I was stunned to learn recently that Monday, February 2 is Groundhog Day. When I thought of all the animal species, including of course yours truly, that have served humans faithfully for thousands of years, I was at a loss to understand why this destructive rodent is honored with its own day of such notoriety. This didn’t pass the sniff test to me so I decided to do a little digging around for more information. We dogs are data-driven.
What I learned is that February 2 is about half way through the winter. Ancient folklore is that the lazy hibernating groundhog wakes up and leaves his hole on this day. If the weather is sunny and he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it is cloudy and he does not see his shadow, there will be an early Spring. For more than 100 years, thousands of humans have been flocking rabidly to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every February 2 to get this weather “forecast” from the local groundhog, Phil. Yet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reports that based on an analysis of objective data, Phil has no skill at predicting the weather. So it seems to me the fame of the groundhog is based on the long-standing and unchallenged belief that it has some special power to forecast the weather. This has created its “aura” among its followers, and there is little scrutiny of its actual performance based on objective criteria.
Does this sound a little familiar to you? Do you have groundhogs at your workplace? A groundhog might be someone who enjoys the perception that he has superior insights or skills, without any facts or science to back him up. Yet he is followed and rewarded because people are afraid to challenge him. He is like the emperor in the story that young human pups read – he has no clothes but no one questions his proclamation that he is wearing beautiful robes. A groundhog might not be a person. It might be a program, a policy or a process, something that has always been done without anyone questioning whether it is still the right thing to do.
Ask yourself if you are a groundhog on occasion. When you find yourself doing or saying something based solely on long-standing habit, burrow deeply into the facts. Ask yourself if there is a good reason to keep doing it, other than “That’s how it has always been done.”
To my furry rodent friend, I extend my paw in peace. Happy Groundhog Day! Enjoy your day in the sun, or in the shade as the case may be. Come Spring, however, stay out of my garden!
Your best friend,
 Please note that National Dog Day is August 26