Fetch, old Rover!

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

I don’t necessarily prescribe to that belief.  We’ve somehow taught our 13 year old dog to not climb stairs any more.

She just stands at the top or bottom, depending on the intended direction, and whines.  We will then grab her like a football, and give her a free ride.  Luckily, she only weighs about 15 pounds, so its easy enough to do.  Maybe it’s a trick that she taught us…

Even if you haven’t had any luck with getting a senior pooch to roll over or walk around on it’s hind legs, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn how. They probably just can’t be bothered.  They’ve wised up to the stupid pet tricks we try to put them through, just to get a treat we’d give them anyway.

At some point, we, like old dogs, figure out what we just won’t put up with any more.

When you’re young, pliable, and more eager than wise, you’re willing to do just about anything asked of you.  This is particularly true in the workplace.

Case in point;  In my earlier working days, I was employed at a printing factory.  The tenured ‘pressmen’, who had been on the job for decades would perform innocent hazing routines on any newbie that wandered into their lair.

They would hand the fresh new meat a plastic pail and tell them to go and get it filled with ‘blue smoke’ for the next press run.  The eager youngster would grab the bucket and scamper away, like it was a quest for the holy grail.

Of course, there is no such thing as ‘blue smoke’, and most of the other workers in the plant knew it, but they’d send the poor kid on a fruitless scavenger hunt for hours.

The bully pressmen would sometimes alternate this trick and ask the rookie to go and get the ‘paper stretcher’ from another pressman.  Again, no such thing as a paper stretcher, and the other workers would play along.

Try that with a 50 year old.  They’d never fall for it, because they’re wise enough to probe before ever lifting a finger:

  • “Sounds unhealthy. It might aggravate my hypertension”
  • “Don’t you have someone else who can do it?”
  • “How heavy is it?  I have a hernia.”
  • “Why don’t you get it, and show me for next time?”

It’s like the old dog.  You hold up a treat and they might sit, but anything more than that, and they’ll probably just go and lay down, with a look that says ‘If this stupid snack is so great, why don’t you eat it?‘.

Well, this old dog is learning a new trick.

I started a new job on Monday, after a 6 month ‘vacation’, and there are a lot of new tricks that I’m expected to execute in short order.

I know that I need that treat, so I’m willing to do what has to be done.  Don’t get me wrong – they’re not asking me to do anything like search for blue smoke or paper stretchers.

During my orientation, there was a sign-up sheet to join the company volley ball team.  20 years ago, I would have run out at lunch and bought knee pads and court shoes.  Now? I’ll just sit in the shade and watch.

On the upside, having seen around a few corners during my life, I’m more likely to offer candid feedback to my new employer.

“Do you mind sitting down?  When you walk around behind me, you make me nervous.”,or “I pretty much know everything in this section.  Can we just do the assessment and move on to the next chapter?  It’ll save the company time and money.”

No freshman would ever say stuff like that!

I have to say that the training has been going well.  My trainer commented on how refreshing it is to work with someone who already knows a few things.  I’ll do the ‘come here’ thing, but I won’t roll over or jump through hoops.  I think he respects that.

I can’t wait for the next training session, though:  Overcoming Objections.  Not a problem for this old dog.  Picture it:

“Hello, this is Troy from XYZ Company.  I’ll be in your area next week and wanted to drop by to show you our new winter catalogue”.

“Oh, we really don’t need anything at this time”.

“I understand – that’s because you haven’t seen the catalogue yet.  How’s 10:00 on Tuesday?”

“No thanks.  That won’t work for me.  Thanks, anyway”.

“Of course.  How about I get there at 9:00? That way you can get on with your busy day once we’re done.  How do you like your coffee?  Regular? Black?”

“I like regular, but…”

“Great!  Regular it is. See you at 9”.

You see, the old dog knows how to get the treat without doing a bunch of humiliating stunts.  They’ll just wander over and help themselves.  No ‘shake a paw’ or ‘lay down’ nonsense.

The trick, I think, is to balance things by providing a solid reason for your existence, otherwise it’s off to that farm in the country that your parents told you about when you were a kid.

If you’re not cute, you better be handy!

You’ll have to show loyalty, intelligence, hard work, great intuition and leadership, or they’ll decide they find the naive young ones more entertaining and valuable, playing dead or chasing their tails for a bland snack.

So, for this aging pooch, it’s off the fuzzy blanket, and out corralling the herd for a few more years.  Maybe I’ll get a scratch behind the ear if I do a good job.

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