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September 15, 2012

Lessons learned from puppy a lot like those from kids

The Daily Star

---- — And so our first summer with a dog closes. Lessons have been learned, as I suspected they might. In case you are pondering a similar addition to your house, here are a few of them.

Lesson One:

The kids will mostly be of no help when it comes to taking care of a puppy. Just know that from the start and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you can get them to take her for a walk or throw a ball around. 

That isn’t to say that the kids don’t contribute in their own unique way. Most of the stuff that the dog would have chewed on/broken had already been chewed on/broken by the kids. This reduces the stress about a thousandfold.

Lesson Two:

No matter how much you harp on the kids to put their dang shoes where they belong — which is essentially any place that isn’t the floor — they will never respond to just your nagging them. Add a shoe-eating puppy to drive the message home. 

When they come to complain that the dog has destroyed yet another flip-flop, shrug and remind them it wouldn’t have happened if they followed the rule.

Expect zero sympathy, however, when said dog gnaws the heck out of your favorite pair of summer flats because you were distracted when you walked in the door and failed to pick them up. 

I own that this was completely my own fault. Still, I’ll miss those shoes.

Lesson Three:

You will no longer only step on Legos when you walk across the living room. You will instead step on slimy, half-chewed pieces of rawhide.

Lesson Four:

Everything on your desk will be shoved onto the floor by your fattest cat who firmly believes that is the only safe place in the house. The cat will then ever-so-gently dangle one paw in front of the dog’s face, who will then fall into a barking frenzy because the cat is taunting her. Yelling will do nothing to help this situation but might make you feel better.

Lesson Four-and-a-half:

Unless you like explaining to folks why you lost that important piece of paper that had that important information on it because the cat knocked it on the floor and the dog promptly ate it, start keeping that stuff someplace safe, like the freezer or your underwear drawer.

Lesson Five:

Like children, dogs always know when you are about to unwrap a piece of candy, take an important phone call or sit still for 30 seconds. Accept this and only do these things when you aren’t in your house. 

Lesson Six:

Unlike children, an exhausted puppy is a very good puppy and one who is too worn out to get into too much mischief. You will never have to say to your dog, “Yes, it is naptime, Mr. Cranky-pants,” then listen to 45 minutes of whining about how not tired he is before he complains himself to sleep. Your dog will simply fall asleep when tired. Prepare to be astounded by this.

Lesson Seven:

Puppies are like toddlers, in that they will put every blessed thing in their mouth just to see if it’s food. And by “everything,” I do mean everything, from rocks to sticks to dirt to underpants to baseboards to soap bars to Wiffle balls. Your hands will almost always be covered with dried dog saliva from prying these treats back out of her mouth. 

(Yes, she does know the “leave it” command. She also has selective amnesia when the purloined object is something really good.)

Lesson Eight:

Housetraining will take longer than you’d hoped. The upside is that you’ll get to revisit the sense of existential despair that you felt when you were convinced that both of your children would be going to college in diapers. The downside is pretty much everything else.

Lesson Nine:

You will force everyone around you to look at pictures of the puppy, just like you did when your kids were babies. You will have stories about “the cute thing the pup did” that will be too sweet to not share. Your actual kids will be thrilled that, for a change, you aren’t gossiping about them.

Lesson Ten:

Assure yourself that soon she’ll be a dog and all of the puppy mayhem will end. Then take one good look at your giant human babies and realize that it will happen faster than you could have imagined.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at