Vacation time offers opportunity to see the big picture of “performance”
A couple of people have asked me how Grace did while we were away on vacation. We have often left Grace with two different families, good friends who are really great with Grace, but this time was a little different. First it was longer; this would be two weeks and while there was one time we were gone three weeks, this was an unusually long time to be separated.
Hurricane Irene had roared up the East Coast just prior to our departure. She caused power outages in our region and one friend [who watches Grace] works for the electric company. After getting our local area back on track, her job required her to travel to Connecticut for major restoration efforts there. That meant she wasn’t available to be hostess to Nervous Nellie (code name for Grace). The other family who typically watches Grace had plans for part of the time we would be gone. (I never worry about her there, even though they have a small toddler, typically a huge issue for Grace. Even at three years old, that little guy somehow has made his way into her heart and Grace is even protective of him! That’s a good story for another day.)
Leaving Grace just anywhere isn’t something I’m willing to do. She gets nervous with new places and new people and I could board her, but try to leave that as a last option.
Lucky for us—and for Grace—another friend agreed to give Grace a try. Before we left, I went over and got Grace familiar with her house and property. Grace has met MaryAnn on many occasions at our house and so I was certain she would remember that connection. I just wasn’t sure what she would think about an entirely new place for a whole week. (And neither was MaryAnn!)
On our trial visit to MaryAnn’s, Grace whined nearly the entire time. Oh gosh, I’m thinking, I hope she doesn’t do that – it would drive anyone nuts. But MaryAnn wasn’t concerned and we agreed to give it a-go.
On an email check-in during the trip, MaryAnn reported that “Gracie is a very well-behaved pup, albeit a teensy sneaky!!” Pete immediately thought Grace had nabbed some tasty morsel at the first opportune moment (she is a scavenger, after all) and I emailed back to check. No, MaryAnn said that “sneaky (and just barely) equates a silent slither unto the end cushion on the couch which she knows is a no-no. She really is a sweetheart.”
Several days later MaryAnn reported: “She is the sweetest, most obedient dog I have ever known if we disregard the chipmunks that get up on the window ledge and waggle their ears at her!!!”
Her sentences made me melt. MaryAnn, in an extraordinarily concise and accurate reflection, was saying Grace was being wonderful while also being a little devil. She so clearly put in perspective where Grace behaved well and when she didn’t. And both were in a supportive tone.
I’ve seen Grace when she has sight of a small furry creature on the other side of a window. It isn’t pretty. She becomes crazy—whining, scratching, clawing and wanting to run out and hunt the beast down. You can’t control her. But MaryAnn, in her wisdom, knew that in this instance, she could disregard a very annoying behavior and think of the big picture. Grace was in a new place, new surroundings, and from the sounds of it, adjusting pretty well for a high-strung dog. And MaryAnn, so calm and wise, knew how to put the whole scene in perspective.
I do realize it’s easier to do this with a cute dog (though not always – I’ve lost my patience with her and regretted it afterwards). But with people in the workplace, it seems to me that we have a tendency to focus on the trait that irritates us, and very quickly start to shut down to recognize the value that the person contributes to the work and to the team.
I am grateful that MaryAnn could get beyond the annoying behaviors, especially as I know taking care of Grace was disruptive to her own schedule – not to mention her cat’s environment. Twinkee was less than excited to see Grace arrive. Even when our own world is turned upside down, it’s really important to put the entire scene in context. That way we can be objective as we address the issues and fair to the person involved.
Grace did ok on our vacation. That’s because she was with a good leader.