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There we were, all crammed into the family station wagon on our way upstate for our annual McCormack summer vacation. It was a trip we all loved and couldn’t wait to go on every year. My father was driving and wearing his vacation hat, and my Mom was in the passenger front seat, smiling from ear to ear, with the wind in her hair and those gigantic, black sunglasses on her face. My brother Rich, and I always managed to take over the back trunk of that station wagon as my two sisters sat together in the seats in front of us. Lake George was one of our favorite vacation spots as a family. There’s nothing like the smell of charcoal burning burgers and hotdogs during the day and crickets singing under the stars at night. The car ride to Lake George wasn’t always the quickest and most comfortable but, four hours and about a dozen staple road trip games later, we arrived.
We pulled into the camp grounds, and we all couldn’t wait to pop open the trunk and run wild into the lightly covered forest area.
“Can we open the trunk yet Dad? Can we? Can we?” I asked.
“Not yet!” he yelled back.
He would purposely drive the car in circles in the parking lot just to tease us.
“Brendan! Stop it! That’s enough!” Mom laughed as she slapped his arm.
He finally parked the car and we all stormed out the back trunk.
“Be careful! Stay close!” Mom shouted. We couldn’t get enough of the fresh air and all of the wonderful smells of summer.
We finally calmed down from the excitement of our arrival, and my father began to set up the grill. Rich and I began to wander around the property and explore the grounds as we always did.
“Let’s go over this way, Sean,” he said, pointing to the gravel pathway around the side of our cabin.
I was a bit reluctant to follow him but I didn’t want to be a coward and run back to my parents. “Okay, let’s go,” I replied.
We headed over to the pathway, while looking back every five seconds to ensure we still had a visual of my dad cooking on the grill. We took a right turn and continued down the long gravel path as I began to grow even more nervous. To the left of us was a forest filled with trees full of all sorts of chirping birds and strange rustling noises coming from within.
“Sean, come on let’s head this way,” Rich said.
I looked straight ahead where he was pointing and saw that the gravel pavement went down a very steep hill. We reached the point where if we chose to head down the hill, sight of my father grilling would no longer be in my peripheral.
“Well, I’ve come this far; I guess it’s okay to go a little farther,” I thought to myself.
We moved slowly down the loose gravel path, as the stones began to slide underneath our shoes.
“Stop right here. Look down there, Sean,” Rich said. He pointed to the bottom of the pathway. “Get down. Get down.”
“Oh my God. Look at the size of that dog!” I said. “Come on. Let’s get back to mom and dad.”
Down at the bottom of the hill sat a sleeping giant that seemed to be chained up near his doghouse.
“Should we see if he’s alive?” Rich asked.
“No, we should really get back for dinner,” I said.
“Hey! Hey! Dog, are you alive?” Rich screamed. Sure enough, just as the words came out of his mouth the dog picked up his head and locked eyes with him. The dog stood up and began growling and slowly moving forward toward our direction.
“Sean, on the count of three we need to run up this hill and get back quick. There is no leash on that dog,” Rich whispered.
Well, there was certainly no counting to three because as soon as he finished whispering, the dog was off to the races! We quickly turned around and began chugging up the gravel pavement, running as fast as we could. I kept looking back toward the bottom of the hill and kept seeing that dog get closer and closer, snarling with drool flying into the breeze.
“Dad! Dad! Help! There’s a dog!” we screamed while entering the parking lot.
We were almost to the lodge where we stayed and I could hear the dogs breathing get closer and closer. Instead of just running and keeping my eyes straight ahead of me and focus on where I needed to go, I kept looking behind to see where and how close the dog was to us. Just as I turned my head back forward again, I was quickly introduced to the back of a parked car in the lot. I had completely smashed my face and mouth right into the trunk of the parked car. Shortly thereafter, I woke up in bed with the taste of blood in my mouth, many teeth missing and the cold sensation of the towel compress on my forehead.
Okay, so by this point I’m sure you’re all wondering what this has to do with our industry, right? Well, for starters, I’m sure many of you reading right now have had their encounters with a few four-legged fur balls while working in their domain. I know I sure have, and I have a scar to prove it. But more importantly, we are all faced with the very same thing that I did while running away from that dog in our business.
We all tend to look over our shoulders way too often at our competition in our area instead of just worrying about our own company and ourselves. Let’s face it, we all tend to compare ourselves to others in our field. We want to be the best in our region. New trucks, nice uniforms and better prices. The fact of the matter is that we need to start learning what’s good for our own companies. What works best for you, your employees and customers? Just because Joe the Plumber has a commercial and advertises in the local newspaper, doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Everyone has their own approach and techniques to become and remain successful in this industry. We need to start focusing more on what’s in front of us. Believe me when I say this because when we look at the others and try to do what they do, rather than what’s good for you and your company, you may find yourself lying flat on that pavement, and out for the count.
Oh, and by the way, if you have any funny pet encounters while on the job, I would love to hear them! Stay focused.