Monday, December 29, 2014

Voices of Experience: 7 Things Chipper Taught Me About Life and Business

A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. ~ John Grogan, Marley and Me

Tom Simon is an entrepreneur who lives in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Like so many of us who give our hearts to a dog to love, he did not realize all that his companion had taught him until after he was gone. Here Tom shares some of the valuable lessons about life and business that he learned from Chipper, his beloved Golden Retriever.

We dug his grave on Tuesday in a spot close to the lake. On Wednesday I had my head on his chest to hear the final beat of his heart. Chipper was a large beautiful Golden Retriever, born about the time I started my business15 years ago. I fully expected the tears would flow as we buried him. What I did not expect was the realization that night how important waking up to him was to me. I must admit I had the most empty, aching feeling that something so essential to my life has ended.

After a day of thinking about him, and how he affected my life, I came to understand that through the years Chipper was the one constant in my day to day struggles every entrepreneur knows well. I began to understand what he taught me about life and business.

1. Attitude is everything.
Chipper was well named. As a young dog the energetic wagging of his tail was my daily attitude adjuster. He just was so happy to see me. That always lifted my spirits. As he got older there was the twinkle in his eyes and the smile every dog lover comes to recognize. I would pat him on the head and he would hug me. Not a day of our lives together did that not happen. Can you imagine what a great business partner he was. Always happy to see me. Always ready to play his part with enthusiasm. That attitude I hope to carry forward as one way Chipper will always remain with me.

2. Stick to a routine - but relish every moment of it.
For years and years we went on 4 walks a day and he insisted on never taking a short cut. There was the walk in the morning around the block. The walk in the afternoon to the trestle bridge to see the trains go by. There was the walk in the evening around the college campus near our home. Each walk he came to understand was at a certain time of day. He would present himself to me with eyes fixed and without a word I understood what he meant. He knew pancakes on Saturday meant there would be a walk to Gary's Grocery Store around 10:30. Sunday there was always a long walk in the park. All I had to say was, “Chipper what day is it today?” He would cock his head to the side to listen intently. And when I would say it's Sunday – well his leaping around in joy was contiguous. I came to love Sundays just to share that joy. No preacher could match his lesson.

3. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities.
No walk was uneventful. There were new smells to explore and territory marking tasks to complete. Being near a college campus also meant there could be a discarded donut, hot dog, piece of pizza or burger and fries to find. When he did catch the scent, nothing could hold him back. He was 90 lbs of focused energy pulling me along until we were upon it - no matter the thicket or bush I had to experience. By the time I could recover to scold him to put whatever it was down – it was in his mouth and swallowed. But the persistence and focused effort was something to admire. I hope I never lose the alertness to opportunities that are always around us. That lesson from my daily walks with Chipper will remain with me.

4. Wear your brand with pride.
Goldens are beautiful animals and Chipper was a magnificent Golden male. Living just off a College
campus, Chipper would attract young people male and female alike. He never hesitated to sell his brand. Giving hugs and attention when people would ask “ Can I pet your dog? What kind is he? “ He had curly blond fur, light ends with a golden brown body. His leg fur was always fluffy blonde, kind of a dashing flag as he walked. As he got older his face whitened. He had the most handsome face. My sons would call him a chick magnet – and he was. He would strut across campus head high and ears flapping. Many graduating classes knew him by name. Chipper was a star and he knew it. That kind of authentic pride is an attitude worth cultivating.

5. Always expect a reward for a job well done.
Chipper knew when he earned a good boy treat. If I forgot to give it - he would follow me around until he could look me in the eye to remind me. He never forgot when it was promised – and he always let me know it was my promise to keep. When he was young he had tricks to perform to get it. For many years he would sit straight and present his paw to shake. In the last years his arthritis would make sitting more difficult. And I admit giving him treats became a habit I enjoyed as much as him. The day before he died, I took him out to treat him to a cheeseburger. I ordered it at a cafe, and did not tell the cook it was for my dog. Chipper waited in the car and I came out with it on a platter with a large chicken tender as a side. I sat with him and gave it piece by piece from my fingers – just to feel his tongue as he licked away every scent it of it. The joy of rewarding him was my treat.

6. Persevere in the face of adversity.
The first time the hip dysplasea appeared was on one of our walks. It was like a hitch in his step. He and I both took notice of it. But he did not stop – simply glanced back at me and we continued walking. That was 3 years ago. With medication and regular exercise we could manage it together. If he would stumble he immediately recovered and seemed to want to keep moving. So we did. The daily walks continued until just a few months ago. Then they were shortened until in the last few weeks they were only possible when I increased his pain medicine. His last walk was at his insistence the day we put him to sleep. I turned him around after about 200 yards because I knew he might collapse, though he wanted to keep moving. Near the end he just wanted to be in the trunk of the car we used to drive him to the park in. It was his cave. I would lift him in and out. Take him food and water. He always had a smile on his face when he wasn't sleeping. And he never hesitated to try to go for short walks as necessary. His perseverance in the face of adversity was helpful to me – as I was having some difficulties myself. It was the realization he would not be by my side any longer that made the ache and emptiness so heartfelt after burying him.

7. Loyalty and trust are inseparable.
Chipper trusted me. As alive as he seemed to be on our way to the Vet, I struggled to not turn back. His life then was in my hands. To be honest if I had the financial wherewithal I would have turned back and spent anything to keep him with me even if just a little longer. But I knew he was struggling and had pain – still always with a smile for me and the clear look of total loyalty in his eyes. I caressed him at the end. Stroked his head and spoke to him about all the things we did together. The vet came out to the car so he could remain in his cave. I whispered in his ear, “Chipper you are the bestest good boy there ever was,” and listened as the final beating of his heart stopped.

I know Chipper was just a dog. And in the end it is a world of people. And business is business. But each of us has someone in our lives that makes it easier to face the world of people and of business. And Chipper was that someone for me. I wanted to share that with you for whatever its worth.

© 2014 by Tom Simon

About the Author - Tom Simon is the originator of the iOffice™ . He has over 25 years' experience as an entrepreneur and developer of virtual workplace platforms and systems for workflow optimization, collaboration, web based training and unified communications for dispersed global team work. Visit his website at

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