Of Dog Walking and Dissertating

I’ve been spending an unnatural amount of time talking to people and making extensive notes on the conversations.  Before you assume I’m moonlighting for the National Security Administration (which is within 10 miles of where I live – hey, aren’t they supposed to be in a secret location?) or call the authorities on me, let me clarify this is all in the name of science.  Honest.  Its part of the dissertation research I’m doing.  I’m in the final lap of the PhD race (aka RAG, for Running the Academic Gauntlet).  I collected the data which included 35 intensive interviews with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, each interview was painfully…er, painstakingly…transcribed, and the data have been pulled apart, examined, put back together, reviewed and analyzed ad nauseum.  Four of the five chapters have been written and are now in the hands of a couple of trusted and capable reviewers and next week I finally get to begin the process writing the summary and recommendations.  Oh, what is the dissertation about, you ask (thanks for asking, by the way)?  It is a qualitative, grounded theory study of the motivation to lead among leaders in sexual health organizations that are engaged in the long-term, contentious national (U.S.) dialogue on the sexuality education of young people.

On February 28th my spouse gave me the gift of devoting full-time to dissertating.  I left a long-time full-time position as Director of Sustainability and Capacity Building with a terrific global nonprofit to devote full-time at home working on the Dissertation (capitalized now for how it has taken over our lives).  In my spare time, I get to work on setting up the Non-Profit GP consulting practice (note the not-so-subtle product placement promotion), cleaning up after meals, sweeping the floors, keeping my bathroom clean, and walking the dogs, Madison and Dolly.  I’m not sure writing blogs is supposed to be on the list, so let’s just keep this between you and me, okay?  In truth, I’m spending a lot of time working on the Dissertation because I’ve got a pretty tight timeline.  My Dissertation defense hearing was just scheduled for September 19, 2013 and by the end of the year I’ve either got to have a decent consulting practice going or I need to find a real job.  So I’ve been slogging away.  By July 15 my Dissertation chair needs to see the whole thing and it has to be to my full committee by August 15 to stay on track.

Dolly and Madison
Dolly and Madison

So, my research is on motivation to lead and I’m learning much about the subject when I take Madison and Dolly on their walks throughout the day.   Both came to us from a dog rescuer who got them from a “backyard breeder” in the Midwest.  We are pretty certain Madison is Dolly’s mother.  Both were cropped and trimmed to look like the stereotypical miniature schnauzer in some rather inhumane ways.  Unfortunately, both were also debarked by the breeder.  While we don’t know for sure what conditions were like for them in their former “home,” we do know they came with certain deficits to our home – they didn’t know what dog treats were, they had not eaten “normal” dog food, they had never been trained to walk on a leash, they weren’t house broken, they didn’t know how to play, and, most sadly of all, they were exceedingly submissive to humans out of fear.  The rescuer explained that Madison had been one of the favorites of the breeder so her fear of humans was less.  Dolly, however, to this day, too easily cowers, fears brooms and mops, and defensively barks when people move too quickly near her.  Dolly and I do have a special bond, though, and she follows me everywhere I go while Madison tends to prefer her “mom” to me.

The walks we take together are a fascinating experience and we must be an odd sight to the neighbors.  Dolly charges out of the door first, followed by me (and I also serve as the porter for lugging the “doggy doo doo” bags), and Madison brings up the rear, acting as if she really doesn’t want to be bothered with going for a walk.  As we move down the sidewalk Dolly continues to practically strain at her leash while Madison practically makes me drag her.  There we are, slowly moving down the sidewalk, heaven forbid we actually go fast.  We occupy at least 18 feet of the sidewalk (Dolly’s 6 foot leash, Tom’s 6 foot wingspan stretched between the leash handles walking sideways, and Madison’s 6 foot leash).  Thus it continues for several minutes until something more exciting happens (e.g., squirrel, rabbit, one of their dog friends, or something really interesting to sniff, which is most anything.)  Though Dolly appears to be the leader of this pack, it is actually Madison.

Madison is what I’d describe as a “quiet leader.”  She doesn’t appear to be the one in charge at all.  She is an introvert, she’s passive, doesn’t care about other dogs, and generally never gets as excited as Dolly about anything.  But she is in charge.  Why?  Because Madison wants to be in charge and likes it (affective MTL, for those of you who know the theory).  When she wants to stop, we all stop…and we don’t go again until she is good and ready.  There is a more traditional way in which Madison exerts herself, however.  Whenever Dolly stops to answer a nature call, Madison immediately moves to the spot and “marks” over it.  Dolly fully understands who is in charge.  She won’t mark over Madison and always defers to her.

While Madison’s behavior seems to be consistent with affective MTL (motivation to lead), Dolly apparently subscribes to the “Great Dog” theory of leadership and happily follows Madison.  For me, though, it’s all about Charismatic leadership.  I’m a sucker for “The Girls” (by which they’ve become affectionately known throughout our neighborhood) and I’d follow them anywhere…and I often do.

That’s it for now.  Nothing really heavy here…just needed a break from the Dissertation.  Besides, it’s time for a walk…

More later,


Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus

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