Retrieve and Herd?

In my first post, I wrote about the importance of thinking metaphorically and indirectly, even when doing work that seems remote from the world of poetry.  And I wrote about it in a manner that did not explain or qualify who I was or why I was writing, or what I was trying to accomplish by doing so.  Furthermore, I did it all on a blog with a title that bears no direct connection to what the subtitle suggests the blog is about.  Just what is going on here, anyway?  Well, as you might have inferred, I was engaging in some indirection myself.

When I set out to create a blog, I had a rough idea what sorts of topics I wanted to write about–namely, things related to my work and my many other interests–but I had no idea how to tie them all together.  As explained in my bio blurb, I used to study and teach literature and writing to college students, but for more than fifteen years now, I have worked in fundraising for higher education, doing work that falls under the header of “prospect development,” namely research and data analysis, both to aid in identifying potential donors and to generate the kinds of insights that help fundraisers build relationships to advance the cause of philanthropy.  For almost twelve years now, I’ve been doing that work at the University of Nevada, Reno, where I am also currently a part-time student completing an MBA.

Needless to say, I have a lot of interests, and I like thinking about the links and connections between what I do at work, what I’m studying now, and the many things I’ve studied and learned about in the past.  But finding a way to connect them all in a blog eluded me until I realized that the answer was actually right at my feet all along.

I’m referring to my two dogs, who happen to be a Retriever mix and a Border Collie.  As I sat writing at my desk, I realized that the tasks their breeds excel in are also analogous to the sort of work I do for a living as a researcher and data analyst.  I’ve spent much of my professional life looking for, gathering, and retrieving all sorts of information, and once I’ve collected it, I need to herd it, that is, to put it into some sort of workable shape through organization, evaluation, description, enumeration, regression, or other forms of analysis.  After years of practice, I’m generally pretty good at the “retrieve” part, but I keep learning more sophisticated and better ways to “herd.”

“Stealth Mode: Engaged” by Dennis van Zuijlekom is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Anyone who lives with dogs will admit that they train us as much as (if not more than) we train them, and that part of what draws us to them is not just their loyalty and understanding, but also their exuberance, energy, and spirit.  My dogs are better masters of those traits than I am, but it is my hope that by invoking them in my blog’s title, I will be able to write in such a way that will communicate that sort of enthusiasm about my topics to my readers.

I won’t claim to be an expert on all of the topics I hope to blog about; one of my goals, though, is to share the things I’ve learned or have been learning–whether they be techniques or approaches, insights or perspectives–with an energy and spirit worthy of my dogs.


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