Saturday, December 17, 2011
There isn't a one size fits all answer for this question. I know that some shelters and rescue groups don't like adopting out around the holidays for fear that the puppy or dog or kitten or cat will end up back at the shelter or rescue in the New Year.
I think the better question is: When do pets make good presents?
My brother, sister-in-law and nephew had to say good-bye to their beloved dog last month after eight years. Corkie was 16. It was a difficult decision and one that my five year old nephew didn't quite understand. All he knows is that his dog is no longer around and he misses her. They decided that their Christmas present to each other was going to be...a new dog. And this decision came spur of the moment based on a picture of a dog that their friend was fostering. The puggle is a year and a half old, great with kids, cats and other dogs. They took him home for a two day trial, which sealed the deal. They now have a new dog. They didn't mention to the rescue dog that this was their present to each other. Why? Because rescue groups can cringe at that word. But this is a good adoption. My brother hasn't had a puppy ever. He wants to do this the right way. This means we've been on the phone constantly - which kong is appropriate? What treats are good for him? What food would be best to feed him because he read that Puggles can tend to have skin allergies? He pulls on the leash, but he sits. He needs more training - can I recommend a certified trainer in their area? What toys are best? You would think they have a newborn. (And adorable - while my brother is on the phone with me, my nephew is shouting in the background, "DAD! DAD! Scooby needs this!") This is one lucky dog. This was an okay present.
When someone is expecting a pet, they make great presents. If my husband showed up Christmas morning with a dog and said, "Merry Christmas!", I would be ecstatic. We're searching for a new addition to the family already. We know what we are getting into. It's nice for a family to make the decision on a dog together, but my husband knows me well enough to know what I'm looking for in a new dog (American Pit Bull Terrier, at least three years of age, preferably male, good with cats, dogs, and kids; any color but blue). This would be the best present ever!
My mom's friend got a shepherd puppy from rescue for her daughter last Christmas. Yes, "for her daughter." (this phrase will get you escorted out of some rescues/shelters) And little Emma was so excited when she opened that box to see the puppy she had been praying for and writing Santa for! They had looked at pictures on the internet, read countless articles and breed websites to find which dog was best for them and had finally decided on a German Shepherd. Emma wanted a puppy. Mom and dad were okay with that, doing their own research on crate training. On Christmas morning, Emma had to run a present over to the neighbors house with her dad (the ruse to get her out of the house while the rescue group dropped off the puppy). Her mom waited in the room until she heard her husband ring the doorbell. As he opened the door, she put the lid on the box. Emma opened it immediately - gasped in surprise and wonder, then burst into tears. "Emma, what's wrong?" her mom asked. "The puppy could have died!" Emma sobbed. "And she must have been so scared in the box all dark. Why was Santa so MEAN?" How sweet! Emma's new puppy came with a crate, dog bed, toys, leash, collar, dog food and training classes. A year later and they have a beloved family member. That gift worked out. The novelty didn't wear off, as Emma's parents expected. She still participates in the dog's evening walks with mom and dad. It's a family affair. But mom and dad fully expected to be the primary caretakers of the dog. Hence, why this worked out so well. With research done ahead of time, this lucky puppy got a forever home - starting as a little girl's Christmas present.
So why do rescue groups say that pets don't make good gifts? Because in some cases they don't. People who get their child a pet without doing any research and are expecting a teenager to be the primary caretaker of the (dog, cat, puppy, kitten, hamster, snake) often don't like when the caretaking falls to them after the novelty has worn off. People who buy a pet for someone who isn't suspecting it just because they "always love playing with the puppies at the pet store" aren't doing that person a favor. It's one thing to fall in love with a fluffy furball in the store - another thing entirely to be getting up every four hours to make sure it doesn't go to the bathroom in his crate or puppy proofing the home after the cushions have been chewed. Pets can make good gifts if everyone involved is expecting it. Clarifying this can go a long way toward making rescues and shelters appear to be more accepting of holiday adoptions. Holiday adoptions can save lives. Pets like to be home for the holidays too.
That's Scooby snoozing away while my nephew and his best friend play their video games. Scooby was the perfect present for this family!