A Tale of Two Black Dogs

One black dog. There were also two cats, who requested to stay out of this woeful story. One is pictured here, waking off set.
One black dog. There were also two cats, who requested to stay out of this woeful story. One is pictured here, waking off set.

A story of ineffective communication

Sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Other times we do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Recently though, I did the right thing for the right reasons, but it was still the wrong thing to do. Why? Let me tell you the story so that you might learn from my mistakes.

Recently, a post appeared on our village Facebook page, looking for someone to dog sit for their friend. I am a parent of three children, all of whom used to look for part-time work/extra cash, so I private-messaged the person in question and offered the services of the two who lived at home, subject to speaking with them. I should have realised that as they’re now all over 18, maybe I didn’t need to help them.

Lesson 1: Who owns the problem? Sometimes we just shouldn’t get involved in the first place.

By the time I heard back from the offspring in question, it was close to the dog sit dates. As they both had jobs – summer contract work and part-time pub work, neither were available or desperate for extra income. Plus, I’d forgotten that my daughter would be at an Ed Sheeran concert in Leeds… with my husband.

Lesson 2: Think. Ask, “Who should I communication with first?” It’s important speak to the right people in the right order.

I was now in the position of letting someone down. If I’d checked first before responding to the post, all would have been well. Worse than that, in the back of my mind my husband, Andrew, was always there to fall back on. WRONG! He was with Ed Sheeran in a park far away.

Lesson 3: Don’t make assumptions. In case you’ve never heard it – ‘assume’ makes and ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’!

I got back to the person I’d private messaged and let them know my children weren’t available but recognising it was close to the date, I would help if he was stuck. My offer was gratefully accepted.

For the first time on Wednesday, I was contacted by the owner and established that I would come around at the end of my workday on Friday to find out the necessary with his dog. I discovered that the dog was a giant version of a breed and I had met him with his dog-walker over our fence. I thought he was a lovely animal. Alarm bells did not go off at this stage.

Lesson 4: Find out the extent of the commitment before you commit!

Now in case you haven’t met BESPOKEN’s Head of Wellbeing, we have a beautiful 10-month-old black Labrador (pictured above), given to my husband and Associate for his 50th birthday. I take her for one walk a day and we alternate a nightly once-round-the block before bedtime. With Andrew in Leeds, this fell on me and my youngest son to do – the youngest son who wasn’t available to help with the dog sit because he was working all weekend!

This is the innocent looking Jonah, or Black Dog 2
The Beauty and the Beast, all in one

On Friday evening, I went to meet…. let’s call him Bert, and his black dog. It was a beautiful large home, perfectly suited to…let’s call him Jonah, the small pony, pictured right. He jumped on me and was almost twice my height. Alarm bells did start going off, especially when the owner described the 18-month old puppy as a rascal. I was warned not to leave anything out as he would steal it. When Jonah sat against the door as I tried to leave, Bert said, “He likes you. He doesn’t want you to go.” I should have known I was dealing with an arch villain. The requirements for keeping him company were more than I’d bargained for, with 8 a.m. weekend walks and two more in the day. I had misunderstood and thought the dog walker was still going to be around. This was related to a separate three days that was no longer required.

Fast forward two days: We had the heaviest rain this summer in 24 hours that weekend. Between us, my son and I did 16 dog walks, two by him. I had two raincoats held in the vice-like grip of the giant’s mouth, one key held hostage and one pair of sunglasses eaten. None of this was Jonah’s fault; he was just lonely and too smart and too big for his own good. It wasn’t the owner’s fault; I had agreed to help. It was my fault that I was exhausted.

Lesson 5: Take responsibility and learn from your mistakes.

They say, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. If I had spoken to the now-adults in my home before replying to that message, I would have established that not only were they not available, but my backup wasn’t either. This is where the story would have ended.

Effective communication isn’t just about what we say. It isn’t just about our tone of voice and our body language. Effective communication is about our ‘why’ and what we say to ourselves first. It’s about the questions we ask and the time we take to speak to the right people first. Often, it helps to talk through a situation with someone first. Do you have a coach or a mentor who will give you space to think and time to come up with the best possible solutions to the problems or challenges you are facing?

Despite the poor decisions taken in my story, I’m exceedingly good at helping others get to the very best outcomes for themselves. I’d love to hear from you and have our first coaching conversation.

Call me on 077808 56043 or email fiona@bespoken.org.uk.

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