Living through Covid-19 and all the talk about getting back to normal reminded me of a time not so long ago. In December of 2016, I experienced a terrible fall on ice, which resulted in a fractured hip and femur. Louie was as traumatized as I was, through the journey of falling and consequent surgery. He had to adjust to my being gone for two weeks; friends coming and going, walking and feeding him, playing with him; all while he constantly watched the door with the hope I would walk through it any minute.
Once I was home, he learned to trust my erratic movements with a cane and settled back into some interesting habits: growling at people who come to my door (even his dog walkers) and jumping on the couch to sit directly across from me (better to watch me, he said).
One evening, a friend came by to take Louie for a walk. After they finished and she came in to sit with me for a while, he ran through the house, checked on me, and then ran upstairs, where he ran the length of the hallway several times. Then, I heard a big commotion, and from where I was sitting, I could tell what that little rascal was doing. He was getting into my clothes basket in my bathroom and taking all the clothes out of it, having no consideration whatsoever for the amount of time it took me to get the clothes into that basket.
But this was not surprising. When it took all my energy to walk from the living room to the kitchen, disciplining a dog was not high on my list, especially since we’ve been through this before. The pressure was off of Louie to behave well—and when the pressure is off, he reverts back to his old habits.
That is so like us. When the pressure is off, we revert to our old behaviors. I reflected on what this meant after that fall and getting “back to normal.” When I was able to drive, I finally had a sense of life getting back to normal. Getting off medication, walking better, and looking forward to some normalcy were great goals for recovery. But did I really want normalcy to be my goal? After my fall, I was clear I did not want to go backward. And coming out of this pandemic, I challenge each of us to do life differently.
Be intentional about breaking past the norm. Life is too short and too easily interrupted for us to stay stuck in the status quo. And you are never too old to take that first step to crash through the “same ol’, same ol’.”
As for Louie, we will always have work to do. I suppose being intentionally kind will be continual with little Louie DiStasi!
I’ve noticed lately I no longer enjoy my walks with my rescue pup, Louie. It saddens me to share that publicly, but it is the truth—a truth I had to take time to explore and understand.
I love to walk because I enjoy the outdoors and because it’s an excellent way for me to exercise. I also enjoy seeing my neighbors and getting a chance to catch up with them.
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I knew this day would come. I had been dreading it for some time, yet I knew it was near. Louie’s sweet little friend, Ellie, recently passed. Those who loved her, especially her mom, Lynne Ruhl, are devastated.
I met Ellie some time ago when she was just a pup while visiting with Lynne at her home. Ellie needed to be in my lap, next to me, by my feet, sitting right next to my chair—anywhere in close proximity. I wanted to believe I was special but as I grew to know Ellie, I realized she treated everyone pretty much the same. She just loved humans.
When my dear friend Lynne moved into my neighborhood, I was thrilled. Not only to have a close friend nearby, but also because of Ellie. I was able to spend more time with Ellie, walking her, having her visit with us. Louie loved her and often sought her advice, very much like I do with Lynne. [Blog Post; Addressing Conflict; with Ellie Ruhl]
When her little face would pop up in the door window, I knew Lynne wasn’t home. That gave me an opportunity to steal my little Ellie away and spend time with her doing our favorite pastime—walking. She was such a joy to walk. She pranced, like the princess she was. But the funniest part of walking her was when she would see a human. She was convinced that the person needed to see her, and she pranced right over to them. The person would light up when they saw Ellie, whether or not they were a dog person.
When she saw a dog, she would react the same way, convinced the dog was very much interested in making her acquaintance. When the dog showed signs of not wanting her near, she was shocked and unconvinced. I had to laugh at her desire to know everyone. She knew if she loved all created beings, then all created beings would love her.
Oh, my sweet Ellie, if only that were true. If only our world loved as easily as you did.
Ellie broke her foot shortly after moving into their condo. She was running in the backyard and her foot caught in a grate. I thought she would lose her prance, but she seemed to spring right back. There were many long walks and fun times with that precious girl.
And then over the last year or so, I noticed her decline. She slowly stopped jumping high in the air when she saw people, her pranced slowed — a little at first, and then a lot– and her long hesitation before hopping onto a step was noticeable. My heart was sad, and I looked for any sign of the precious little Ellie that I knew and loved. I usually witnessed an ever so slight indication, which thoroughly convinced me she was fine.
That was until I took her outside for the very last time. In fact, I knew it would be the last time I’d see her. I helped her up the step into the house. As she oriented herself, I knelt beside her. Not wanting to upset her with my display of emotion, I quietly whispered, “Ellie, you are loved. Thank you for loving me and Louie and everyone you came in contact with.” That was all I could get out. The sadness was overwhelming.
I saw Lynne when she arrived home from Ellie’s last visit with the vet. My heart broke for her because I know that pain all too well. Losing our pets is very difficult. Losing Ellie was heartbreaking for Lynne.
Honestly, I doubt I will ever meet another created being who could make someone—anyone—feel as loved as Ellie did. She exuded love and never cared who you were, what you did, or how you looked. If you were breathing, she loved you. Imagine our world if we treated others as Ellie did. And as much as I know many people love Louie, I’m being truthful when I say he is a bit more reserved about showing love to others.
To our little Ellie; thank you for bringing such love into our world. You are sorely missed, little one. And you will always be loved.
“You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.” Ps: 36:6
NOTE: Louie and I will resume our blog in September. We are feverishly working on our newest project, Love Like Louie.
Louie and I were enjoying an evening stroll in our neighborhood and stopped to talk to several neighbors. As we finished one conversation, Louie picked up the pace to continue our walk when suddenly, from out of nowhere, another dog charged him, barking feverishly.
Louie’s first reaction to any threat, real or imagined, is to run as fast as he can. But being on a leash prohibits that reaction, so he resorts to his next natural reaction: to fight. Louie’s hackles went up immediately, and he bared his teeth and growled viciously.
Never mind that the threat was an elderly, twelve-pound pug named Sophie who had gotten loose from her owner. Leash and all, she went after Louie with all her might. I yanked on Louie’s leash and commanded him to stop. But how could I do that when his very life was being threatened (or so he thought)? Sophie’s owner stood back and did not come to the rescue. Here I was telling my dog not to react while hers was loose and giving Louie all she had. When I realized I would not get any help from her owner, I reached down, grabbed Sophie, and in my best imitation of Clint Eastwood, hissed in her ear, “Not with my dog, you don’t!”
I handed Sophie over to her owner, and Louie and I continued walking, a bit out of breath but glad to be away from the nuisance. I was ticked, to say the least. In the heat of the moment, I thought of letting Louie do whatever he wanted to that little Sophie but decided not to allow the situation to escalate. It seemed unfair that I told my dog not to behave badly yet he was the one being attacked.
Oh, gee, wait . . . we do that all the time in our organizations, don’t we? Someone attacks another, and we stand by and watch because the attacker is “harmless” (or so we think). We try to handle the better-behaved employee because they take feedback well and are more apt to listen. Meanwhile, the attacker continues down their path of destruction. Many times, we don’t want to confront the attacker because of the havoc they will wreak. We brush off such poor behavior, reasoning that the attacker either didn’t mean any harm or must have had an issue outside of that they’re struggling to handle. After all, they really are a nice person, right?
Right! Sophie’s an adorable dog unless you’re another dog and happen to be anywhere in her sight!
Now, I know there is a theory about why small dogs think they need to go after larger dogs. I’ve owned a few of those small dogs myself; the most notorious was Cece. My sister, Mary Jo, described her as scrappy. Cece would chase after the Rottweiler down the street. The bigger the dog, the more aggressively Cece would take it on. So embarrassing! But Cece and the small dog syndrome will be the subject of another post.
This post is about how it takes only one person to destroy a team and set it back. Louie was skittish on walks after that incident with one little dog, which seemed to set us back four years to when I first adopted him and he was filled with fear. Sophie behaved poorly, Louie was reprimanded, and we found ourselves back at square one.
By the same token, it takes only one person to
Louie and Sophie will never be friends, but he should at least not have to fear her as we walk down the street. In reflecting on this situation, I’ve set out to be that one person who can positively affect others’ lives despite those who do nothing but attack. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps collectively, we can make our world a better place.
Just for fun…
Louie is not a fan of Halloween and costumes!
Louie hit a rough patch last week. One night shortly after settling into our nightly routine, he became restless. He rarely dances around to signal his need to go outside; when he did so, we made it to the front yard just in the nick of time. He clearly had an upset stomach and was one miserable little pup.
I wasn’t sure how he would fare through the night, but I knew he would let me know if he needed to make a trip outside. Sure enough, at midnight and then again at 1:30 a.m., he woke me up, needing to go out. I was administering the proper foods to settle his digestive system, but I had already decided to call the vet in the morning to get him in as soon as possible.
Then something magical happened. It’s tough to put the words “magical” and “upset stomach” in the same sentence, but that is exactly what took place. While I was thinking through all the practical reasons Louie was sick and slowly trying to coax him back into the house, he stopped and looked far off into the distance. Normally, Louie can become nervous when he’s outside in the dark; he usually wants to head back inside as soon as possible. Our trainer has advised me that I need to walk boldly and with confidence when we’re outside after dark so that Louie will feel safe.
But standing outside at 1:30 in the morning, I had no desire to be the alpha. I just wanted to go back to bed with a hope and a prayer that Louie would be on the mend. At the moment, though, Louie was fixated on something that grabbed his attention; even with a slight tug, he would not move.
Then it happened. Rather than scurrying back to the safety of the house, we stood and took in the magic of a peaceful, quiet night. He slowly looked from the street up to the stars above. I stopped, too, and looked. The sky was beautiful, and the quietness with a few faint nighttime sounds was breathtaking. Louie seemed to marvel at the night sky. I noticed it, too—and it grabbed my heart.
We spent a long moment drinking in the beauty. I looked at my pup, and we both knew it was time to go in. After our midnight reverie, whatever Louie tapped into must have healed his nerves because he settled in for a long, deep sleep. The next day, he woke up without a trace of sickness.
As I type out this message, I am compelled to ponder this thought: when did I lose this sense of wonder? I see it emerge when I play with my grandchildren—when we go off on adventures. But as Louie and I stood together that evening, I realized that it can be easy to mistake wonder for foolishness. In fact, I have to ask myself—is this thought just foolishness?
I so desire to reignite my sense of incredible marvel. For me, this is about more than being creative: it is seeing the beauty and magic in the world all around us—the creation that God breathed life into. It is engaging with a dear friend in deep, heartwarming conversation. It is watching my beautiful niece walk along a peaceful garden path to join her soon-to-be-husband in their outdoor wedding ceremony. It is witnessing the miraculous birth of my grandchildren. It is running outside to catch the ice cream truck as it passes through my neighborhood—and having my brother and his family joining me, which happened just last week. Four adults standing in my driveway eagerly anticipating the thrill of eating ice cream from a truck, unprompted by children!
Admit it—we yearn to be moved by seeing things beyond our physical world filled with horrific news. We all want to feel profoundly alive, to feel like we’re a part of the grander scheme of things for the greater good. Yet many of us have lost this sense of curiosity. Moments that might have taken our breath away from our younger selves now may not move us at all.
If you are a leader in an organization, community, or family, what are ways you could reignite your sense of wonder? Perhaps you feel aware that you’ve lost it, or perhaps you still do experience it. What about those you lead—do you see glimpses of their capacity for awe? The greatest gift you can give to others is to help them navigate uncertain waters and enter that new world with them. You can choose to intentionally engage in conversations with your team about recapturing this magical sense. You and your team may be surprised by feeling powerfully impacted as you tap into this sense.
I hope Louie never loses his sense of wonder. I am not saying that he has this down, or even that he is cognizant of his tender sense of awe. Nevertheless, I envy his ability to stop and connect with creation and draw from that a sense of peace. Even on that night without sleep, unexpected and moving lessons were shown to me by my pup, Louie.
If you recall my blogs at the beginning of the year, I had a life-changing event take place. My goal then was to dance at my niece’s wedding…and dance we did!
Louie, my adopted pup, and I were walking on a beautiful fall day when we saw one of his pug buddies—or so we thought. His friend Sammy is a tan and black pug with a unique characteristic: his tongue protrudes ever so slightly. I recognized that the person walking him was not his owner. That’s not unusual since many of us in the community need others to walk our dogs on occasion. Louie was excited to see his buddy and could hardly wait to romp and play.
As we approached, I asked if the dog was Sammy, because he had the same markings and same characteristic of a slightly protruding tongue. The person walking him said no. But Louie quickly ran up to the Sammy look-alike; it did not take him long to realize this was not his buddy, and then he became indignant as if he was mad at the pug for not being Sammy.
We quickly said our good-byes while Louie kicked up his feet and snarled just to make sure the dog understood he was not even close to being Sammy.
I realized Louie’s expectations for playing with his friend were unmet, and disappointment had set in quickly. Based on all appearances, Louie was expecting to have fun and play, but that expectation was not to be filled that day.
This time of year, the majority of us have many expectations that, when unmet for whatever reason, will disappoint us. People have a hard time moving on from such setbacks. I think these disappointments occur because we’ve set ourselves up for failure when we box up our expectations in the hopes that they will be fulfilled.
Instead, what if we had a spirit of expectancy? You may wonder what the difference is between having expectations and having a spirit of expectancy. A spirit of expectancy is what very young children usually possess. They have the mindset that something wonderful is about to happen, but with no expectation of specifics. While they may wish for something on their Christmas list, it is their heart of expectancy that is truly magical. It is the hopefulness of something wonderful. For me, that may entail time with my family, but without expectation that the time meets any specific criteria—it is simply time together.
Another example occurred on the holiest of nights. For centuries, people expected the Messiah to come amongst their midst. In this expectation, they envisioned a king, surrounded by throngs of noble men and women and trumpets blaring. Because of these expectations they missed the wonder of all that took place on that quiet, serene night when the stars were brightly shining.
Yet only those with a spirit of expectancy, whose hearts were open to the wonder of what only the Creator of the universe could put into action, witnessed the birth of the King in a simple, lowly manger.
Expectations for particular things and events always run the risk of disappointing us, since many times, events and what others do are out of our control. As we wind down our year, rather than focusing on the disappointments of unmet expectations, let’s look forward with a heart of expectancy and see if that doesn’t lighten our spirits with the hope that something wonderful is about to happen.
While Louie experienced disappointment by not having his expectations met with the look-alike Sammy, it did not dampen his spirit of expectancy. He still walks out of our home with the hope that something wonderful is about to happen. Something as simple as seeing a dear neighbor who pats him on the head or gives him belly rubs lends to his heart of wonder.
The subject line might offend Louie. In fact, it might offend you as well. But let’s face it—in the heat of the recent political battle, many of us are shaking our heads while trying to understand what just happened. One thing I do know is that disrespect for people with differing opinions is at an all-time high.
The rude rhetoric on all sides of the political spectrum gave me pause and made me think of Louie and some of his not-so-friendly foes. I am convinced that if people were to act the way our pets do, we would all get along better. For example, sometimes Louie might see a dog that challenges him. The two will snarl and growl and perhaps even bark at each other. However, the minute we walk side by side with the dog and its owner, they seem to get along. There is something about being intentional and walking alongside someone you have a disagreement with.
Louie has done this with my niece’s dog, Buddy. Those two little boys will scrunch their noses, curl their lips, show their teeth, stand their hair up, and bark in such a high pitch that people turn their heads with a look of concern. Andrea laughs, assuring everyone in sight that the dogs are actually cousins and are fine with each other. It sure doesn’t seem like it when they are facing one another. However, as soon as we start walking, they are fine together.
Louie also behaves this way with rambunctious Claire, his other cousin Noli, his neighbor Snickers, and a new boxer in the community named Socks. What is it about being side by side with their supposed nemesis? I think there are several things:
What if some of our leaders were intentional about walking side by side instead of duking it out? I am reminded of an article I wrote in 2005 when I worked with Ken Blanchard titled “Leading with Your Heart Takes Humility.” Although it was written over eleven years ago, the premise holds true today: Humility is the key to excelling in leadership. And servant leaders are humble enough to walk beside someone they disagree with.
I won’t share the full article here (you can find it at this link), but here are some of the highlights:
Our businesses, organizations, and families are hungry for leadership coupled with humility. It takes commitment to make the necessary changes to have a healthy culture and humble leaders.
Perhaps our world could learn a lesson from Louie about being intentional and walking side by side with others rather than snarling at them. While Louie doesn’t understand humility, his actions speak louder than his woof. He is more than willing to walk alongside others. As I watch his actions, I am convinced that we humans have much to learn from our dogs.
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Louie and I went for an early morning walk. I was eager to get in some exercise ahead of a busy client day. Just as we crossed the street in front of a wooded area, I heard a screeching sound, as though two cats were fighting. Without hesitation, Lou ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction. He didn’t look around. He didn’t stop. He just took off running. Once Lou was at the end of the leash, his body stopped, but his legs kept going. I had to laugh because he reminded me of The Jetsons with Jethro, the dog, on the treadmill.
Only when he felt we were at a safe distance did he turn to look back with a worried look on his face. He would have nothing to do with cats, much less getting in the middle of their fight. As we walked at our usual clipped pace, I thought, “Louie is a very smart dog.” Oh, if only we humans could learn to run as fast as we can when others try to pull us into arguments.
Conflict certainly happens with our friends or families, but it is very disruptive when it happens with our teams. It creates dissension and stagnates creativity and productivity, not to mention what it does to the cultural health of an organization.
We would love to offer our assistance when two coworkers are fighting so that we can feel good about helping, yet it is not always that simple or straightforward. Sometimes, it is best to run in the other direction, just as Louie does.
There are other times, though, we may be able to offer help. In my coaching practice, I often listen to employees or leaders vent about conflict or upsetting situations. Executive coaching may appear to be different from dealing with coworkers, but I have found the following process extremely helpful:
Sometimes Louie’s method is actually the best. There are many times when it is not worth getting in the middle of two people who are fighting. No matter what you try to do to help, you might find that it will backfire on you.
Before you take that step in helping people resolve a conflict, you need to make sure that they are willing to work at it and to understand that the end goal is to mend the relationship. Some people have no intentions of reconciling, and it makes it tough to work with them. The catfight will revolve around who was right and who was wrong—and there will be no resolution to the conflict.
Louie does the first two steps very well. He lets me talk things out and listens intently, with those big, brown, soulful eyes. Then with a sweet content look on his face, he yawns and moves on. That’s a signal to me it’s time to get over whatever it was that upset me and to deal with the situation. Thanks, Lou, for such wisdom!