By Eric P. Harding
I live in the suburbs. More specifically, I live on what’s colorfully called a “double-headed cul-de-sac,” and we happen to have a corner lot. (Imagine a normal cul-de-sac with an offshoot branch jutting off to the left; we occupy one of the two houses at the small intersection.) Our house is situated toward the back of the property, so our front yard is much bigger than our back yard.
We have two dogs. Our back yard was fenced when we moved in, and the hounds cavorted back there as much as they wanted, but—the majestic wolf-descended creatures that they are—they yearned to cover greater distances at a full run. So (after carefully investigating my municipality’s zoning laws, of course), we built a fence around the front of our property, to create a sort of mini-dog-run.
And they love it. They can chase squirrels (and each other) to their hearts’ content, they never seem to get tired, and they always get treats and lots of belly rubs if they come inside the first time we call.
You’d think given all we’ve done to transform our front yard into a canine Shangri-La that they’d be grateful. You’d be wrong. These animals do everything in their power to escape this bitter torment every chance they get. The svelte one—Cookie—successfully squeezed under the gate … necessitating a swing-down barrier solution Rube Goldberg would be proud of. The plump one—Zelda—waits until we’re carrying in groceries then makes a run for it. Truth be told, though, her heart’s not in it; she always comes right back when a treat is proffered.
Yes, it’s Cookie who drives me batty with her escape-artist antics. Mostly because she’s so dang nimble. When she gets loose, she’s hard to catch.
We must make quite a picture, me and this mutt, for our neighbors. Here’s Cookie, happy as can be, loping across the neighborhood, sniffing everything in sight. And here’s me, leash in hand, clomping up and down the hills of my street after her as she starts and stops on a dime.
Thankfully—both for my agita and for my good standing in the community—my wife has discovered a trick. Our minivan has a remote-open liftgate. If there’s anything Cookie loves more than running around the neighborhood, it’s a ride in the car … and the sound of the liftgate opening snaps her out of her reverie. She comes running back and leaps into the van. Then it’s just a matter of deciding whether to ride around the block or not; that’s usually a function of how long I was out chasing her.
As much as I may complain, I have to admire Cookie’s nimbleness. Indeed, this issue’s features all touch on this cunning concept in some way.
Our cover feature, “At the Dry-Erase Board,” contemplates how a forward-thinking provider might be nimble in offering life insurance to a heretofore underserved population—those with very low and highly variable income. Positioning small amount life insurance has its challenges … but the opportunities are there as well.
In our second feature, “Taking Stock: The Feeling Is Mutual,” author Carlos Fuentes lays out how insurance company ownership structure is a strategic decision. Whether stock-based or mutual, a nimble company can weather the vagaries of the economic cycle.
Finally, “‘Dr. Robot Will See You Now’” takes a look at how nimble health care companies are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve patient outcomes. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky pipe dream; these tools are helping save lives—today.
Thank you, as ever, for reading. If you need me, look for the vaguely dog-shaped white blur in Springfield, Va.—I’ll be huffing and puffing a ways behind.