Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll
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Lessons from my dog

The family is adjusting to the new pup, which sure ain't solving the world's crises, but is a lot of fun

So, we got a dog. A puppy actually. She’s really cute.

Don’t ask how it happened. I’m still not quite sure. I grew up with German Shepherds.

But not the Mister. He never wanted a dog, so I stopped asking.

Then, one day, he starts sending me pictures of puppies. To which I respond, “Unless you’re seriously considering getting one, this is just cruel.”

Anyway, we have a puppy.

She’s part Shepherd, part who knows what.

Bringing home Nala. (She threw up the whole way)

It’s been an experience these past few weeks. And I’m (re)learning some things I thought I’d share, since, well, can’t we all use a break from Trump, the UN, school strikes, and government officials under investigation?


Lesson #1: Think before you commit. Be sure. And then dive in, full heart

This puppy comes with more stuff than I can list in a medium-sized blog post. From pen to bed to chew toys. From leashes to collars to poop bags. She needs attention, affection, direction, and discipline. It’s almost as bad as having a new baby. You need to get up when she needs to go, unless you want kaka in your house, and getting angry or frustrated doesn’t get you anywhere. You must decide that you’re in for the long haul and keep the goal in mind. Don’t look back.

Nala learns to go upstairs. Mommy isn’t happy.

Lesson #2: You have to pick up the poop

Listen, this sounds like a no brainer, but the thing is, everyone needs to pick up their own poop. Both physical and metaphorical. You can’t just leave your poop out there for someone else to step in. You need to own the poop. Clean the poop. And throw that crap away. Whether it’s the crap in your house, your head, or on your Friends list. Dump the poop.

Lesson #3: Even a 4-year-old can be the pack leader. And even a 40-year-old can run from a puppy

In researching how to train puppies (thank you Cesar Millan), we learned that dogs are pack animals and look for a leader, so we all learned how to exhibit pack leader behaviors in an effort to teach the dog. My 4-year-old is the best of the bunch. He stands straight and tall, doesn’t run from her, ignores her when she misbehaves, and calls her over like a champ. It’s been incredible to see his ability to learn, and to watch him exert himself confidently. He also tells me not to get angry at the dog because she is just a puppy and doesn’t understand. Which leads me to Lesson 4.

Lesson #4: Rationalizing with something irrational doesn’t work

No matter how often I tell the dog that I don’t want my couch ruined, that she cannot chew on my hat, or that she cannot eat plastic, it doesn’t matter. As the little one says, “She doesn’t speak English.” And he is correct. It’s utterly useless to try to talk to someone or something that doesn’t hear you. It is a waste of time. Find another way to communicate what you want to get across or you will wind up in endless frustration — on a loop.

Lesson #5: Sometimes the only answer is a hug

I work from home. Having the dog here has been very — very — challenging, and at times I want to throw her in her cage so I can work for a full hour without searching for her throughout the house (I usually find her in my daughter’s bed — the very kid who swore to drown the puppy when we first got her). But sometimes I give in and I sit down, or go outside with her and just play, or cuddle, and let her lick my face, and, inevitably, I’m smiling, (at least for a minute before she starts misbehaving again). But those few minutes are the best break from work and Trump, and the UN, and laundry, and deadlines and… honestly, there is nothing that a good hug from a loving puppy… friend… or spouse can’t make better, at least for a few minutes. So go hug someone.

Puppy love

Lesson #6: Know what you’re getting in to

She’s cute now. But she is going to be monstrously huge. True, by then (GOD WILLING), she will be trained, but she is going to be huge. Don’t look at the current status of whatever it is you’re committing to, understand what will be in a year, or two, or five — and make sure you are willing and able to be there every step of the way.

Lesson #7: The love you put in is the love you get out

Sometimes, you know the potential of something, but there is a loooot of work to do before you see the light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a long process, but if you stay consistent, have patience, and keep your goal in mind, your outcome (this dog) will give back all that you have invested and more.


About the Author
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer and an activist. Cofounder of She loves her people enough to call out the nonsense. See her work at
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