by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF will be sharing their animal rescue adventures with us now every month.
A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.
I don’t have kids. Yup, it’s true. I don’t know the joys of being a parent. Like celebrating first birthdays, first steps, first words, first day of school, and first Christmas. That glorious time of year when tiny tots stay up late, eagerly awaiting Santa Claus, families gather to ingest more food than humanly possible, and children all over the world utter that magical phrase every mother and father will hear at some point in their lifetime: “Can I get a dog for Christmas?” Ah yes, it’s coming. But not just once. It’s a lot. It’s a thousand times. It’s over and over until your head hurts, your patience says Sayonara, and your eggnog needs a whole lot more brandy. It seeps into your subconscious, and makes you so cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs that you finally give in. You just can’t take it anymore.
Because after 97 days of THIS, they can only wear you down: “Can I get a puppy for Christmas? NO. Please, can I get a puppy for Christmas? NO. But Dad! NO. But I’ve been so good all year! NO! C’mon! FOR THE LAST TIME, NO! Please? FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, GO ASK YOUR MOTHER!!! And that’s all it takes. You’re done. You’re through. You’re finished. You’re that big mouth bass at the bottom of the lake, and they just snagged you, hook, line, and sinker.
And Christmas morning there’s a brand new puppy under the tree, sporting a red bow and a frightened look, while the youngsters squeal in delight over who gets to hold the dazed doggy first. The camera phones click, and everyone is overjoyed at the heartbreaking sight of little Jack and Emma covering their new plaything with kisses. Amid the hoopla, the petite pooch breaks free and scampers over the broken tree ornaments, escapes the clutches of drunken Uncle Harry, and slides under the safety of the kitchen table.
Grandma arrives for the excitement, and promptly slips on a puddle the pup has just produced, thereby knocking over the sideboard, catapulting cousin Karen’s blue-ribbon fudge onto the floor, right under the nose of your four-legged friend, who immediately thinks “dinner”, and wraps his lips around a large chunk of chocolate. Your very small surprise has now turned into one giant vet bill. Okay, that scenario might be a bit extreme, but look at it this way; if the holidays and your own relatives scare you silly, just imagine what all that commotion can do to a tiny mutt.
I understand. The tykes want a pet, and they’ve just spent the last three months begging you for one, so hey, why wouldn’t a Christmas canine be just the ticket? Well, the holidays are crazy. There’s shopping and cooking and cleaning, and tree trimming, and party planning, and cocktailing, and gift wrapping, and a few overnight guests.
It’s a wonderful time of year, but it might not be the best time to introduce a perplexed pup into your home. And baby, it’s cold outside…literally. If the thought of getting up at 3 a.m. on a frigid February morning in your bunny slippers to let Fido out doesn’t sound appealing, you might want to mull it over a bit. That most recent addition to the household has to do his business somewhere, and maybe a muddy backyard wouldn’t be the best thing for either the puppy, or your fuzzy footwear. Perhaps a warmer time of year would be better for everyone? Say, how about summer?
The kids will be out of school with lots of time on their hands, and a feisty new pup to run circles with would be just the thing for getting out all that pent-up energy. The rugrats are thrilled, the doggy is happy, and you and those flip-flops can rest on your laurels…or on the porch with a glass of iced tea.
Children and pups go together like milk and Hershey’s syrup: so sweet, so lovely, so divine. However, there is one huge difference between the two of them. Every now and then, just maybe, kids do a bit of fibbing. Case in point: “Mom, can we get a dog? I promise to feed it.” This might be a fib. “I promise to take it out for potty time.” A possible fib. “I’ll take it for a walk every day.” Hard to say. Kids today are so used to plugging in and tuning out, they may just assume that owning an animal is like asking for directions; there’s an app for that. Hey, where do you plug it in?
No Virginia, there isn’t a Dachshund docking station. But hey, there’s this new fangled thing called a “leash”, and your little weenie wonder would be thrilled to walk with you on the other end. Take her for a spin! Just keep in mind that even though your teacup Yorkie is tiny enough to fit into the palm of your hand, it’s still a living, breathing thing. No batteries included, lots of TLC required. Youngsters need to comprehend that having a pet is a terrific thing, but it does require some maturity. Unfortunately, many children who are surprised with the gift of a puppy during the holidays are too young for such responsibility. It’s exciting at first, but in a short period of time, the child may get bored with their new pet project. House training goes out the window, accidents happen, carpets get ruined, furniture is destroyed, and nobody seems to have time for poor Rex anymore.
Kids lose interest, parents exhaust their bank account, and that itty bitty ball of fur that took up no more room than a tin of Altoids, is now the size of a Mack truck. With an appetite to match. Anyone seen my bunny slippers?
Now before you start calling me a Scrooge and a Grinch, and checking my heart size, here’s a little food for thought: many shelters see a spike in animal intake during January and February, due to people returning unwanted pets. At some shelters, an estimated 50 percent of holiday adoptees eventually end up back at the shelter. Perhaps the dog did not fit the family’s lifestyle, maybe there were concerns with another household pet, or even health-related issues such as allergies. Another possibility is monetary; the ASPCA estimates the first year cost of owning a dog or cat runs between $1,000-$2,000, depending on size (not counting potential illness and/or training).
Whatever the case may be, a little research can go a very long way in determining the right dog for your home. Consider not only things like breed and size, but school/work schedules, and who will be responsible for everyday care, such as feeding and walking your pet. Think about a good time after the holidays for planning a family visit to the local shelter, and check out all the amazing animals that are yearning for a home of their own.
Most have gift certificates for purchase, which can be used whenever you make your big decision. And please think twice before making a purchase from the mall pet shop; most puppies sold there come from puppy mills, where conditions are inhumane. Your rescue organizations are a much better way to find a best friend for life; you’ll be surprised at how many wonderful and loving creatures are just waiting there for a second chance. Come on down!
So try not to let the giddy emotions of the holidays take over, and make you crumble like a veritable Christmas cookie. Instead, here’s an alternate plan sure to please the whole dang family. Get yourself a gigantic stuffed dog, complete with a crate, chew toys, biscuits, bones, bed, bell collar, leash, and aforementioned gift certificate. In addition, including a Pet Promise Certificate is another fantastic idea.
This piece of paper may not be the most glamorous present on the planet, but it’s definitely the most meaningful. It’s a pledge from you to your new slobbery sidekick, guaranteeing your commitment to their lifelong care, health, and well being. You can download it here: www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/dog-adoption/pet-promise-certificate.
Read it carefully, remember it always, and things will be right as rain. That way, when the big morning arrives, the kids will skip downstairs to find the promise of a pet under the pine tree, and nobody gets hurt. Especially Grandma.
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue, including ARF.