By Les Karpluk
May 22, 2014, Prince Albert, Sask. - After a two-month hiatus and getting accustomed to my new retirement routine, it is great being back into the swing of things and blogging. This blog is the beginning of a new journey for me as I can express myself from a retirement viewpoint. I generally write about leadership, but here I only briefly touch on it as I want to tell a more personal story.
By Les Karpluk
May 22, 2014, Prince Albert, Sask. – After a two-month hiatus and
getting accustomed to my new retirement routine, it is great being back
into the swing of things and blogging. This blog is the beginning of a
new journey for me as I can express myself from a retirement viewpoint. I
generally write about leadership, but here I only briefly touch on it
as I want to tell a more personal story.
First and foremost, I want to say that it was a great honor and privilege serving the citizens of Prince Albert for 32 years. I truly am one of those lucky people who was able to live my dream, and it does seem like yesterday that I walked into the fire station and met the great staff of the Prince Albert Fire Department. Expect to read about many of these people in future blogs.
The time really did fly by and now, as I move forward into another chapter of my life, the focus will be on consulting, conducting seminars and working with Dalhousie University, Lakeland College and the Justice Institute of British Columbia, teaching their fire programs. Who knows – maybe, just maybe, I might stick my head up somewhere where it is least expected.
For those who do not know, my great friend and soon-to-retire Fire Chief Lyle Quan, of Waterloo, Ont., and I wrote, Leadership Prescribed-A Handbook for Fire Service Leaders, and in April we finally held the finished product in our hands. Our book was a year in the making; what a sense of accomplishment to see our words in a book format. Feedback so far has been very positive. If you’d like a copy you can order the book through the Firehall Bookstore.
Sadly, also in April my family had to put down our beloved Cocker Spaniel. Our Jodi was 13 ½ years old and it broke our hearts to put her down; rest assured that my tears flowed as I petted her during her last breaths. I promised myself after putting down our first cocker spaniel, Libby, when she was 17, that we would never own another dog. Obviously, I broke my own promise and when we put Jodi down, it was an extremely emotional period for us.
After a week we decided that our household just wasn’t the same without a dog to love, so within a month we were able to purchase two (yes two, not one) Cocker Spaniels. Jake is a seven-month-old male; he is laid back and listens very well during his training sessions. He just gets it, while Annie (four months old) is constantly exploring and requires significantly more work while training and seems to forget things easily.
Raising two pups at the same time has its challenges and we have spent hours reading, watching DVDs and attending obedience classes to learn how to understand the minds and body language of our dogs. One would think that having Cocker Spaniels in our house for more than 30 years that it wouldn’t be necessary to research more about the breed, but that would be wrong: we made a lot of mistakes with our two other dogs and, at times, we became complacent and did not spend enough time training them or setting boundaries. We want to learn from our mistakes and give Jake and Annie great lives in our household; we also hope to use them for pet therapy to bring joy into other people’s lives. This, of course, will require strict obedience and training.
The common theme from our training (every day is a training day in our household!) is that dogs need to know who the pack leader is. This has to be clear – no grey areas, no guessing. If the pack leader is weak, one of the dogs will take on the role and decide to run the house.
Dogs have an uncanny ability to pick up on a person’s energy and emotions, and the pack leader can set the tone by using only body language. In fact, raising your voice to the dog doesn’t have a lot of impact, but an authoritative posture quickly gets attention.
Both dogs respond great to positive feedback during their training sessions and both shy away when they detect a frustrated tone. Once they detect frustration, they lose focus. When this happens, we need to take a time out so their doggy brains gets time to reboot. This is very interesting and it reminds me of how easy it is to shy away from leading when a person gets frustrated.
I’m looking forward to blogging regularly and I want to leave with this thought: never forget that you have the privilege to serve in the profession, and the profession does not care if you are a career, volunteer or paid, on-call firefighter. You are given the privilege to serve. Never, never take it for granted. Many wish they had the opportunity you have.
Retired chief Les Karpluk served with the Prince Albert Fire Department in
Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of
Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire
Administration and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on
Twitter at @GenesisLes