Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pets as Gifts

With the holidays fast approaching, I'm seeing two things:
Help! The kids want a puppy/kitten for Christmas.  How do I say no???
Pets don't make good gifts.
To the first, I say - as a Mom, you have final say.  If you don't want to train a puppy, walk a puppy, feed a puppy, clean up after a puppy, you say NO.  After the excitement of having the new, cute little bundle wears off, guess who is going to be the primary caretaker?  That's right - Y-O-U.  If you don't have time in your life to be taking two walks a day, going to training classes, and remembering to feed another mouth, you say NO.  You're the mom.  They're the kids.  It really is THAT simple.  If you feel the need to give in, get something that requires less work - like fish or a hamster.  Hamsters are a two to three year commitment.  They don't require training.  They're cuddly, but without all the extra work a dog brings. 
To the second, I say we need to clarify that statement - pets can make GREAT gifts in certain situations.

Bad Gifts
When the person isn't expecting the pet.
When not everyone in the family wants a pet.
When you're purchasing the pet from a pet store, from a backyard breeder (on Craigslist, Kijiji, the local paper, a flyer at the store, etc.).

An example of bad gifting:
We had a family come into the shelter where I volunteered - dad and two kids.  They wanted to surprise mom with a puppy.  The kids were excited, the dad was ecstatic (let's be honest - the dog was definitely going to be "his").  They looked at rows of dogs, played with several in the yard, but as we were talking it came out that mom didn't even want a dog.  Dad was counting on her being so smitten with the pup when they got it home that she wouldn't be able to say 'no.' 

To be fair to him, he felt that this would work because his own father had done this to their mother growing up and it had worked well.  They had come home with a little, white ball of fluff and his mom had fallen for the dog hard.  The dog was a member of their family until it passed away fourteen years later.  After having an experience like that, why would he not think it might work on his own wife? 

Because his wife was terrified of dogs. This came out because dad started looking at big dogs and the ten year old son was smart enough to warn his dad about it (gotta love the honesty of kids!).  Getting a dog for a fearful family member is not a good way to get them over their fear of that animal.  This was going to be a horrible situation - imagine the mom's terror (and anger) when her husband shows up with a puppy she didn't want that the kids are now head over heels in love with.  How do you tell the kids that dog has to go back?  We would have been setting the dog and the family up for failure right from the start.  It was a bad idea from start to finish.

Good Gifts
When the family has been wanting a pet.
When everyone has done their research and knows exactly which pet is right for their household.
When you are getting the pet from a shelter or rescue.

I have friends who have taken the plunge for the holidays before.  They've been wanting pets, have done their research, and decided that it was a good time to add a family member.  There is nothing wrong with giving yourself the gift of a pet for any holiday or birthday when you are prepared for the work it takes to have one.  And there is nothing like the excitement on a child's face when they've been wanting a puppy or kitten, have been actively involved in the search, and are surprised with the wriggling bundle under the tree.

Here's the example of good gifting from my own family.  Meet Patches and Cinder.

Patches and Cinder were presents for my mom almost seventeen years ago.  I would say that gift worked out well (and they would agree with me because they got the best home ever). 

My mom was depressed after losing her dog.  She loved cats and had been thinking about getting one.  She's a procrastinator.  I knew she wasn't going to take the plunge anytime soon, having gotten her dog by default.  I just sped up the process by getting her two kittens for Christmas. 

These kittens came to me in an email from someone working at Disney who happened to be fostering both litters.  I was willing to take both of them, but I was upfront and honest with her - they would be driven to San Diego as a present for my mom.  I think the only reason she took a chance on me was because I was willing to keep the two of them together - they were from separate litters but were very bonded. 

I knew my mom wanted a cat.  I knew my mom would keep the cats forever.  I got them from someone fostering the litters for her local shelter.  It was a win-win situation.

It's important to be open-minded about homing pets around the holidays.  It can work. Sometimes it even works when the family isn't ready! 

As a general rule, holiday or not, we encourage everyone to do their research before getting any pet.  Not every pet is the right fit for every household.  When we choose wrong, the pet suffers - whether they have to be rehomed or end up neglected in the backyard.  For this reason, we encourage you to take your time deciding which pet, which breed, and then we encourage to go to a shelter or a foster based rescue for your newest family member.

How do you feel about pets as gifts?


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