Earlier this month, I had to say good-bye to my beloved dog. It’s a heart-wrenching experience, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I think it’s safe to say that the bond between a girl and her dog is one of the most powerful relationships in her life.

My pup, Sophie, was the first dog I’d ever had, and she was everything I’d ever want in a dog. She was a few years old when I rescued her from the local shelter 13 years ago and, surprisingly, she came fully loaded – she was fully trained, fully mannered and fully loveable. She was easily the best dog ever in the history of dogs.

She gave the same, tail-wagging reaction to both “Wanna go for a walk!?” and “Wanna go to the groomer for a nail trim?!” As long as she was going somewhere … anywhere … she was thrilled. She sighed with pleasure when she got a belly scratch. When face-to-face with the vet for a shot, she pulled through like a trouper without complaint. When I would bring her to work with me, she was a polite welcome wagon for visitors, calmly asking for a scratch on the head before obediently going back to her ratty old bed in the corner.

I never got her to walk nicely on her leash, I was never able to get her attention when there was a squirrel in the vicinity, and she never stood up for herself when the cat bullied her. But, I also knew she’d stop at nothing to protect me from a suspicious stranger lurking around outside, she’d always attempt to break the land-speed record to catch a rabbit in the yard, and that she would be a loyal sidekick on any adventure.

When I look back on my life with Sophie and her special dog-ness, it got me thinking. I believe dogs provide a quiet influence on how a successful we can be.

Dogs are loyal by nature, and so are we. Think about when you need something … how often do you pick up the same product brands or go to the same service stations out of loyalty? The product or service works for you. As professionals and entrepreneurs, we understand this. I know I work hard to not only maintain my loyalty to my clients, but work even harder to earn and maintain their loyalty in return.

I’m not referring to the dogs that are born, bred, and trained to protect land and man at all costs. I’m referring to that innate sense that “something is off.” That sense that gets an otherwise mellow pooch to stand at attention, tail up, knowing she may need to fight for what’s right. For us, it’s that quiet whisper in back of our heads that a particular vendor may not be as trustworthy as he claims, or the inexplicable feeling that a potential client will be more trouble for your team than she’s worth.

With the exception of the “lurking stranger” I mentioned earlier, probably the best trait of any dog is ability to be friendly and respectful to anyone. Period. A dog doesn’t see stereotypes, net worth, or job titles. How often have we been a bit impatient with a sales person doing a cold call to our office? Or, on the flip side, been on the receiving end of rudeness or disrespect? I think we could all probably step it up a notch and be a bit friendlier.

Imagine if you could bottle the ability to completely trust your instincts without hesitation…then, just as quickly, move beyond the moment and leave it behind you. While dogs’ instincts can undoubtedly get them into trouble sometimes, the simple ability know, deep down, what you need to do is something we could all practice doing a little more. We’ve all been there … when you didn’t trust your gut and you ended up burned. Or — and this is a tough one — when the “Next Big Idea” for your business or your career looks good on paper, but simply doesn’t “feel” right. What do you do when instinct says “Wait!” but logic says “Go forward!”

Trust and Accountability
Dogs rely on their people for everything – feeding them, loving them, keeping them safe. They even trust us to make the impossible decisions for their health and well-being. We are their entire world, but they don’t worry that we’re not going to go to bat for them. They are a constant reminder that there are consequences if we don’t keep up our end of the deal. Something to think about when we make promises to take care of our clients and our teams, and when we make commitments to improve our communities.

If nothing else, one thing a dog won’t let you do is stay holed up inside. They push you to try new things, go new places, and just get off your tush and get out there. That’s probably the most powerful lesson I learned from my sweet Sophie. We can’t be afraid to live in the moment, experience new things, get out of our comfort zones, and face life for the adventure that it is. For that lesson alone, I’ll be eternally grateful.

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