Monday, July 14, 2014

Dog poo in the living room

Every morning at about 6:00, I get the pleasure of taking Miles, the greatest dog in the world out for his “morning constitution.”

As you might expect, there is a routine involved and it is rarely altered. Miles and I go out the front door, down the front walk, around to the back of the house, along the woods, then into the high field where business is done. Miles leaves “pee mail” at various trees and bushes along the way to keep in touch with the other pups and small animals in the area who have a similar routine.
Yesterday began like any other day. Miles led the way out the front door, down the walk, around to the back, along the woods, but then he froze. He would not go into the field with the high grass. He just looked at me with an expression saying, “I’m not going in there.” Then he turned and walked back to the house the same way we always return.
I knew what threw Miles off his morning routine: deer. A mother deer and her two little ones have been living in the woods behind the house, and they have come out to our yard and into the field back there. Miles had seen them from the deck, so his senses were on high alert.
Miles was calm when we returned to the house. It was 6:30 on Sunday morning, so I went back to bed. About fifteen minutes later, Miles was running through the house. He scampered through each room, up and down the hallway, and all around. Of course, I got up to check on him, but nothing was amiss. He didn’t whimper, there was no thunder, and no one was knocking on the door. I returned to bed for about an hour.

When I got out of bed to start the day, Miles didn’t greet me like he usually does. I knew something was amiss now. When I reached the living room, I could smell something amiss, then I saw the mess. Luckily, the mess was not big and it was easy to clean up. A quick cleaning and the rug was like new. But, Miles felt terrible. He had a guilty look on his face and he clearly felt bad for his unusual behavior.

My husband, Bob, and I spent several minutes reassuring Miles that he was a good boy. We knew he did not need punishment because he had never done this before. He was punishing himself enough. He needed empathy from us. We were happy to offer it. His demeanor returned to normal later in the day, and all was well.

Until this morning.
I awoke around 6:00am to take Miles outside. We followed our traditional routine: out the front door, down the walk, around to the back, along the woods, over to the field. Just like yesterday, Miles stopped. He would not enter the field. I even tried to nudge him in there to take care of business, but he would not go. We had been out for a while, and I had to get ready for work, so we returned back to the house.

But, today, I did not assume Miles was fine. After all, he still had not handled his morning business. Bob took Miles out for a walk in a different area, which is part of their morning routine, and business was handled. When I left for work, the rug was fine. Oh, Miles and Bob were fine too.

What strikes me about the living room poo experience is how routines get altered. Although Miles and I have the same routine each day, we have different experiences in that routine. He was afraid of the deer, I was not. I assumed he would feel the same way I did, and I dismissed his feelings. My assumption contributed to the poo on the rug.
Doesn’t the same thing happen at work? Of course, there’s no poo on the rug here, but there are consequences when we assume things about each other or overlook other’s experiences. Do you ever assume people think the same way you think or feel the same way you do about the same experience? We take each other for granted, then mistakes happen or time-consuming C.Y.A. takes over communication.

One other thought to ponder was the forgiveness for the error. Miles does not poo in the living room all the time, so we did not need to punish him or instill new rules. We needed to learn from the mistake and set him up for success next time. How good are people at doing that for colleagues? Or, are we better at blaming them and holding a grudge?
Pay attention to routines, what alters them, and how others feel about them. And, forgive people when altered routines cause errors. Keep your senses on high alert so you can set people up for success, and you won’t miss the signals that poo is on the way.

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