I stupidly left our new dog the same day we got him so that I could go to the Grand Theater for what turned out to be a not very good play. We had not planned on getting a dog that exact day but then we met Coconut. I also had purchased tickets long before a dog even was an option.

Four hours home alone and we came back to not only the expected poop but to shredded drapes for five windows, two of them 106”, both upstairs and down, and three window shades. The food pantry was in shambles with broken into macadamia nuts and tortillas and other food now ruined. The next morning Coconut could not walk and the Sunday morning emergency vet took an X-ray showing a significant sprain. The $500.00 vet bill and all the curtains added up to at least $2,500 worth of damage the first night!

I took full responsibility for leaving the dog that night and that left me questioning my ability to caring for a dog as well as my willingness. Was I right when I said I was not a dog person?

A few days after that disaster I thought Coconut must be dying. Between the bouts of hacking and coughing and his fitful sleep I truly thought Coconut was going to choke to death. It had taken me two years to agree to a dog and it was going to end in two days. I hated the idea of returning the dog but the last thing I needed after our rocky start were more vet bills.

I drove back to NEW PAWSibilities to ask a laundry list of questions half hoping they would see what an awful person I was and they would make me give the dog back.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Jim explained about kennel cough and that while all of their dogs are vaccinated for the future many have it when they arrive and only time would clear things up. He wasn’t in any danger and we had to wait it out. That led to a discussion about how he ate so quickly I thought he’d choke. And die. Obvious answer. He had been a stray who never knew where his next meal was coming from so of course, he ate quickly. There were also likely other strays trying to steal his food. Okay, that made sense. So a Kong or other food dispenser to slow things down was the answer and it worked like a charm.

What about what I learned was separation anxiety? Jim talked about crate training and using a smaller Kong filled with peanut butter to distract him when I left.

One by one all of my questions were answered, suggestions were made, and I left feeling like I wasn’t the biggest dog mommy loser in Oshkosh and that I could and would make it work.

There are a few reasons that NEW PAWSibilities has a significantly lower return to shelter rate than the national average. The first is all about placement and that starts with photos and bios and knowledgeable staff who don’t try and push an adoption through but take the time to listen, observe, and find the best match. Follow-up conversations and your willingness to reach out are imperative when you have questions that might have obvious answers that are hard to see when you are going through things.

The websites and books out there sometimes can seem conflicting but once you land on a good site stick with it. The ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States all have a good search function with lots of great articles and information. There are other sites but I find a lot are trying to sell subscription services and products and I personally prefer pure information.


The six-week dog obedience class I took through Jody at Pawsitive Directions was also very helpful. We have a list of frequently asked questions on our site that’s also helpful.

Your dog is wired to love you and the accidents and food aggression and even a $2,500 disaster night don’t mean it’s time to throw in the towels. Take a deep breath because it gets better to the point where you can, like me, get through the hard times very quickly and then wonder how on earth you ever thought of taking your dog back.

When things are not going perfectly just remember this quote. Kind of like wedding vows. Through good times and bad. Trust me, adopting a dog and getting them trained is way easier than marriage. #askmehowiknow