment

This characteristic does ring true for good ole’ Finn. He doesn’t appear to worry about what comes next, or by what he must complete before his master returns from work. He stays wholly present…while he sleeps the day away.


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Values self through expected compensation

While other dogs live to work, excitedly performing tasks and tricks at the chance of being rewarded with a kibble, often refusing to perform if not being paid for it, Finn…meh…not so much. When offered a treat after a long walk, he tentatively approaches the proffered tidbit, sniffs its aroma, then carefully, and ever so gently takes it into his mouth like a communion host. Then he moves to a safe place where he breaks it into tiny pieces onto my open-weave sisal rug before he eats it.


Concentrates on the positive

Finn concentrates positively on his naps. He can nap just about anywhere: on the arm of a chair, on the edge of the cushion, on my feet…yep, just about everywhere. But is he a positive canine? He has amazing hearing and can detect the slightest hum of a distant fire alarm. Then he cries, whines, and jumps in my lap. He is POSITIVE that the faint alarm is going to kill him.

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Looks out for new opportunities

Other dogs love adventure. They sniff out new paths, they boldly go where no dog should go. But not Finn. He is a creature of habit. For 18 months the river walk path behind our building has been in renovations. For 18 months we have struggled with our dog to forge new and exciting paths. Instead of taking our dog for a leisurely walk, we were taking him for a laggard drag. The new improved river walk recently re-opened, and our dog is now strutting down the boardwalk with a sense of abandon. It may look significantly different, but Finn remembers the smell of the river, and the feel of the breeze.


Connects with others
Finn networks very well. He is very respectful of other canines, often bowing down or planting his body in a deferential attempt to invite the little dogs to meet him. This can make walking difficult, with the occasional arm socket being dislocated, but gives us an opportunity to talk to other dog owners and admire other breeds.

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Embraces travel

Finn loves to be with my husband and me. If the two of us offer to walk with him together, he is in heaven. He also seems to have an innate ability to know when we are going somewhere as a human-canine family. He gets all excited, jumping up, turning flips as we head out to the elevators. When the doors open and he sees the parking garage he becomes very animated pulling us outward and onward. Then, as we turn the corner he spies the car…and stops dead in his tracks. Once again, my husband has to pick him up like an unruly toddler and force him, Finn’s legs in cartoon fashion against the sides of the open door, into the car. Sigh…


So, what is the take-away from this first exercise in self-discovery? I have discovered that I do not have a problem being proactive; I have a problem with my dog. Gotta love him.

Take a moment and tell me what you have learned from your dog, or any pet, that can help you in life.