Lucky Dog | Book Review

Life experiences offer the best leadership training. Dr. Sarah Boston, Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, at the University of Florida shares a deeply personal journey of thyroid cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. While alternating between her challenging cancer experiences and her veterinary practice reflections, Dr. Boston offers clues to her Personal Leadership Philosophy. This review assembles selected passages, in effect creating Dr. Boston's leadership philosophy, in the context of her role as veterinary champion.


Let's recall eight elements of a Personal Leadership Philosophy:

What Does Leadership Mean to Me
Describe what leadership means to you written in third person.

Personal Values
What you believe in; such as honesty, commitment, respect for others.

Operating Principles
Description of how you will carry out your responsibilities.

What you expect of others and what they can expect of you.

What you will demand and what you will not tolerate.

What’s important, and in what order.

Personal Idiosyncrasies
Your peculiar likes or “pet peeves."

Your willingness for feedback.

A Lucky Dog Leadership Philosophy

I am a very lucky dog (p. 295).

Dogs and cats live for the moment and find joy in everyday things. We can learn from this (p. 152). The universe seems to dole out all of the good at once and then all of the bad at once. It doesn't seem particularly well thought out (p. 143). Every patient needs an advocate (p. 119). We need to care more. We need to advocate more (p. 15). I am full of respect and awe for you, my patients. How we face [extreme situations] is really just a reflection of how we face the ups and downs of life (p. 157). Tsotsi taught me about intense love and loss, the deep hole a dog can rip in your heart (p. 207). We need mojo. Without mojo, [we] are sunk (p. 217).

Unconditional love is a basic human need (p. 38). I hold bravery in esteem, (p. 35) thinking about all the non-complaining dogs that have been in my hands... I think I would need counseling if I didn't cry from time to time with this job (p. 148). It is better to live a shorter life with happy purpose and freedom than an unexceptional life of faux-immortality (p. 251). I believe the ultimate freedom is the freedom to die without pain (p. 253). Demand more happiness from your life (p. 286).

We are in the public domain (p. 37). Be humane. We will not perform any aspirations on patients without sedation and pain medication (p. 35). We will not make you unnecessarily wait for test results (p. 36). I don't feel that physicians take the same amount of time to explain to their patients what is happening as [we] do for [our] clients (p. 154). Positivity may not change the outcome, but it can change the experience (p. 157). A good nurse can make all the difference in the world (p. 192).

Your wait-time-to-appointment-length ratio should be 1:5 (p. 68). Your dog will come in for your appointment in the morning and have radiographs, blood work, and an ultrasound all done on the same day. Depending on results, we may do a biopsy of your [suspect] mass that day as well. From there, we schedule a CT and surgery for the next day (p. 14). You will need to find a way to live without being scared all the time (p. 134). Practice good hygiene - Florence Nightingale had this figured out about 150 years ago (p. 187). We will ask you what times are convenient for you (p. 281). Spread positive energy into the universe (p. 289).

Do not be like the wretched nurse Malice, and eat other's souls (p. 65). Do not leave a [pet owner] waiting for over five hours with no news [about their pet] (p. 102). We will never take a "wait and see" approach to a fast-growing mass (p. 113). [We will] not euthanize any animal unless [we have] spoken to the client [first] (p. 257).

[Relieving] your anxiety [is our top priority] (p. 69). You will understand on some level that [we] love you and [are] trying to help you (p. 53). You will not wait [endlessly], marching up and down in the waiting room, demanding a face-to-face meeting with the chief of surgery (p. 48). My biggest fear is [unhappiness] and not doing everything that I can to change it and find happiness. Life is so short (p. 269).

[Do understand] I wish I were a dog (p. 3). I have very few contacts in the human world (p. 6). I struggle with the difference between reality and make-believe, which is why I can never go to Disney World (p. 13). I have always been struck by the power of receiving a card (p. 142) that simply says "Thinking of you." I have cracked the cat code: the more you ignore them and push them aside, the more they want you (p. 243).

I appreciate you put your lives on hold for your dog's care. If [we] can give someone hope and unconditional love, [we] are not just crush-worthy, [we] are a religion (p. 123). Take care of [your pet] and enjoy [their] time here (p. 138). How we play [our] cards may be more important than anything else (p. 158).

Golden Nugget

Many of Dr. Boston's thoughts are authentic and unvarnished.  On pages 109-112, her cancer awareness fatigue is hilarious and most un-politically correct - bravo!

Note: Dr. Sarah Boston generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | August 2016