by Sandra Murphy
Die-hard pet lovers will tell you there are hundreds of pets who need to be adopted. Most any of them would make your loved one happy. The thing is, if a person is really lucky, they get to find their heart, the one-in-a-million, the one to fall in love with at first sight animal that will make their hearts burst with joy just to see him come into the room. That’s not a gift you can choose for someone else.
Adult children, who should know better, want to get Mom and Dad a puppy for companionship, to get them out walking, to have a reason to get up in the morning. What they don’t realize is, Mom and Dad would rather:
A. Go dancing
C. Find a new hobby
D. Not have the responsibility
E. Not deal with the excess energy of a puppy
F. Not tangle in the leash and break a hip
G. All of the above
A woman called to donate her dog to be a therapy dog. Her son had gotten her a Golden Retriever puppy who was now two years old, untrained and under exercised. She was afraid to walk the dog but had no yard. If she could donate him, she could convince her son she had done so with good intentions. If she simply found him a better suited home, her son would be insulted or hurt. It was a lose/lose situation for both the owner and the dog.
If you think an older person would benefit from having a pet and is able to care for one, think about an older pet. They are past the puppy chaos stage, won’t nibble toes and ankles, climb the curtains, chew the paper—but will be very grateful for the chance at a new home. Go along to the shelter to help choose—it may take a few trips before “the one” is found.
Other well-meaning gift givers are boyfriends. Sure, you want to impress the girl but girls sometimes have other agendas, even if they are pet lovers. If you want a symbol of your togetherness, choose something tied to a memory you already have. Trying to signal that your love will extend into the future? Buy her a nice piece of jewelry. If your relationship doesn’t work out, what happens to the dog?
Parents, if you’ve been promising the kids a pet, the holidays are not the time to deliver. A handmade coupon that says “This coupon is good for one dog, to be chosen on ….,” will be enthusiastically received. The kids can play with their other gifts and nobody has to worry about where the cat is or what the puppy’s doing now. Go looking after the festivities are over.
Let the kids be involved in choosing the pet. Teach them why adopting from a shelter is preferable to shopping at the mall pet store. Make sure they understand the care involved, and most of all, emphasize that pets are not disposable but are a long-term responsibility.
Research is key. What is the best pet for your household? If a dog, what size and what breed? If you want a mixed breed, you can sometimes be surprised at the resulting size. If you want a purebred dog, know they end up in shelters too. Pick up the local pet magazine at pet centers to find a listing of rescue groups. Ask the store when adoption days are held. Let your child pet the dog or hold a cat to see if any allergic reactions occur. It’s best to find any allergies before bringing an animal into the house.
To get your point across about the care of an animal, get your child a stuffed toy. Make him responsible for its care just like a real animal—take the toy outside for potty breaks, walk up and down the sidewalk with him, put him in his bed when leaving for school, make sure there’s water and food available (even if it’s fake). Talk about training the dog or playing with the cat and how to handle being nipped or scratched. Pets get time-outs too so put it in terms a child understands.
In all the rushing from relative to relative, shopping and returning, wrapping and unwrapping, cooking and eating, don’t add a pet to the mix. It will stress the pet, stress you and get you off on the wrong paw from the start. Bring a pet into the house when you have time to learn his habits and quirks—and he can learn yours.
Most of all, never deprive someone you love of the chance to find their heart. That’s the best gift of all to give.
If you think someone in your life would like a pet, why not tell them about adopting. Check out KRL’s California pet rescue listings & our article about Animal Compassion Team, a rescue in Squaw Valley, California.