The Lay Off

The New HireWith a recent lay off in my family, I started thinking about how similar a lay off is to getting rid of a family pet.

Initially the pet is “hired” with high expectations of how he will benefit the company, how he will be trained into the position he was hired for and how well he fits in. He is outfitted with a sparkly uniform and a set of credentials to carry proudly around his neck. Fresh out of school, he is thrilled to have such a caring employer. For a time, he is nurtured and brought carefully through the initial training. Outside consultants are brought in to show him how the company expects him to behave and every new thing he learns is met with praise and bonuses. He is invited to company lunches and outings and is touted as the newest and greatest employee there. Press releases are sent out to family and friends and special “desks” are set up to aid in his transition.  He can do no wrong and is eager to show off all his talents and skills. He jumps up on people to welcome them to his department and brings floppy toys to showcase his eagerness to share.

As time goes by, other new employees come and go. Existing employees change roles and schedules. Sometimes his company lunch is forgotten and offsite meetings become less frequent. Daily corporate meetings with immediate staff seem no longer necessary. At some point he starts being avoided or left to his own devices to choose his career path. With insufficient guidance, he makes mistakes that are sometimes met with dire punishments but no re-training or employee reviews. Affirmation that used to come in the form of petting, inclusion and treats now doesn’t come at all. The pet still brings toys to his employer but that no longer seems a part of his job description.

One day, he starts hearing whispered conversations and wondering what the sideways glances are about. There is an odd unsettled feeling as other employees start avoiding him or speaking poorly about his hygiene and manners behind his back. He tries harder – brings his employer a long forgotten ball from the back corner of the laundry room and barks more fervently at birds and strangers outside to show that he is guarding the house well. This often results in a relocation of the “desk” to the back yard or the garage. With his old “jobs” inaccessible, he tries to find new jobs to keep himself busy and feel part of the team. Perhaps he is in the garage because the employer would like some things relocated? Maybe the yard needs some landscaping that only he is qualified to do? Each guess as to what the employer wants of him is met with recrimination and blame. Bonuses are non-existent and sometimes his regular pay comes late or not at all.

Confused, the pet will sometimes attempt to seek other employment by leaving the corporate offices and wandering the streets in search of an employer who might better appreciate his services. However, the employer usually drags him back with reminders of the contractual obligations he wears on the tag around his neck. More confused, sometimes he will remember back to the old days when the employer laughed and tolerated puppy antics. That was a happy time and maybe the employer would like some of those behaviors back? He tries pottying on the back mat and chewing items that used to invoke a laugh or a gentle pat and “bad doggy”. This doesn’t seem to work either as the employer’s voice raises and the pet is left in the rain, staring in at the warm office and friendly employees that used to treat him as the rising CEO.

One day the pet is called into the rolling office. He bounds into the office with visions of heading to the sandy offices for a corporate retreat or maybe an offsite meeting with other happy pets. It’s been so long since he was involved in any of these. He eagerly watches out the window, pressing his nose against the cold glass, watching familiar places roll by, his tail wagging enthusiastically. Instead, he is brought to a big cold building that smells of fear and loss. His employers’ mood is somber and he barely glances at his pet.

The pet is told that he must be let go – that he is better off in another company, that the current company has reevaluated their budgets and his position is no longer needed and that it can be filled by a younger animal with more promise. He rubs his muzzle on his employers’ leg – they used to like that and tousle his ears when he did it. The act is met with remarks about dirtying his pants and “it’s too late now Buster”. He gently licks his employers’ hand, the one that used to be so liberal with congratulatory strokes and meaty bonuses. The hand pushes him away and his corporate leash is handed to a stranger. He looks at his employer who has already turned his back and is quickly walking out the door. He strains to follow. “Wait! I will do better. I promise. Give me a second chance…”

As he is dragged away into a room in the homeless shelter, he wonders what he could have done differently. Why he wasn’t given more guidance to help him keep his job? What will he do now when his skills haven’t been updated in years? He walks past many hallways of other pets struggling with the same dilemmas – some depressed and crying in the back of their tiny cubbies, others trying to stay fit by bouncing against the steel bars, some expressing their frustrations by growling at passers by, and still others sitting perfectly still against the front of their pens imagining what might be on the outside of a cell they’ve now been in for months.

The newly laid off pet applies for a position with every potential new employer that walks by, but he is always watching for his original employer who might have a change of heart and be able to re-hire him for the position he had so enjoyed initially – maybe even in a management position over the new employee they had mentioned hiring. He’d do better this time. He’d do everything asked of him and pay closer attention to what the employer needed. Prospective employers glance his way, but move on to younger neighbors.

The prospect of starting a new job with a new employer at his age is daunting. Nothing had worked with an employer that supposedly loved him. How would he know what a new employer might want? What if the new employer wanted him to have outside offices away from the rest of the company as well? What if the new employer didn’t understand that some types of food made his paws itch or that baths were scary and needed to be given slowly? What if the new employer wanted him to alert them of strangers in the area in a different way? So many questions and no answers.

After weeks of applying to every position that comes up, the pet starts to get depressed and loses hope. He stops applying and simply watches opportunities walk right by him to more newly laid off and hopeful neighbors. Eventually he stops eating. One day shackles are put on him and he is slowly walked to the back of the building. He smells the terror lingering in the air. He senses the end of his career, but has no strength to resist. What could he have done differently? He will never know.

Unlike humans, many pets do not get a chance at a second career.

(originally posted by me on PETCOScoop.com – 01/08/11)
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