My Dog Died Today. How It Made Me A Better Leader.

My dog died today.  Well not just my dog.  My wife’s dog.  Her best friend.  Our kid’s dog – for 13 years of some of their most impressionable teenage years.  And many of our friends and neighbors dog – who looked at Lulu as their own.  One of the girls.

I tried to save her.  I found her in her bed unresponsive and not breathing and I rushed her to the Emergency Room at the Vet and I thought everything was going to be ok.  After all, she was fine yesterday – her usual self, jumping around and wagging her tail and trying to get all the treats she could.  Everything was just as usual!

So you must understand how shocked I was when the doctor at the Vet came out to tell me that Lulu had passed away.

I said, ‘No that cannot be!  You don’t understand.  That’s my wife’s best friend.  You have to help me.’  Tears rolled down my cheek.  I did not know what to do or how I was ever going to tell my wife.  I called both of my kids first, and like always they were the rock – Tyler and Rylee.

Yes – Lulu has a special place in our hearts.  Yeah I know the name was not all of our pick, but it was one my wife Vicky wanted, so we all went along with it.  And it fit her so well.  There is something special about a dog that takes to one family member and latches on – and wants to walk where they walk, and eat where they eat, and sleep where they sleep.  That was Lulu with Vicky.  And although Lulu was Vicky’s girl, she was also so undeniably supportive of everyone in our family.  Nothing mattered except when you walked in the door or you gave her attention – and of course she hoped everything she did in life would end up leading to a treat.   And think about this: I cannot remember Lulu ever in a bad mood – for 13 years!  Do you know anyone like this?  I mean what can we learn from this!  All Lulu wanted was to be loved.

My heart broke today.  I felt for Lulu.  I hurt for Vicky’s broken heart.

I was thinking about ways I could tie this into leadership and give some advice to leaders reading this today.  And here is what it is:

Every day we go into the office to lead our company or our team, tragedies may be happening to people on our team, to people in our company.  And we as leaders don’t even know it.  It may not be their dog dying, but something similar, something that impacts them, and yet we as leaders do not pick up on it.  We do not see it because we are thinking about the business and getting to the goals that we want to accomplish – to make things happen inside the company.  But those people that make it happen in our company – are all facing personal challenges and problems.  Problems that to them could be immense and insurmountable.  Yet they are here at our company giving it everything they have for us.  They just want to be cared for.

Think about the unwavering trust our dog has for us.  No matter what challenges they face, they are following our lead.  They are there for us to cheer us up and want to make sure we are pleased.  Some of the people that work for us have a similar unwavering trust in us as a leader and employer.   They are counting on us to drive the business to success, to lead the way, to make the company and all of its associates successful.  They push us as leaders.


‘Never underestimate the power of people who fight for you because they care.  Because you touched their heart in a genuine way.’

 Gary Ross


The bottom line is this: If we as leaders can be sensitive to the fact that our people are facing ups and downs, and support them; and if we recognize that through those times they are trusting us as leaders – and come through for them – then we will create a group of associates who will run through the wall for us.  I call these people that run through the wall for the customer, for the company, and for their fellow associates – ‘raving associates’.  They do not just become ‘raving’ automatically.  As a leader, you earn it over time – by how you lead.  But if you stay with it and lead with your heart and your passion and lay it out there, you can take your company all the way to the top!

To all the pet lovers out there and all the people who have lost a pet and had their hearts broken, my heart goes out to you today.  I am with you.  I support you.  And you know tomorrow I will be there for you.  But today, I lean on you.


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