I’m not what you would call a determined person. You might, instead, call me a starter – a girl who loves fresh starts and new beginnings, fledgling projects and novel hobbies. And for as much as I love starting things, I hate finishing them. I quit most everything I try once it gets hard or boring or inconvenient.
But recently, I found a well-spring of determination within me – a veritable geyser of stubborn focus emerging from the depths of my very soul.
All it took was a single pile of dog poop.
To be fair, it was a single pile atop a veritable mountain of shit that we’ve been dealing with in the two-and-a-half years we’ve been living in our house. You see, we live two doors down from a bad neighbour – the kind of guy who lets his giant dog out the front door to do her business all over the neighbourhood. And our front lawn seems to be her favourite rest stop.
When we first called Animal Services ages ago to complain, we were told that we needed to know for sure whose dog it was, a task that would require nothing short of an eyewitness account and, in the case of this wily mutt, a miracle.
So began Operation: Party Pooper.
We had our first lucky break over the summer, when we spotted the dog bolt out of our neighbour’s house as we unloaded groceries from the car. The guy was given a warning, and that was that. No more landmines on our lawn.
Until we came back from three weeks in Scotland to as many piles of poo on our lawn. But the log that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, came weeks after we returned home, after we had begrudgingly cleaned the mess. That day, we woke up to two fresh piles.
This is madness, I said. And if this were Sparta, I would have kicked our neighbour into a well and went on with my day. Alas, this is Red Deer, so I did the next best thing: I bought a security camera.
And with it, I found that determination I’d been searching for my whole life. No, I never expected a shitting dog could teach me about setting goals, but then, I didn’t really understand the concept of setting goals until I had a goal worth setting.
So, over the course of an insane three weeks of stake-outs, tears, and triumphs, I learned there are five things you need to do when catching a shitting dog – and setting a seemingly impossible goal.
1. Define the outcome.
For me, my goal was very simple: my neighbour’s dog would stop pooping on my lawn. It seemed so clear to me, and that was the first step – defining the outcome. I didn’t know how I would get there or when, but I knew that was the only outcome I would accept. That mindset changed my whole approach to the problem. Failure wasn’t on the table, so quitting wasn’t an option.
2. Figure out what you need to do – and do it.
From the start, we knew there were a few things we needed to do to nail our neighbour: we needed evidence the dog was in our yard; we needed to confirm whose dog it was; and we needed persistent pressure on our neighbour to get him to keep his dog off our lawn.
We took care of the first requirement by picking up our security camera, a handy little device that live streams footage from our yard to our computers and phones. But we also knew we needed to see first-hand which house the dog went into. And that required honest-to-goodness surveillance. After two days of watching the video feed while I worked, I spotted the dog in the yard, ran after her in my slippers, and followed her home.
At that point, I had enough evidence to make a complaint to Animal Services – the only real way we could compel our neighbour to take care of his dog. He was handed a $250 ticket – and we were handed the bad news that video evidence needed to be accompanied by an eyewitness report. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Expect setbacks – and adjust your course as they come.
When Animal Services first told us we needed to witness the dog in our yard personally, I was livid. It would be nearly impossible to catch her in person every time, even with the security camera feed (and if I didn’t work from home, it would be entirely impossible to catch her at all.) But then I remembered the only outcome I would accept – and that failure was not an option – and I decided I was willing to suck it up, push through the setback, and do whatever it took to achieve my outcome.
So I came up with a new plan. I would monitor the feed all day as I worked and catch her in person as often as I could. And each time I caught her, I would make a complaint. Sure, it would mean more work for me, but it was what needed to be done to achieve my end goal.
4. Exercise constant vigilance.
All day, I monitored that damn feed, and yes, I caught the dog almost every day I watched. And in the end, I made four additional complaints to Animal Services. But nothing burned my butt more than the day he was fined again (while claiming the dog wasn’t his) – only to let the dog out again that very night as we sat down to dinner…sans video feed.
Oh yes, when failure isn’t an option, constant vigilance is an absolute necessity. That weekend, we redoubled our efforts, and when we caught her, we ran outside to call her over – and had our first sighting of my terrible neighbour. “Is this your dog?” I called over to him. He confirmed it was, and bam, I had yet another complaint for Animal Services, this time with verbal confirmation that the dog was his.
5. Do it right.
I won’t lie, there were points along the way where we considered vengeance. At one point, the words “blood feud” were bandied about. We plotted mercilessly about capturing the dog, or flinging poo at our neighbours, or posting fliers around the neighbourhood. We even fielded some suggestions about taking care of the problem…permanently.
In the end, we decided to take the high road – not because I wasn’t willing to poison a dog or fling poo (which, of course, I wasn’t) – but, rather, because I knew we couldn’t sink to his level if we hoped to achieve our end goal. We could have taken a million short-cuts to get to the outcome we desired, but the victory is sweeter in the end if you truly earn it.
And it seems we do have a victory after all. We haven’t seen the dog outside in a week, because – plot twist – the guy moved out.
So we achieved our desired outcome after all, even if it didn’t turn out the way we expected. I suppose that’s how goals work out too: it doesn’t matter how or when or why you get there, as long as you get there in the end.