Dynamics Of Change: It’s The Little Things!

me and Evi“Nonna, do you ever get sad because you live alone?” asked my sweet six-year-old granddaughter. My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of going from being raised in a family of eight full-blooded Italians (we have since grown exponentially) to becoming a very busy single mom of an active child with lots of friends. I smiled and responded, “No, Evi, I’m never sad to be living alone!”

“Well, you’re never really alone,” she responded. “You have Louie to keep you company.”

Ahhh, yes, and there’s always Louie! I am very grateful for Louie, and our time together is increasingly rewarding for me. But I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that he has reverted back to some of his earlier unacceptable behaviors.

It all started with my noticing his unusually boundless amount of energy. We did our normal long walks and he had play dates with his friends. But he was still anxious for more activity. While tossing the ball to play fetch one evening, I started wrestling with him—all in fun, of course (I can just see his trainer, Zig, shaking his head). While this may seem small and insignificant, this activity had ramifications that became clear.

The next morning I was working when I noticed my pup had slinked off to another part of the house. I went upstairs (and not quietly so he heard me approaching) only to find him nicely nestled on my bed! He didn’t budge when I noticed him although he clearly saw my body language and heard my expressive tone. He just looked at me with those big brown eyes as if to say, “Hey mom!”

“Get off that bed, now!” I said and with that he jumped off, and laid on the floor, belly up. Okay, sweet dog, let’s just get back on track, I mumbled to myself. A few hours later, I was in the kitchen and when I went back downstairs, there was Louie sitting on my couch. Now, my dog is not allowed on the furniture, the one exception being a love seat on which he is allowed to sit and look out the window. That’s it. This was only the beginning. Other odd behaviors started happening. He wouldn’t walk alongside me, and he was constantly pulling to get ahead of me. I caught him a few more times on my bed, and he would rebelliously linger when I would say, “Here.” Has he entered adolescence so soon, I asked myself? What on earth is going on with him?

And then it hit me. Ken Blanchard and his team have long taught on the dynamics of change. One dynamic is that when the pressure is off, we revert back to our original behaviors. Couple this with the fact that research shows it takes 21 consecutive days to form a habit and for a new course of action to be ingrained into a natural pattern of behavior. At first I reasoned that I was LONG past the 21-day mark with this dog, and he should be getting it by now. But then I asked myself if I had been consistent with my modification training for 21 consecutive days, or did I see improvement by week two and decide to ease off? I had to admit that I had taken the pressure off long before the 21 days.

And while this may seem unremarkable, I should have remembered that wrestling with Louie is a no-no. We were playing like he plays with his dog friends, and I am not his dog friend. I am his alpha. That behavior led him to believe we were on equal ground, and that he had full permission to sit wherever he wanted. Because the pressure was off, he didn’t think I was serious about the behavior modifications, and he reverted back to his original behavior.

Isn’t that just like us? We see a little improvement, and we slack off on holding ourselves and others accountable. We do this in exercise programs, healthy eating, sleeping enough, managing people and projects at work, and in nurturing our relationships. To make it worse, we often not only ease off, but also we latch onto the latest and greatest leadership idea. And we never really stay with the course of improvement we’ve started and for which we have asked others to hold us accountable. The best gifts mentors and leaders can give to others are both encouragement AND accountability. Even more important is to press through, especially during the times when things have improved enough and you think you can slack off. That is the time others need you most.

Louie and I had to go back to the basics and stick with the program. He needs a leader mom who will stay the course and lovingly keep enough pressure on to see him experience the behavior change needed to live a happy life! As I’m writing, he’s lovingly staring at me with his big brown eyes as if to assure me he is never too far and always has me in his sight! And for that, I am truly grateful.

Lou and the stain

NOTE: Louie’s stumped! There is a rust stain of some sort next to Louie’s left paw. That stain has been on my driveway for 3 weeks.  And it just happens to look like Louie! Oh the little things in life that make a huge difference in our world!

Not Everybody’s Going To Like You, Lou!

I Love LouieLouie and I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer as much as we did. Louie had a great time playing at Camp Bow Wow, relaxing, socializing with his gal pals and taking a few notes on how humans behave. He is stunned by what he has discovered!

Louie noticed that humans often say one thing but then do the opposite. They are very concerned with their images, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of social media. Interestingly, most humans share only positive information about themselves in an effort to convince everyone else how great they are!

This is all very foreign to Louie because with dogs, what you see and smell is what you get. This obsession with image is only found among humans. Dogs don’t try to be something they aren’t – although Lou does puff up his hair to make himself look bigger, but that’s less about image and more about self-protection!

Rather than try to explain it myself, I’m going to let Louie share his perspective and perhaps the best place for him to start is with his own story.

  *****

My life changed dramatically a year ago. I was roaming the rolling hills of Appalachia, searching for what I didn’t know I was missing. My training and discipline were harsh, instilling fear and lack of trust. Sadly, when I ran away, no one even knew I was missing nor did they search for me.

I thought my life was over when I was put in a cage and taken many miles to an unknown destination. It was very confusing, and the way I coped was just to hold my head up and stare straight ahead. There were so many cages and car rides I lost count. One day, we took a short ride and settled in a place where people paraded in front of us. The dogs around me were doing back flips and trying to get noticed, but I was so weary; I didn’t even care. Finally, when they opened my cage, I thought I would make a beeline for freedom. But I looked up, and there she stood with big brown eyes and an even bigger smile. At that moment, I realized what I had been missing all my life.

While I may not have been as terribly abused as many of my canine friends, I never really experienced genuine love or affection. Lack of love and attention is one of the worst abuses a dog can suffer. But the minute my eyes connected with this special person, I knew I had a chance to be loved and was hopeful I would never be lonely or neglected again.

So, our journey began. Because of my past, my master had to engage a trainer to teach me the balance of disciplining with loving. Apparently, my new human needed training too! Who knew learning to balance discipline with love would be so challenging. But the training paid off, because now we make a great team. And my leader even learned a few things about leadership, which she has written about in her blogs and in a book, aptly titled Louie’s Leadership Lessons. I like that she’s always willing to learn. This is the hallmark of a good leader.

Yet, in this journey I had a few setbacks. I’ve had some tough lessons to learn – perhaps the toughest was realizing that not everyone liked me. Because my leader lavished love on me with just the right amount of discipline, I learned to be very happy-go-lucky. And because she so easily loved me, I thought everybody would just love me—Not so!

With my history, I’m pretty used to getting bullied by bigger dogs. I don’t like it, but I’ve learned to run away instead of fight because I am much faster than they are! But recently, I met a cute little dog with whom I fell for immediately. She was spunky, walked with authority and exuded self-assurance. I like that in a gal pal!

When I tried to get to know her, however, she didn’t respond the way I’d hoped. I saw her walking one day and decided it was my chance to get to know her. Our leaders knew each other, so it was an easy introduction. She is much smaller than me, so I wanted to be careful not to overpower her. But in a second, my world turned upside down. I threw all caution to the wind. My tail wagged; I offered loving licks; and my plaintive voice said, “Hi, I just met you, and I love you.” The love was met with snarls, growls and flashing, white sharp teeth.

Though we kept walking, I just could not enjoy our time together. I hung my head low and wondered the entire time, what just happened? Why would she not like me? What have I done to get that kind of reception? And my leader, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Louie, not everyone’s going to like you!”

That was hard to believe! But I decided to take some time to ponder this news. I observed a few other doggie interactions, and alas, my leader was correct: Not everyone likes me. There is no rhyme or reason for it; there is no way around it; and one might not be able to make sense of it. But one thing is certain: I will not let rejection get the best of me or ruin my day or week or BEST YEAR EVER!!

What helps me to have this focus is to keep my eye on my source of joy! I relish in my master’s love and character, and I let her guide me to the relationships worth pursuing and those I need to avoid. She has never led me astray, and I doubt she ever will. I see her model this with her relationship with her Master, her Creator and loving God. I can’t go wrong following a leader who has this kind of servant heart. While you may know her as Danise, leader, businesswoman, consultant, friend or sister, I now know her as Mom (Thanks, Marisa, for sharing her).

 

Snickers, who would not let Louie in the photo!

 

NOTE: Thanks for your patience as we adjust to our new blog site. If you’d like to see Louie’s previous posts, please visit:  http://louiesleadershiplessons.blogspot.com

 

Louie has something to say about that!

I have something to say about that!

I have something to say about that!

 

What a great summer we’ve had. Louie’s made several friends, had tiring play dates at Camp Bow Wow, and has enjoyed playing with the alpha pups. I’ve managed more writing projects than originally planned and have enjoyed time with many new clients.

Some of you have met Louie and are familiar with how much he likes to talk. If you live in our neighborhood, you can hear him all the way down the street because he’s so vocal. Well, I’ve learned Louie has something to say! In fact, he has something to say about a number of topics–very important topics like why doesn’t the little dog down the street like him (you know who you are), what it’s like to be led by a servant leader, how to have a highly productive pack (and have everyone get along), why it’s good to stare out the window, why love trust and respect are important in the work place…and his favorite, how to mentor alpha pups!

He’s finishing his vacation (Oh, boy! Oh, boy!) and will be back soon (with a little surprise)!