What Makes Ronnie Roll: Teaching The Dog New Tricks

3-20-2015 9-49-58 AMThis edition’s interview started out in the Mayor’s office, and ended up at Leak City, where members of the Department of Transportation from California to Maine were gathered there for the week. They came to learn, as well as get certified in how to deal with HazMat situations and other aspects of safety when it comes to utilities. They also were there to learn various protocols, and how different incidents intersect with transportation departments in emergency and security contexts.

Leak City, the little “town” on Sanderfer Road designed to approximate hazardous situations, is the brainchild of Steve Carter. Steve heads up the Gas Department for the City of Athens, and literally thousands of people have trained there over the years. The Mayor came to greet the conferees, welcome them to our city, and give a brief history of our amazing Athens. Besides Steve, other trainers included Wayne St. Germain, and Mason Matthews. Mason is the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Administrator for the City of Athens, and told me that the conferees were in for a surprise the following day. As part of their training maneuvers this week, the multi-state team was going into an oxygen depleted dwelling and having to deal with it in their HazMat suits according to protocol.

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Mayor Ronnie and I resumed our interview, and drew once again from the devotional book, Jump Starts, by Tim Richardson. One section of the book, which contained several short chapters, had really spoken to Mayor Ronnie this week. The section was called, Variation, Enthusiasm And Balance Make The Workplace A Satisfying Spot, and the chapter was entitled, Teaching The Dog New Tricks. (Notice it did not say old dog!)

Workplace satisfaction, and all the spinoffs that occur when it is good, as well as when it is not so much, are things that are of great concern to Mayor Ronnie. I know from observation and experience that he makes it a point to tie in with City employees all the time, and he prays for them as they battle everything from cancer to transitioning into retirement, to kids struggling with substances. However, the Dog chapter had to do with finding creative, satisfying ways of dealing with what Richardson calls a “Johnson.”

Johnson was an old German shepherd with about 4 teeth, which he bared routinely when the postman would daily come to deliver the mail to Johnson’s master. In response, the postman came up with a way of tricking Johnson to run around the house while the postman would then jump two hedges, sprint across the lawn, slide the mail into the box, and fly back over the hedges before Johnson figured out he had been tricked again and got back around to the front with the intention of sinking his few remaining snaggly teeth into the leg of the agile postman. Johnson never met his goal, or realized his dream, as they say in the personal development business.

Johnson and the postman did this dance every day. After the postman would emerge triumphantly, he would do his own happy dance, (solo), and yell “YESSSSS!” By contrast, if he could have, Johnson would have broken into the canine version of The Who’s “We Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

The moral of the story? This time, in a positive way, it is, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” Richardson closes the chapter by saying, “Variety is the spice of life and even small victories can bring joy and make your day. Do something different in your work life and in your relationships. Beat the dog to the box. Take a short cut, jump the hedges, and enjoy the continuous creativity of looking for new ways to do things.” As Mayor Ronnie read me the story, (without his Dr. Seuss hat, I might add,) I laughed out loud as I thought of the “Johnsons” in my own life.

Then we prayed, and the fond hope is that all of us, including the Mayor, will “beat the dog to the box.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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