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What My Dogs Taught Me about Permanence (Rhythm of Testing)

On March 7, 2015, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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People who know me, or have seen some of my presentations on testing in an Agile environment, have seen pictures of the cats who live in the house with my me and my dear lady-wife.  People who know me, or my lady-wife, a bit better know that we prefer dogs. The cats started to move in a couple of years after our last dog, Rosie, went to Rottweiler-Heaven.

Rosie was a wonderful critter and companion. She would mind the grandkids when they were sleeping. If there was high tension or a chance of what seemed to be violence, she would walk in between the people involved and nudge them away from each other until things calmed down. She weighed 100 pounds and had the strength to move most people, even if they don’t really want to move. Slapping was not permitted when she was around.

Anyway. Rosie was a rescue. She came to us when she was not quite two years old. We suspect that part of the “issue” was that this cute little ball of puppy fun turned into a very VERY large dog in short order. The problem was, she was still mostly puppy.  Translated – there was a lot of work to do with her, so she would behave in ways that were acceptable, even when we were not home.

We spent a lot of time working with her, training her to act in certain ways. Like, staying out of the garden, both vegetables and flowers. And staying off the furniture. It took a bit to convince her that simply because food, like vegetables draining in a colander, about to go on the dinner table, was NOT fair game, even if she could reach it easily.

There was the time we came home from a Christmas Party and found that the plates of cookies and bars and treats on the dining table had been disturbed, slightly. Looking around, we realized one plate was missing – a paper plate full of cookies my sister had made. These were cookies my paternal grandmother used to make, only for Christmas. Wonderful stuff.

They also smelled differently than any of the other cookies and treats that were set out, waiting for our grandkids to come over that evening.

We found Rosie, and the plate… and the plastic-wrap covering, in the crate she used as a dog-bed (it really was a dog crate for big dogs. her blankets and toys were in there. It was her safe haven – her “lair.” So, here was the plastic wrap in front of the crate. The paper plate was in the crate –

Crumbs were everywhere. Apparently, she really enjoyed those cookies. Ah well.

As I was saying, it took a while to train her and get her so she’d be able to please as much as she wanted to.

By the time she was 8 or 9 or so, she knew the boundaries of the yard where she could go, and not. She knew what games were allowed – the type of play – and what were not. We could “call” her by simply whispering her name. Where ever she was, she came at a trot. If we called twice – she ran to us.

We could look at her and she knew what was going on – she’d go stand by her leash to go for a walk. Or, she’d go to the back door so she could go outside with us. 

She never did like rain. One time, about this time, we had several days of rain – never seemed to stop. She disliked rain enough where she would not go outside to “do her business” because of it. As we were into the second day of rain, and she had still not gone to “do her business” – I got a large umbrella and took her outside.

She was wary of the idea of being outside when it was raining – then she realized that I was outside – AND NOT GETTING WET!  HOW COOL WAS THAT!?!? So, she went out, I held the umbrella over her – and she was much happier after that.

Rottweilers are not long-lived animals. About the time she turned 9, her hips began to hurt. She could not play in the same way she always liked to. We put rubber-backed rugs around for her to lie down on and be comfortable (the house has hardwood floors, no carpeting in most of the rooms.) We gave her different food, food for “old, senior dogs.” We found some supplements to give her that helped with her joint pain.

When the grandkids came over, she played like she was 3 again. But then she spent the next several days hurting as a result. We changed her “lair” – checked with the vet and put in a heating pad for cold nights, under her blanket of course.

By the time she was 10 or so, she could walk into the room and look at us and tilt her head in a given way and let us know what she wanted. She rarely barked. We took her on shorter walks. Her muzzle was all white now, not the black it was when she was young.

When she was 11, she quickly went downhill. Slower. She had a hard time getting up and down steps. Then she developed a large lump. Quickly.

We took her to the vet to be tested, but we knew what was going on. She always liked going to the Vet. She always like “going bye-bye in the car.” So, he took a sample from the lump and sent it off to a lab. Before we had an answer we knew it was time for her to go on.  That last trip to the vet she had a really hard time getting into the van. She whimpered for the first time as we helped her in.

When we got there, she looked up and got out (getting down was easier than up.)  We walked in and she nuzzled us, leaned against us, as she always did. We went in with her as she drifted off to sleep that last time. We got home and hung up her collar and leash, put her food and water dishes in the sink to be washed and put away.

We sat down in the living room feeling very sad.  My lady-wife said “The problem with dogs is, once they are perfect for the family and perfectly trained, you need to start getting ready to say good-bye. Because they don’t live nearly as long as we do. Just as they get to be perfectly trained, it is time for them to go away and leave us.”

Last July, I started a new phase in my adventure in testing.

I went to work for a company that was looking for someone to help improve their testing. They were looking for an experienced person who could guide and coach them in how they could do testing better.

In the interview process, the people I met seemed to “get it.” They knew they needed help. They knew the company needed help. They knew they did not have the experience or understanding of testing to get beyond very simple, basic ideas. 

One of the had the title “Quality Architect” – meaning he was not a tester. He never claimed to be. He, like I am, is a member of ASQ – the American Society for Quality. He was a process hound – but not a model hound.  The idea of “best practices” in software was “not a best practice” in his description. There are good ideas, but none of them work all the time.

One was a Manager of Application Services. He had a bunch of diverse groups reporting to him. I was struck that this was a bit like the “Island of Misfit Toys.” People with skills that were needed by the organization but did not fit in with a single project development team – or in a tool specific team.

We talked. There was common ground we could work on. There were some differences in views, mostly related to experiences. 

I took the gig. It has been a lot of work. (Maybe you noticed how my blog has been less active lately?) It has been good though. My immediate team has been willing to embrace some new ideas and carry them out into the broader community. The Manager has embraced ideas that he initially found challenging – and in talking about them and working through what they could look like at this company, he became a champion to other Managers and Directors.

We built a good working relationship. Quickly. He even came to the local tester meetup on a fairly regular basis.

During the interview process, in the “describe the company and your experiences” discussion, he said he had been there for … a long time. His role had changed. He had taken on greater responsibilities and challenges. Then he said “The only way I can see myself leaving here is if {Large International Organization Not Known for Software} had an opening I could fill.”

That company did. He applied – interviewed – accepted the position.

Just as he was “perfectly trained” – he left. Friday, yesterday, was his last day at the company.

He “moved on.” Of course, this was for a new job opportunity and not a “moved on” like Rosie did (or Hilde-beast before her… or Honz before her…) Still he’s going on an adventure. Relocation – New City – New State – New Company.

Good luck Brian – Enjoy the new adventure!

I still think my tweet yesterday applies…

“Didja ever notice that Managers are a bit like dogs –
get them perfectly trained & it is time for them to go away?”

 

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