Full disclosure: I am not a rabid fan of dogs. None rank among my best friends. Perhaps my antipathy stems from a memorable childhood event, when I was chased down the street where I lived by a neighbor’s large and not-so-friendly hound. He seemed to be twice my size, and this explains why I may still hold the record for the fastest 50 yards ever run by a 5-year-old child wearing soggy winter boots and heavy snow pants. Nowadays, many of my canine interactions involve dogs that seem to delight in obstructing my running path or just for the fun of it, will growl, leap upward at my chest or occasionally nip at my shins. I must be a marked man!
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Explore This IssueJuly 2015
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My views notwithstanding, in a weak moment, I’ll admit that some dogs are not only truly cute but clever, too. Witness how they avidly fetch sticks, balls and other objects thrown high into the air or onto the surface of water. Kneeling on command, rolling over when asked to do so, they are dedicated companions. In fact, a scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association suggests that dog ownership may have a causal role in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.1
Dogs’ keen olfactory sense has been used by law enforcement agencies to track human scents and detect incendiary devices. Yet as the recently retired, pet-loving, late night television host David Letterman and many dog lovers readily admit, teaching an old dog a new trick can be mighty challenging. After all, they seem happiest when their daily routines stay unchanged. Fetch ball thrown high into the air, jump up, catch and return to owner. Repeat 18 times or until a runner distracts you, whichever comes first.
Humans share this innate behavior pattern with our canine cousins. We generally prefer stability in our daily patterns, whether it’s how we take our coffee, get our daily news or choose our late-night snacks. By the way, who moved my cheese?2
Our Changing Roles
Change can be stressful, and changes in the workplace can be especially trying. For centuries, how medicine was practiced was strictly determined by the practitioners themselves. Doctors set policy and established guidelines. They were in charge of the profession. They were trained to give orders to others and had a hard time being told what to do. The slow, but steady, erosion of the doctor’s role as policy maker became a precipitous decline in the past decade.