Gary and the Terrier Union

A story of belonging.

As well as being a facilitator, trainer and coach, I’m also PA to a wire fox terrier called Gary. Maybe you already follow him on Instagram.

A couple of months ago he was invited to join the Terrier Union (TU) – an Instagram non-profit group about kindness, support, fun and dogs keeping their humans in line.

After Gary accepted his invitation, Gary got assigned a mentor Kitty the Lakeland to help him learn the ropes and get settled in. Kitty posted a lovely welcome post that introduced Gary to other TU members. Then lots of terriers welcomed Gary and he felt really special.

Then we were invited to a private message thread called ‘Team Sniffari’ for all the new members that Kitty was mentoring. This is where Gary can ask questions about the TU and be in a smaller cohort of other new and established members. It helped prevent overwhelm for Gary to be in a smaller group.

Gary was asked for a special date; his gotcha day. Presumably so that can be celebrated. (17 March) We’ll wait and see!

Then Gary got sent a TU bandana in the post (see picture) just in time for ‘bandana day’. This is where all the TU post pictures of themselves in their bandanas.

Gary was then invited to take part in the Terrier Union Games, featuring a range of events including napping, zoomies and swimming.

The TU supports other terriers who are poorly with kind messages which is heart-warming. Gary really feels he is part of a community and likes to be kind to others. I know when Gary has been ill and posted about it the messages of support and ‘get well soon’ really meant a lot.

I’ve subscribed to the Terrier Times email to make sure Gary doesn’t miss out on any important communications.

The TU is flexible, you can get really involved or you can lurk on the side-lines. The only mandatory thing in the TU is kindness.

It’s a bit of fun, however I’ve learned a lot about community and connection and how to make others feel welcomed and included.

Feeling welcomed, included and valued is exactly that – a feeling. You can have all the processes and inclusion policies you like but it’s how people FEEL when they start in a new organisation or join a group that counts.

What I’ve learned from the Terrier Union

  • A genuine welcome means a lot – and others taking time to say hello makes you feel special.
  • Having a mentor/buddy/go to person to show you round and answer questions is priceless.
  • New joiners being part of a smaller cohort who actively help and advise is a good idea. This might just be their team mates – and it helps to specifically introduce that element of ‘team’ early on.
  • What can you give to new people to help them identify as part of the group and feel they belong? For example, it might be as simple as their staff ID and security card (my point is it’s more than a functional item to get in the building – it symbolises that they belong here). The Terrier Union sends everyone a bandana.
  • Include fun/social activities that include everyone and yet with no pressure to take part, only if you want to. Even a few minutes to chat at the start of a meeting counts here.
  • Implement a mandate to be kind to others.

I think many organisations, clubs and societies could learn a thing or two from the Terrier Union about welcoming new people and helping them feel that sense of belonging from day one..

What do you think? What do you do to welcome new starters and help them feel belonging quickly? Comments welcome.

5 thoughts on “Gary and the Terrier Union

  1. As you said, Lucy, indeed a great unrelated and unexpected source of inspiration of how community and belonging work in practice. No doubt processes will help ensure structure and consistency but intuition and instinct first need to lead.

  2. I couldn’t love this more! As well as your great list of key learning points I think the Gotcha Day is also key – noting and recognising anniversaries and dates that may be meaningful to the individual. But clearly the most important learning here is that dogs make everything better. Fact.

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