When Louie had surgery to remove a growth on his paw, it was a pretty quick decision, with some uncertainty about what the growth was and how he would handle the recuperation period. He survived the surgery well, and the growth was a papilloma, a wart. The biggest issue we had was keeping him away from the stitches. Louie is like Houdini; he can get out of any bandage or covering that I put on him to prevent him from chewing on his paw. I was amazed at how many times I found his bandage on the floor somewhere.
We came home from surgery with a very nice, pliable, see-through cone that was to be placed over his head to keep him from chewing his stitches. I was hesitant to use it because of the look he gave me when I tried to put it on him. First, it was a look of defiance (gee, I’ve never seen that one before), and then he’d look as though I was trying to kill him. And finally, I’d get the puppy-dog-big-brown eyes that captured my heart the very first time I met him.
But I stood my ground. I attached his collar and slid the cone over his head, stating in a serious, parental tone, “This is for your own good, buddy.” He hated it! And he was mad at me. He decided the best thing he could do was trot out of the room and go to his happy place to look out the window and be away from me. Except he ran into the doorframe and stopped. He looked back at me with a look of “Are you kidding me?” Then he set himself back on track, maneuvered the cone to clear the doorframe, and walked out of the room.
Next, he hit the doorframe going into the room with a view. Again, he stopped, looked back at me, and shook his head. And once again, he set himself back on track and maneuvered the cone so he could walk into the room, clearing the doorframe. I could hear him trying to jump up on the seat to look out the window, but because the cone got in the way, he fell back down. He tried again, missed again, and fell back down.
I resisted the urge to jump in and help. I knew he could do it; he just needed to adjust himself a bit to clear the seat. And so he did, finally, and then positioned himself as close to the window as possible so that everyone could see him and would feel sorry for him. And they did.
I learned a few valuable leadership lessons thanks to the cone of shame:
- As tough as it was for him to wear, it helped in the healing process.
- In order to achieve a goal (look out the window), he had to make several adjustments and think outside the “cone.”
- As a leader, you can’t always jump in to rescue someone. In order to truly empower them, they have to learn things for themselves, as tough as it is to watch them fall.
- Louie learned a few new things; like how to eat his food with the cone, even though he looked like a vacuum cleaner as he leaned over his bowl and inhaled. He figured out pretty quickly that he was good at tipping the water bowl over.
- There was no need for me to walk around calling the contraption on his head the cone of shame. Well, actually, that’s a lie—he hated it and no doubt, was ashamed to wear it!
- The less opportunity he had to bother his stitches, the faster he healed and the longer the cone stayed off. For Louie, this meant that he felt better, and was back to taking walks and playing with his pals.
Louie soaked in the attention for as long as he could. As time passed and his stitches were removed, I realized the overarching lesson of this entire experience.
While we must take time to heal from some of life’s tough lessons, deep down inside, we know we can adjust and adapt. And in that perseverance, we may actually learn to enjoy life more.