As I complete my year as a member of the inaugural class of the AVMA Future Leaders Program, I have spent some time thinking about all of the information that I have learned. I have learned about the structure and function of the AVMA, the wealth of benefits that are available to members, and the solid political presence that the AVMA has in our nation’s capitol. I have also learned a lot about leadership and the characteristics and skills that are common to leaders. When I say I have learned a lot about leadership, I mean A LOT. I have learned how to recognize good leadership and how to improve my own leadership skills. I have learned that leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, can appear in a variety of circumstances, and is often quiet, but powerful. I have learned that, of all things, my dog is an excellent leader.
I have a beautiful solid black Labrador/Golden Retriever/something else female dog named Spark. She is, in my opinion, the most stunningly beautiful canine creature that has ever inhabited this planet. She is kind, loving, loyal, intelligent, intuitive, patient, and brave. My husband and I adopted her from a local animal rescue organization. Her beautiful eyes and her stunning personality mesmerized us, but we were completely sold when we saw how gracefully she moved through life with only three legs. Her left front leg was amputated shortly before we adopted her. After a few weeks and a lot of TLC, she became one of the happiest dogs that I have ever known as well as one of the most perfect examples of compassionate leadership that I have ever known.
Spark is a social butterfly. She is always looking for an opportunity to meet new people or to visit with old friends. She travels with me to elementary schools to teach children about veterinary medicine and she goes with my husband to Home Depot to wander the aisles and do some “shopping” while socializing with the other customers in the store. Spark doesn’t know that her mild manners and gentle heart have taught children to love dogs or that her triumph over her disability has shown people an example of managing adversity with grace. I can’t even begin to count the number of people that she has helped. I look at my beautiful girl and think of all of the lessons in leadership that I have learned from Spark.
There is an incredible amount of information that can be found on the topic of leadership. I am so happy to have learned all that I have over the last year and I am excited to put my new skills into practice in my own life. I am also happy to be able to tell you that you are surrounded by examples of good leadership. I challenge you to look around you—at work, at your next local or state VMA meeting, at your next service organization meeting, and…at your own dog. Identify the characteristics that you think exemplify leadership and work to make them a part of your life. I did, and my life has a little more “spark “ to it now.