One time, about twelve years ago, I took my dog for a walk.
I’d always been a big dog guy, someone who’s parents always favored German Shepards, Huskies, a sheep dog or two, and as a consequence I always thought big dogs were the only real dogs, and you could keep your lapdog for yourself, thank you.
But the dog I was walking this day was not a big dog. In fact this dog, named Diva, was a Shi Tzu, perhaps the lappiest of all lapdogs.
It was my wife’s idea to get a little dog, and one weekend, perhaps sensing her big-dog husband would object to the idea of any dog who could not play fetch, wrestle or take down an intruder, she took advantage of my being away at my high school reunion to find our new Shi Tzu puppy.
When I got off the plane (this was before 9/11, mind you), there she was in the waiting area, with our big dog Zoey (a husky) on a leash and a little furball in her arms.
At first I didn’t even see it. When I finally did spot it, this quivering puppy of all of two pounds, it seemed barely a dog at all, but instead just two big bulbous eyes in a tiny Star Trek-y ball of furriness looking up at me from Tiff’s arms.
One thing I’ve learned being married for 18 years is that most of my wife’s ideas are good ones, and I realized quickly this impulse buy of a small lapdog was no different.
It wasn’t long before I fell in love with our little dog, her kind disposition (most small dogs I ever met were snippy, mean, but not our Diva), her playfulness, her reverence for her big (and also kind) sister Zoey.
Only a few years later we lost Zoey, which was sad for all of us because she was a beautiful dog, extremely kind, but it also took on a little extra significance for me since Zoey was a gift to me from Tiff before we were even married. (Yes, another crazy but good Tiff idea: get her boyfriend of three months a dog).
But fortunately for us, our son was only three months old at time of Zoey’s passing and didn’t really get to experience the sadness we felt over losing our first family dog. In reality, Diva was, for him and later for his younger sister, their first family pet.
And boy did they love her. Like I said, my experience with little dogs was that they tended to be a bit yappy, nervous, and some are even downright mean.
Tiff’s brother owned another Shi Tzu by the name of Taz, and I can’t tell you how many times that little thing snapped at me or his kids, sometimes actually finding paydirt and breaking skin.
But Diva, she never bit our kids. In fact, she never growled at them or anyone. Sure, she’d bark at the occasional houseguest, but these dog vocalizations were always of the “hey, I’m watching you buddy, these are my people” variety.
Even as our kids got bigger and bigger, and as Diva got older and slower, her kind and gentle nature never left her. Kids being kids would hold a bit too roughly, chase her a little too closely, and maybe even tease her a bit too much with the biscuits and treats that were only be her’s after a good amount of laughing and perhaps a scolding from their parents.
But if her parents were annoyed at the kids, she never showed it, and would just wait until they had loved her or teased her and then pick up her biscuit or go find a place to nap.
And so after sixteen years, today, Diva had slowed to the point where she could hardly stand, had stopped eating or drinking, and the day we hoped wouldn’t come had. We had to say goodbye our little dog.
Back to my story. That afternoon about twelve years ago, when I was walking Diva down a hill in our little town in Edmonds, a car full of teenagers drove by.
Seeing this guy, a thirty-something dude, a guy who by all appearances was a big-dog type of guy, being pulled by a furball on the end of a leash, they decided to heckle me a bit.
"Nice dog!" yelled some teenage boy.
The rest of the car’s occupants, a mix of probably 5-6 teenage boys and girls, laughed uproariously, as I probably would had I been with them.
At the time, I ashamed to admit now, I was a bit embarrassed. I think I thought about yelling “but I have a big dog at home!”
But I didn’t, and I realized later that I’m fine with being seen with my little dog.
In fact, I’d say Diva made me a lapdog guy.
Rest in peace, old girl.
A friend of mine, David Spark, is putting together a really cool e-book on advice we used to give people about social networks that we now think is probably not a good idea anymore. I wrote a piece for him called the Swiss Chocolate Network.
I thought I’d share it here.
The Swiss Chocolate Network
I’m a big fan of Linkedin, so in the late 2000’s when coworkers would ask me how to build a solid network of contacts for advancing their career, one of the things I would usually suggest was to amass a large Linkedin network.
Nowadays, while having a significant number of connections on Linkedin isn’t a bad thing, I don’t believe amassing a large number of connections is all that beneficial to a career.
If you spend too much time (like I have) just building a network outward rather than focusing on developing key relationships with people, you have the network equivalent of a chocolate Easter bunny: big and tasty looking, but hollow on the inside and ultimately unsatisfying.
What matters more is developing substantial relationships with people. People you meet face to face, who you’ve had long written or phone conversations with, they’re much more likely to have a significant impact on your career.
Instead, go deep, not wide. Build substance.
Build a Swiss chocolate network.