With the approach of the holidays, everyone’s thoughts turn naturally to the happy chore of gift giving to those nearest and dearest to them. While some people opt for the tried and true, hoping another gift certificate isn’t too impersonal or another sweater or tie, scarf, box of chocolates or bottle of perfume isn’t too predictable, they’re much safer choices than those being considered by others: a pet!
The gift of a puppy or a dog is not the same as the gift of a large, stuffed plush toy. More often than not, wrapping a red and green ribbon with a matching bow around the neck of a living, breathing animal signals only one thing: trouble. Animals are not toys and should never be anyone’s holiday surprise. Unlike other holiday purchases, there are no refunds or exchanges on puppies and dogs, only serious, possibly dire consequences. Although the idea of a pet as a present may seem thoughtful, it is, in reality, thoughtless.
Why? Because the gift of a dog means someone else must accept responsibility for that dog. (Grandparents, parents, and “empty nesters” come quickly to mind). Because the gift of a dog means a potential commitment of 10 to 15 years or more on the part of these recipients. What you consider an act of generosity may, unfortunately, be seen instead as an imposition. If they want a dog, it’s up to them to make that choice.
The same holds true when considering a dog for your own family. And it must be a carefully considered choice. An informed decision made by everyone involved. Such decisions require homework and due diligence. Research into dog breeds most appropriate for your family, your lifestyle and your environment -- house, condo or apartment, fenced yard or no yard. Intelligent questions asked of owners of those particular breeds and of a knowledgeable veterinarian.
Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies? Does everyone even want a dog? Do they understand what it means to share in the training, feeding and raising of a dog? Because adding a dog to your family not only involves time and money, it means providing that same dog with a loving and stable home – forever.
Children should never be presented with a puppy at any time of the year. Typically, they will be charmed by such a small, furry plaything that leaps and yips, squeals and nips, and rolls over onto its back for tummy rubs -- for the first few days. Until the novelty wears off and reality sets in. The reality of helping care for their cute, squirming little gift. Puppies are not so cute when they have to be repeatedly taught commands and proper manners and patiently trained to potty outside and walked outdoors in the rain or snow.
You, as the well-intentioned gift giver, will now be that puppy’s full-time caregiver and, unfortunately, some of you won’t be prepared for this eventuality. If the result isn’t an ill mannered, poorly trained dog, the alternative is even worse. Another well-intentioned but misguided “gift” either dropped off at a pound or surrendered to a shelter – potentially to be euthanized. Neither respectable breeders nor responsible rescue groups will either sell or adopt out a puppy or a dog as a holiday gift. They’re all too familiar with the heartbreaking results of such dangerous impulse buys.
In lieu of a dog, consider a holiday “gift” that keeps on giving in the most paws-itive sense of the word by supporting an animal organization like ours! Make a one-time tax-deductible donation to us in the name of your grandparents, parents or “empty nesters.” Make a monthly donation to us in your name and/or the names of your children.
In short, to ensure that your own holidays are both happy and harmonious, ensure that your gift list never includes pets.
Article by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of nonfiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.