By Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang
A few weeks ago, my daughter Veronica graduated from high school. It was a proud moment. In another month she will be off to college at the University of Texas in Austin to study bioengineering.
The day after her graduation we had a get together of family and friends at our house. The grill was glowing hot. We were barbecuing cowboy rib-eyes: bone-in, Texas-sized pieces of USDA prime, mouthwatering slabs of beef (while the average steak is one-and-a-half measly pounds). In other words, cowboy rib-eyes are slices of heaven, south of the Rio Grande.
It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear and the temperature was warm. It was a day of celebration. We live adjacent to a city park and a small lake. Our wrought iron fence affords us an open view to the beauty of the trees and the water.
Outside, my grandson Easton, a 2-year-old filled with energy and delight, was at the center of attention. His mom, my oldest daughter, had flown out to Texas with Easton for Veronica's once-in-a-lifetime milestone. Easton was playing with Doogie, our 9-year-old miniature schnauzer. (Yes, his name is Doogie Schnauzer.)
Dinner was almost ready, and everyone was busily taking care of their tasks so we could start eating. In the kitchen, the side dishes were being set on the table. I was sautéeing onions and mushrooms at the stove. Vanessa was outside finishing up the steaks and watching Easton and Doogie play.
Then something happened. There are maybe one or two times in our lives that we hear the scream of a mother - a scream that alerts us that something is woefully amiss, that danger lurks or someone has been seriously hurt or killed. It is an audible signal we all know the moment it reaches our ears.
My first thought was that something had happened to Easton. Perhaps he fell down on the hard, pebble aggregate deck. I dropped everything and ran outside. Easton was smiling. In his joyful voice he called to me, "Hi, Poppa!" Shifting my eyes and focus, I looked around for the danger.
It was our miniature schnauzer. Doogie and Easton had been peeping through the wrought iron fence when an unleashed pit bull grabbed Doogie by the neck and head, yanked his body through the fence, and shook him like a rag doll. Vanessa saw the entire thing, and it was her scream I heard. Doogie is more than a dog. He is a valued member of our family.
Doogie's blood was everywhere. He staggered as he walked. It is amazing how people respond in emergency situations. Vanessa quickly jumped into action, placing herself between the pit bull and our schnauzer. Doogie had an open gash from the pit bull at his throat; a large hole was near his ear. My dear friend looked at me with dismay and shock. He was hurt badly.
We spent the remainder of the night with Doogie at the veterinary emergency room. There were no festivities, no celebrations.
The pit bull's owner was nearby when the incident occurred and was shocked as well. Vanessa had the presence of mind to get the dog's registration and rabies information off the animal's collar. The owner had saved this pit bull from almost certain death by adopting it from the pound just two months earlier. He had been running the dog unleashed in the park ever since.
Fortunately, the pit bull did not strike Doogie a fatal blow. In great pain and with many stitches, Doogie survived. On the way home from the vet, I had an epiphany. Pit bulls are a fierce, ferocious and often aggressive breed. While this dog was a beautiful physical specimen, I asked myself: Why was it at the dog pound? Was it aggressive with its previous owner? Why was this dog given away?
As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The dog's new owner apparently didn't ask these questions. He saw a good looking pit bull about to be euthanized and brought it home. It was an emotional decision. My epiphany was that we all have pit bulls in our life experiences. We all make emotional decisions at one time or another. Perhaps it's the employee we hire.
Logic tells us the employee really wouldn't make the best fit in our organization, but we hire him or her anyway. Or maybe it's the person in the organization we should ask to leave, but we don't because he or she has a family to support and a mortgage to pay.
In many cases, we are like a 9-year-old schnauzer battling a lean, mean, fighting machine, and the machine is out for blood. We sacrifice our better judgment to our emotions. Countless times Doogie would run up to the fence and stick his neck out to play with other dogs or people. This time he stuck his neck out a little too far.
The dog's owner came by our house last week to pay for Doogie's veterinary expenses. I asked him, "Do you realize how lucky you are?" Not understanding, he said, "No." I explained that his pit bull had two potential targets: One was Doogie and the other my 2-year-old grandson. I asked him, "How would have your life changed if your pit bull had chosen the 2-year-old?" He responded, "I guess I didn't think of that."
Too often when we make emotional decisions, we don't think of the ramifications. The success of any business cannot be sacrificed to making a decision based on emotion. It's not just decisions that affect other people in the organization; it is our leadership decisions as well. How many of us have not sacrificed the long-term strategy for short-term sales quotas, only later to regret it?
I have had to make many painful decisions in life, from laying people off to having a co-worker and friend arrested for embezzlement. But it is we, ourselves alone, who determine the fate of our organizations.
The success or failure of our lives is derived from the decisions we make. In the incident I just recounted, everyone was ultimately OK; there were no long-term consequences from the dog attack. Hopefully the owner will think twice before letting his dog run free in the park. Maybe he will; maybe he won't. The choice is his.
We all make mistakes and errors of judgment. In my personal reflection, there have been too many times in my life I've said, "I guess I didn't think of that."
Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang are the owners of 888QuikRate.com, an ISO based in Ft. Worth, Texas, that was named Small Business of the Year by the local newspaper, The Star Telegram. For more information, tweet them at http://twitter.com/dfwcard, comment on their blog at http://merchantservices.cc or visit their profile at http://linkedin.com/in/jonperry or http://linkedin.com/in/vanessalang. Alternatively, you can contact Jon and Vanessa by phone at 817-857-3557 or contact them by e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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