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.

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  1. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide on September 17, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Oh we have one of those sweetheart devils in the house. Our one dog could just be kenneled, but not our younger one. We need to find a sitter to come here. It has to be a woman too. Great post. Coming home to dogs is the best.

    • spiderpaw on September 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Coming home to dogs is the best, especially after a long trying day at work.

  2. lifewith4cats on September 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    such a wonderful post! Im so happy Grace had such a supportive care taker. The way you worded this one, when your friend did the speaking, my inner readers voice gave her a gentle english accent. heheh Grace must be happy to be back safe and sound.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on September 19, 2011 at 6:47 am

      You are very, very perceptive, Sara. MaryAnn lived in England on and off for about 15 years! We went back over to MaryAnn’s on Sunday for a nice walk in her woods and Grace looked like she could have settled back in. So I think she was happy to be home, but was so nice to see she was happy there, too.

  3. spiderpaw on September 18, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I’m happy to hear that Ms Grace had a nice vacation herself. I know how hard it is to find someone to look after your pets for an extended time. We are fortunate enough to have family with pets, so for our dogs at least it’s like they are staying with their cousins for a while. Of course, even with all of this one still worries however of the dog’s well being, and I am glad that you and Grace faired well during your separation.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on September 19, 2011 at 6:51 am

      Thanks so much, Lionel. You’re right; as much as I focus on the new things that I’m experiencing when I travel, home is always in the back of my mind, especially Grace. It was so nice to have her with good friends. And you are indeed lucky to have that family situation — fun for everyone!

  4. didiwright on September 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I’m so happy that Grace had a good holiday, too. That must be such a relief for you! Since we’ve never left George with anyone else, we worry about how he’d behave if we ever have to leave him behind even for a few days. We don’t worry about him being naughty, because we know he wouldn’t be. We worry that he wouldn’t be happy and would stop eating. Or that he’d never forgive us and he’d never be the same. After reading about Grace’s successful experience, I feel more positive. If she handled it so well, then maybe George would, too. After all, we’d only live him with people he knows and is comfortable with, in a familiar environment, like you did with Grace.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on September 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Thanks, Didi. I agree with you that the experience will be a positive one if George is familiar with the surroundings and it’s not a shock to him. He’ll obviously miss all of you, but if he knows you trust the place he’s at, it’s the best you can do. You know how I like to make the analogys to the workplace and it’s no different than helping someone be prepared in your absence from work. It’s just that Grace and George take a little more oversight to help things go smoothly! 🙂

      • didiwright on September 20, 2011 at 4:51 am

        I guess I worry more about George than I would about a human being, because I know I could not explain the situation to him in a way that he could understand. But I also know that dogs are supposed to live in the present and time passes differently for them, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for him. With your positive encouragement and having learnt from Grace’s experience, I think we could all handle the separation if we had to. Thanks 😉

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