A holiday puppy: Making smart, thoughtful choices for pet adoption around the holidays
Author’s Note: Last month, there was an electronic Grinch hiding in cyberspace somewhere, and three-quarters of my column disappeared on its way to the newspaper. With my editor’s permission, I’ll be re-running the column in its entirety early next year.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a PUPPY!
What a wonderful gift, right?
In a word, no.
Of course, we all adore puppies. What’s not to adore? They’re these endearing little bundles of fluff that love to cuddle and frolic and slurp our faces and can make even the most curmudgeonly curmudgeon smile.
But a puppy is not a “gift.” It’s not a “surprise.” It’s not a new toy or the latest video game under the Christmas tree. It’s a living, breathing, pooping, peeing, whining, chewing, time- and energy-consuming creature that’s dependent upon you for everything and that can drive you to the brink of lunacy even if you’re prepared for it and totally committed to it. If you’re neither, it can be a nightmare.
First, this cute little ball of fur won’t stay that way for long. You’re going to find yourself less than enchanted when that darling little puppy leaves a mess on your carpet for the umpteenth time, or chews up your prized fishing pole, or wakes you at two in the morning just like he’s been doing every night for the past six weeks.
Second, this cute little ball of fur won’t stay that way for long. (Yes, I’m repeating myself.) The truth is, within nine months or so, the puppy-charm will have faded and you’re left with a dog. A dog that needs feeding and walking and training and veterinary care, and most of all, love and companionship as a member of your family. A dog that’s hopefully going to be part of your life for the next 12 to 15 years. These are responsibilities you need to understand and be willing to accept from the get-go. If you’re not, I suggest you buy a stuffed koala.
Third, owning a dog is a huge financial responsibility. The cute puppy that only cost $75 at the shelter is going to start draining your wallet like there’s a siphon attached to it. The ASPCA estimates that for the first year alone, the cost of owning a dog can run between $1,000 and $2,000 — not even considering training expenses, much less what an unexpected illness or accident could cost. And as the dog gets older, those costs will only increase.
Fourth, since this creature is going to be a part of your extended family, it needs to fit your requirements and lifestyle. Plan ahead: talk to experts like trainers or veterinarians about what type, size, breed, and personality of dog is best for you and your family. If you live in an apartment, they’re not going to suggest you get a puppy that will grow into a 150-pound Great Dane.
And if you’re tempted to buy a holiday puppy for your kids because they’ve been begging you for the last century, I have one word for you: DON’T. Children are by nature unpredictable and often changeable. That holiday-morning excited promise to walk and feed and clean up after the puppy every day can wilt almost as fast as that bunch of mistletoe hanging above the doorway, and in no time those responsibilities will rest on none other than you.
Something else to keep in mind: during the holiday season, irresponsible breeders churn out puppies like Christmas songs on the radio, because they know the demand is high. Every year, thousands of pets are gifted during the holiday season…and every year, thousands of pets are abandoned in the following months. Too many of these puppies that were given as holiday gifts end up on the street or in shelters later because they were bred and born in inhumane, often filthy conditions, poorly socialized, frequently with genetic health issues or behavioral problems.
Trustworthy breeders make sure their animals are socialized, healthy, and ready to join a family — and they don’t purposely breed their puppies to sell at holidays, because they know that seasonal turmoil can make life extremely stressful for a young and already-vulnerable animal. Which is just one more reason why you shouldn’t bring a puppy home at this time of year.
But if in spite of all these warnings you’re still intent on getting a dog for the holidays, consider getting an older dog. Visit Sammie’s Friends, AnimalSave, Rescue for Pet’s Sake, or a breed rescue group. By adopting through these organizations, you’re making a positive statement to your children, your friends, and society about compassion as well as the value of every dog at every age and of every breed.
Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue .
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