I'm not claiming Baxter is the smartest pooch on the planet. He has flaws. He does his fair share of butt sniffing--and in business, that's not acceptable. But he does have many admirable qualities which relate to our careers.
I've detected nine things--or should that be (ca)nine?--Baxter does that we could benefit from:
1. Baxter doesn't care what you say behind his back.
Dogs are impervious to gossip because they just don't care. Bax may have eaten another of my socks, and I'll curse about it--but frankly, he isn't interested.
He lives in the here and now. If I catch him about to eat a sock and admonish him, he totally gets that. He looks sheepish and is immediately contrite.
Don't worry what people say about you when you're not there to defend yourself. If you're caught out, accept it, show contrition, and move on.
2. Baxter is an old(ish) dog but he can learn new tricks.
Baxter's capacity to learn new things is incredible. With the right incentive (in his case, it's bananas--he adores them), you can teach him pretty much anything.
It may be a cliche, but it's true: You're never too old to learn something new. You just need the right incentive. What's your banana?
3. Baxter knows that you have to trust someone.
He recently had an operation on his leg and we had to regularly clean the wound. It distressed him--yet he never once tried to snap at us. He trusted us implicitly.
That trust that has built up over the years. He knows we would never harm him. It's the kind of trust work colleagues often don't have: They let petty politics or personality clashes prevent them from truly trusting one another.
4. Baxter knows there's always another way.
Dogs are incredibly resourceful. After his operation, he had to wear a plastic cone on his head. The vet said he wouldn't be able to reach the wound.
He bent the edge of the cone against his leg so he could nibble on the itchy stitches. Highly effective problem-solving skills. It demonstrated another admirable trait: unwavering determination.
5. Baxter has a sniff test.
Baxter weighs up any new quarry with excitement and caution (I think he remembers the time he was bullied by an overly energetic pug). The thought process is a mixture of what they look like, their body language, and what they smell like.
He then decides to greet them or avoid them. He instinctively knows if something is "off" and acts accordingly.
Sometimes, your gut will tell you if you are dealing with a wrong 'un from the outset. Listen to it.
6. Baxter doesn't hold a grudge.
A while back, Bax met our neighbor's dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Ralph. Baxter's smell test hadn't kicked in, and before we knew it, Ralph was trying to play the wheelbarrow game with poor old Baxter.
I'd expected Baxter to be wary of Ralph, in case he tried it again, but the two of them get on famously now. It's clear to me that Baxter can forgive, accepting that we can all make mistakes.
7. Baxter is ready for anything, whenever you ask him.
Trying to get our kids out of bed at 4 a.m. if we're going away is like pulling teeth. Bax? Not so much.
He'll yawn and stretch but will always be ready for anything, especially if there's a banana on offer. Would you do the same? Would your work colleagues? Particularly if the only thing you offered them was a banana?
8. Baxter is unashamedly excited when he's happy.
When I come home from a trip, Bax always makes the biggest fuss. He barges everyone else out of the way, tail wagging furiously, running around in tight circles like a Tasmanian Devil.
That, in itself, is a skill--to demonstrate pure unadulterated joy. We all have the same capacity when we're young. We lose it over the years, especially in business.
Bring it back.
9. Baxter is a great listener.
I admit it, I talk to my dog. He isn't much of a conversationalist. He just sits there, drooling, head cocked to one side with a quizzical expression on his face.
He makes up for it with his listening skills, never answering back or interrupting. Sometimes that's all you need--a sympathetic ear. Even though he's probably just thinking about bananas.
So there you have it: Real life skills to help us in our careers. Am I barking mad or do I have a point? Whilst you ponder that, I'm off for a chat with Baxter. And maybe share a banana.