Leadership is being flexible.  When things don’t go according to plans, good leaders learn to be flexible.  And such was the case this past week.  Today’s blog isn’t at all what I’d planned for it to be, but it is about being flexible.

Last Monday night, Elsa, my brown and white Newfoundland, threw up.  She was soon bouncing around, being her normal self, and I didn’t think anything about her upset stomach.  Early last Tuesday afternoon,  she just didn’t look like she felt very good.  I offered her something  to eat, and when she refused, I knew something was wrong.  I called my neighbor to help me get her in the car.

I got her to the vet’s, and learned she had a temperature of 104.5.  (Normal for a dog is about 101.5.)  The vet gave her a shot to sooth her tummy, and felt she would be fine coming back home with me.  I felt like it would be better for her to overnight at the vet’s office (they have techs there 24/7), so that’s what we did.  I planned to bring her home Wednesday morning.  Planned to, but I was forced to be flexible.

Around 7:20 Wednesday morning, my phone rang and my world changed.  Immediately.  One of my favorite techs was on the phone;  when she could barely talk, I knew the news wasn’t good.  She told me Elsa had just died a few minutes before.  She put her head down and went to sleep, never to wake up.  I was (and still heartbroken) and beyond speechless.

(This is a picture of Elsa in early September, waiting for her 11-year-old physical. Elsa’s primary care DVM said he couldn’t believe how good she looked then, her physical exam and lab results were perfect. He said if everyone in the local hospital system had her findings, it would close!)

I spoke at length with her DVM (not the one we saw the day prior) the afternoon of her death. He looked at post-mortem x-rays and I believe did some additional studies, although not a necropsy (dog autopsy). He also talked with the overnight techs. Based on his findings, his best reasoning is that Elsa was like a 90-year-old woman who suffered the canine equivalent of a heart attack and died in her sleep. I take much comfort in that she did not suffer and was with people she knew and loved when she died, and that she did not have a lengthy illness.

Elsa Barker Henderson, Labor Day Weekend, 2008 – December 18, 2019. A good life, well lived; I think she was happy almost all of the time. A bit mischievous, but a great girl.

We know that stories help us to learn;  good leaders tell good stories.  Elsa helped me learn to be flexible.

When I got Elsa, I wanted her name to be Annie.  Annie she was not to be!  I worked with Elsa for several days trying to get her to be Annie.  Finally, in frustration, I started calling her Elsa, after the lioness in the movie “Born Free.”  So Elsa she was from early December, 2008 (when I got her) until last Wednesday.  And as Elsa she will forever live in my memory.

Another Elsa story that I love involves two other dogs;  one has since gone on to his reward.  Rufas and Bashia loved Elsa, and she loved them.  I loved looking outside, especially when it was chilly, and seeing Rufas and Bashia, laying on their sides, facing each other.  Baby Elsa, even after she was grown,  would be cuddled between them, just like she was their puppy and they were her parents.  They weren’t, although Bashia and Elsa were full sisters, but came from different litters.

Changing directions dramatically, many of you know that Johnson City just finished celebrating our Sesquicentennial on December 1.  Karen Hubbs, owner of The Goose Chase, has a few commemorative items left for sale.  Order quickly from her website: 


With the history of our city in mind, on December 30, 1915 readers of The Comet learned that “Johnson City’s first municipal celebration of Christmas occurred Monday night, under the auspices of the Monday Club, around the big cedar tree placed on the square in front of The Comet office and Windsor Hotel.”  Mayor S.E. Miller made some remarks.  And the Monday Club, a membership-based organization, is still going strong, 104 years later.  It’s a part of the General Federal of Women’s Clubs, and I’m a proud member.

Last Saturday was December 21,  just a few days before Christmas.  It’s the shortest day of the year. The day with the least daylight. December 21. Isn’t it interesting that day is so close to the Birthday of the Light of the World, Jesus?  I just got back from Christmas Eve Eve service;  my minister said that we must have the darkness of the world before we can have the Light.   Indeed, we do!

Have a blessed Christmas!

One thought on “Flexibility. A Key to Leadership.

  1. I am so sorry about Elsa. We had a shih tzu who died on the darkest day of the year and broke our hearts. So, I understand your sorrow. I’m glad she brought many years of happiness and love to you.


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