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Let Me Tell You about Jasper . . .
How My Best Friend Became America's Dog
By Dana Perino
Read by Dana Perino
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- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
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Dana Perino is a popular and beloved host on Fox’s The Five, with over two million followers on social media. While readers admire Dana for her charm, warmth, and insight, she also knows who the real star in her family is: her Vizsla, Jasper-A.K.A. America’s Dog.
In this new book, Dana tells stories about life and politics-and how dogs can transcend rancor and partisanship. She also talks about how dogs bring families together -like Dana’s own, from her career in Washington through her life as a TV star. In addition to all the fun and fabulous dog tales, Let Me Tell You About Jasper… is fully illustrated with hilarious photoshops so clever they will make you laugh out loud. These photoshops bring Jasper’s adventures to life through pop culture, art, sports and history.
Red Eye, Summer of 2013
GREG: Actress Eva Mendes tells New York magazine that she wishes the tabloids would blur the faces of her dog Hugo, like British rags do with celebrities' kids.
She says, "I'll go somewhere and they'll be like, 'Hey, Hugo.' And I'm like, 'How do you know Hugo's name?' That's so creepy."
To throw off the paparazzi, she now has someone else walk Hugo.
Dana, I go to you first for no particular reason whatsoever. Why must your friends, family, and Twitter followers be kept abreast of everything your precious Jasper does?
DANA: I know that I'm a dog bore, but I embrace it. It gives me great joy. I love all the pictures. And you know what? I'll make Jasper "America's Dog." He is for everybody, and I'll share him with the world.
Look at that face! And he's got that little ear and he's so cute!
People adore Jasper and they say, don't stop tweeting pictures of Jasper just because Greg Gutfeld makes fun of you.
GREG: Would you want your dog's face blurred?
DANA: No. Actually, you know what? People recognize Jasper more than they recognize me at the park, and I love that.
They're like, "OMG is that Jasper!? We love Jasper."
So I think I have finally achieved something in life. Finally!
When I wrote And the Good News Is…, I had an entire chapter about dogs—the ones I grew up with in Wyoming and Colorado, the one I had to give away at college, and the ones I've raised with my husband. I loved that chapter. I was proud of it, too. It had great detail, funny stories, and descriptions of the life lessons I'd learned from being around dogs (more, I think, than I've learned from humans). I thought it fit perfectly into my book that blended my memoir with my best career advice.
The problem was, my editor, Sean Desmond, needed me to cut about ten thousand words from the draft manuscript. I spent a weekend trying to trim off that length, but the text was pretty tight. I got frustrated. I couldn't find a way to delete that much copy.
Finally, I stepped back and took a long look at the dog chapter. It was several thousand words long. I eyed it for the chopping block, but I couldn't bring down the hatchet. I slept on it (the book, not the hatchet). The deadline loomed.
I used my foolproof method of decision-making, praying for a clear idea of how to solve my problem. When I woke up, I knew what I needed to do.
I printed the dog chapter and took it with me to Sean's office near Grand Central Station in Manhattan.
"This may be the hardest thing I do, and it is breaking my heart," I said. "But here you go. You can have the dog chapter. Without it, we can make the word count."
I tossed the chapter onto his desk.
While Sean isn't a dog person, he knew it was quite a sacrifice.
"I think this is the right decision," he said. "And I promise you, one day there will be a dog book."
And true to his word, here we are.
So let me tell you about Jasper—how my best friend became "America's Dog."
Let Me Tell You about Jasper…
My Dog, the Celebrity
Jasper is a four-year-old Hungarian Vizsla. My husband, Peter, and I brought him home to New York City from Maryland in June 2012 when he was nine weeks old. No one has ever made me laugh more—he's a beautiful little rascal. (My dog, I mean, not Peter. Though, now that I think about it…)
He's also a bit of a celebrity. I didn't set out to make Jasper a star; it just happened, and almost overnight. He's got that "certain something," and together, over time, Jasper and I have connected with more people and their pets than I ever thought possible. I wanted to write this book because I'm touched by the human connection that we can make with each other through our dogs.
It is a bit wonderful that through television and social media, Jasper and I became friends with so many people across the country. I enjoy interacting with my followers and fans, and I really feel that we have modern-day friendships—people I've never met, but that I've come to know over time through short digital interactions. It has widened my circle of people I talk to, and it's deepened my appreciation for people from all walks of life. I now get a chance to communicate with people I wouldn't have ever known; the Internet has given us a way to connect and network that didn't exist before. We're all neighbors now (with the proper amount of fencing to keep things friendly).
Often this new group of people has cheered me up or warmed my heart just when I needed it. Working in politics and live cable television can be stressful, and switching off at the end of the day isn't always easy. Jasper's following has actually given me a way to set aside the work portion of my day and exchange some messages with my electronic friends, which helps me keep grounded and cheerful.
I've long used dogs as a buffer between my work and personal life, though I didn't realize it until I sat down and really thought about how much I appreciate dogs. On my way to work, I see dogs out for their afternoon walks and it always makes me smile. Dogs have a way of softening my hard edges.
And I've found that no matter what the controversies or issues of the day that we discuss—and argue about—on television and online, dogs are the great equalizer. Just when it feels like we are so polarized as a country between right and left, and that we can't get along, remember that we have a few things in common—and for millions of us, that is our love for our pets (this includes cats—I guess*). Sometimes, if you can't get along with anyone or you have strife in a relationship, find common ground through your dogs: hit the dog park and reconnect. It's certainly better than a four-hour heart-to-heart in Starbucks, ending in an awkward hug and a secret promise to yourself that you will block this person from your phone.
Throughout my life, dogs have helped me to connect with people. I think back to my time at the cattle and Quarter Horse ranch my family runs in the Black Hills near Newcastle, Wyoming, and how we didn't do anything without a pack of dogs around. They helped with ranch work, herding the cattle or warning us if there was danger. And they were our companions—they followed us everywhere, and we loved having them around.
My grandfather was born on the ranch and dogs were an important part of the operation. He was an excellent dog trainer. He could teach a young pup to respond to several different whistles and get them to perform their tasks depending on what job he needed them to do. In the evenings as the sun went down, he would go to the yard outside the gate and the dogs would follow. If he needed them to bring in the mares, he'd whistle and point and off they'd go, tearing over the hill to do their job. Soon enough, the horses would come up over the ridge and the dogs would get them into the smaller fenced corral by the barn. My grandpa would chastise them if they nipped at the mares' heels too much, and then he'd reward them with praise and a scrub of the scruff of their necks when they finished their jobs. The dogs lived to please him—they were very devoted to their boss. Loyalty goes both ways.
My grandfather's final two dogs, Ray and Floyd, were game to go at all times—they loved to hop in the back of the pickup, or they'd run alongside us if we went for a horseback ride. We didn't worry when they took off for a little side trip. Sometimes they came back filthy with the red dirt of the Black Hills caked into their fur; other times they came bustling back as if a coyote or a bear had told them to get the heck out of Dodge. At night, they bedded down on the porch and kept watch on the house. And they were ready to go before the sun came up.
My grandma had her own dog. His name was Moe, and he was a spunky miniature poodle who enjoyed house privileges. But though he slept in the warm house, during the day he tried to run with the big dogs on the ranch when they were out working with my grandpa and my uncles. Moe used to get groomed, and I remember my grandfather saying that Moe was so embarrassed by the sissy poodle cut and ribbons in his ears that as soon as he jumped out of the car, he'd find the freshest pile of manure to roll in and cover the scent of his trip to town. We all laughed… well, everyone but my grandma.
We adored our dogs. We gushed over new puppies and cherished the older dogs. Our shared love for dogs helped keep the family close.
At my childhood homes in Denver and Parker, Colorado, we had Joco, an apricot poodle. He was named for one of the homesteaders that came over from Italy around when my great-grandparents did in the late 1800s. Unfortunately, the original Joco didn't stay in America. He went back to his homeland after the harsh winters and loneliness of ranching got to him. But by all accounts he was quite a character, and he became a legend in the Black Hills.
My sister, Angie, and I taught Joco (the dog) how to dance, dressed him in baby clothes, walked him around the neighborhood, and begged our parents to take him with us in the car whenever we could. Joco watched us play in the backyard and crawled up into my sister's crib when she took a nap. He sat in the bathroom when my sister had the croup and my mom ran the hot water into the tub, hoping the steam would break up her cough. I think Joco believed he was our little brother.
When we were a bit older, we were responsible for taking care of him when we got home from school. In turn, he kept us safe, especially during the dark winter evenings before our parents got home.
Dogs get sweeter as they age—they sleep more, and they need more care as they get sick or their joints get stiff. Joco developed seizures when he was older, and it was terrible to watch. There was really nothing we could do but try to calm him until it passed. My sister and I would keep an anxious eye on him when we were home alone—we were so worried Joco would have a seizure when our parents weren't there. So we often wrapped him in a blanket and sat on the floor with him while we watched TV until they got home. Joco slept in our mom and dad's room on a little pillow with this avocado-green pillowcase—it's funny what we remember from our childhoods. I can picture him curled up on that pillow like it was yesterday.
Joco had a good life, and he lived to be seventeen, which is a pretty good age for any dog. I was a junior in high school when he died. We'd discussed that he was going to need to be euthanized because he was so sick. But still it is a shock when you have to do it.
My mom had to take Joco by herself that day, which is something she said she still regrets. It was harder than she imagined. After school I met up with her in the Safeway parking lot and she was crushed, her eyes really red from crying. Back then, the vet had you drop off your dog and he or she took it from there. My mom said she had the hardest time leaving him there and that she still thinks about it. Today, it is more common to be there with your family pet when you have to put them down.
For my mom, that day was a real marker. All of her kids—me, my sister, and Joco—had been together for seventeen years, and his death was a blow. It hit us all pretty hard.
And while we'd known animals on the ranch that had died over the years, Joco's death was my first real understanding of grief from loss. Looking back, Joco was also my first real understanding of unconditional love and caring for another living being. He was a good boy, and I still miss him.
At that time, I was getting ready to go to college, so I wasn't thinking about getting another dog. But my sister was despondent and lonely without Joco. She's usually so chipper that it was hard to watch her be so sad.
One day, my mom and dad took her to the Dumb Friends League (an animal shelter, not where Denverites send Cowboys fans) "just to look" and, of course, they brought home an "Eskimo dog." My sister named her Yukon, and she was bright white with dark blue eyes. One thing I remember about Yukie is that she loved socks. Hardly any of our socks kept their match after she came to live with us.
Yukon brightened up the house and even got along with our two calico cats. (One rescue we conned our parents into letting sleep in the house "just one night—come ON, it's Christmas Eve!" And another I secretly brought back from the ranch in a cardboard box and hid in my room for three days before my mom and dad found out. Hoo-boy, they were not happy with me—but they let me keep her.)
In college, a boyfriend bought me a puppy—it was a gift of love, but it was totally wrong. I tried to take care of it in my dorm room (which didn't allow dogs) and over time it was clear that the puppy, Sugar, would need to go to another home. I was heartbroken to give her away and ashamed that I'd put a dog in that position. Ever since, I've counseled young people to wait until they're more established and ready to have a pet. (That means you, sweet millennials.)
Dogs are a constant responsibility and they deserve proper care and attention—they need exercise and companionship. And their vet bills can get expensive. It's better to wait. And if you're ever in a situation where the dog becomes a burden or a chore, it's time to realize you may not be ready for a dog. That's what happened to me with Sugar, and I've never forgotten how rotten I felt then. But I'm glad I learned that lesson.
Throughout my childhood and then after I was married, I've always had dogs. Most of my friends I've met either because of our dogs or because we bonded over mine. Dogs help me have more fun in life, to live more in the here and now, which sometimes is difficult for a worrier and a planner like me.
I laugh more when I'm around dogs. I take in my surroundings and appreciate the beauty around me. I can just… be. I find serenity, where I'm not worried about yesterday or tomorrow but enjoy the feeling of really living. Without dogs, I don't know if I'd experience that joy very often. I'd probably need to go live in Tibet or something.
It is also freeing to go for a walk with my dog and not worry about how my hair looks. I often go without any makeup (but I do wear sunscreen!). Like other dog owners, I have a whole set of "dog park clothes," and let's just say most people wouldn't wear them anywhere else. I've not been clean a full day since I've had dogs—and it doesn't bother me a bit. Again, out at the dog park, the humans are on equal albeit shabby footing. There's no pretension or competition. There's just fun.
And having dogs has made me lighten up around the house—it's impossible to keep the floors spotless at all times. Dogs track in mud and dead leaves (and, sometimes, stuff that looks like mud but smells). I've learned to let go a bit and not try to pick up after every time we go out for a walk. So you can't eat off my floor—that's okay, we have plates!
One of the things I love about Jasper is that he doesn't know he's popular. In my line of work, I'm around a lot of famous people, yet Jasper is probably more recognized than most of them. And he's got no idea. To him, he's just our dog (though some have asked if he thinks he's a "real boy," given his facial expressions and the way he behaves and poses… and he acts a lot more human than some of the people I've met in politics along the way).
And to think I almost didn't even know how to share him with anyone.
Who Needs Twitter? I Did, Apparently.
When I first left the White House in 2009, I didn't have a Twitter account. I didn't even want one. I couldn't imagine that it was something that would help me in my work.
But a young staff member of mine convinced me it would be good for business. I said okay, you can set it up, but don't expect me to tweet nonsense.
PRAISE FOR AND THE GOOD NEWS IS...
"This book is a gem--modest and moving, clear and unpretentious. It gives the kind of practical and even ethical advice everyone starting out needs, but it's also funny and full of great stories. Dana is a true role model."—Peggy Noonan
- "A lovely memoir, both charming and wise, studded with invaluable life lessons garnered on her fascinating journey to the highest levels of media and government. A wonderful read."—Charles Krauthammer
- "Part autobiography, part memoir of a press secretary in the White House, part career and life guidance, and part appeal to civility, Dana Perino's AND THE GOOD NEWS IS... is all parts captivating."—Donna Brazile
- "A wonderful book. A book full of the love of life. And full of gratitude. This book is blessedly free of cynicism, irony, posing. It's straight. It's good. And obviously a total reflection of its author."—Jay Nordlinger, National Review
- On Sale
- Oct 25, 2016
- Hachette Audio