When I married Brandon he already had his little chihuahua and I desperately wanted another dog. I’d plead with him, “But dogs are pack animals! It’s not fair to only have one of them” as I made my case for adopting dog #2. He’d always consider it but in the end, there was no second dog. I would really put the pressure on as it got closer to Christmas. I’d remind him about how sad the puppies must be at the shelter with no one to love them at Christmas or about how we had room to hang a second dog-stocking and could afford to stuff it full of treats for a sweet new pup.
Eventually, I gave up on trying to convince him and, in February, showed up pictures of Chiweenie puppies needing rescue. He caved and I got my dog. It wasn’t a Christmas gift but we got the dog we were meant to have.
Now, it’s coming up on Christmas again and I know that this week there are thousands of kids begging their parents for a new puppy for Christmas. While I know some people disagree with me, I think a puppy for Christmas is a great idea. Of course, I’m assuming that people do their research ahead of time and confirm that a new addition is welcome before gifting it.
If you research animal shelter statistics you’ll find that less than 1% of people list “received as an unwanted gift” as the reason for giving up the animal. Most of the time it’s due to aggression, not getting along with other animals, or being too demanding for the environment. Puppies (and kittens) can be a great holiday gift if it’s handled appropriately. Puppies and kittens shouldn’t be viewed as returnable and it shouldn’t be the kind of gift you pick up while thinking, “Man, I hope they like it!”.
Recently, I heard from Kris Kiser, the President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) who shared some information about adding a furry friend to the family. TurfMutt – a former rescue dog who lived on the streets before being saved by Kiser – is all about pet adoption. Like me, he says parents need to ask themselves some important questions before adding a furry friend to their family. Questions like…
- Are you in it for the long-haul? Cute little puppies grow into bigger dogs that sometimes shed, slobber and have accidents in the house. They need regular exercise throughout their life. Also, you’ll need to get your pet spayed or neutered, and there are annual vet visits, and maybe more as they age. The rewards – unconditional love, companionship and an on-demand playmate for your children – are worth it! It’s simply important to think past the joy of the Christmas morning surprise when you’re considering a pet as a gift.
- Will you care for the pet and teach your kids to participate? If your kids are younger, you will need to assume the responsibility for caring for your puppy until your children are old enough to take on a larger role. Are you prepared for this reality?
- Have you considered a rescue pet? About 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. shelters every. Mixed breed pups – like many of those found in the shelter – are often overlooked for “designer dogs.” But mixed breeds like TurfMutt have lots of love to give, bring the disposition and characteristics of many different types of dogs to your family, and diminish some of the health concerns that can be associated with purebreds.
- Would an adult dog be better for your family? Puppies require a ton of time and energy (think potty training, chewing and midnight bathroom breaks), but adult dogs can be more low-key. Adopting an older pooch has many benefits. You know what you’re getting in terms of size and demeanor. Older dogs already know how to go outside to use the bathroom, and they’ve passed through the annoying chewing phase. Also, contrary to the popular saying, you can teach an old dog new tricks!
- Do you have time over the busy holiday season to welcome the dog into your home? Holidays can be hectic, and adding a new animal to your family is a joyful, yet disruptive, experience. Is your schedule free enough to spend the time transitioning your pup successfully to your home? Especially for rescue dogs, it can take a little while for them to feel comfortable in their new environment, so it’s important to establish a routine as soon as possible. Take a hard look at your holiday schedule and determine if it would be better to wait until after the fervor of the holidays has passed to integrate a new pet into your home.
Have you ever given or received a pet for Christmas? What are your thoughts on the practice?