Dogs and cats conveniently have a second litter of the year during the winter months which correspond with our gift giving holidays. However, giving one as a pet is frequently a very bad idea, for many reasons. Still, there are many creative ways of making arrangements to give a new pet to a friend or family member without the pitfalls of actually having a furry bundle of joy underfoot.
If your tradition is in the habit of unwrapping presents, many gift-giving opportunities can present themselves here. One can wrap collars, leashes, harnesses and bedding up in fancy boxes or gift bags. Breed books, or books or general care, training and behavior can all be procured. A framed picture of the new pet can be something that your child can go to bed with – as good as any sugar plums dancing in the head. The brochure of a veterinarian is a nice addition to a gift card or holiday card. And all pets need toys! I guess wrapping up some canned or dry food is the equivalent of getting a Christmas sweater, but it is something else to unwrap, and will eventually be a necessary item to the household.
A disappointed child might not understand why a new puppy or kitten is not a good idea on The Big Day. Gently explaining to them that tinsel and festive light cords pose choking and electrical hazards, and that swift moving, playful fur balls frequently do not mix well with Grandma and Grandpa’s slower foot falls. Or mine, for that matter – I just recovered from a fourth hip surgery, this one a total hip replacement , an injury begun, ironically, by a fall walking my dog on Christmas Eve two years ago. I don’t dodge as well as I used to, either!
Front doors left open while people linger on their goodbyes are ripe opportunities for a little one to dart out in the dark, making for hair raising rescues, and should any trip to an emergency veterinarian be needed, it could be hard to find one on a holiday. As an aside, you should have an emergency veterinarian’s name, number, and driving instructions on your refrigerator and in your glove box for any sudden need where you would need to be restraining your pet and have to have a friend help you drive. Those are not times of clear thought and having preparations written down and rehearsed ahead of time could mean life or death in timing for your pet.
One last thing to consider, if you are the gift giver (especially in today’s difficult Pandemic) is this: well-intentioned though your thoughts may be, does the recipient really want or need a pet? Initially, our shelters emptied at the start of the Covid-19 virus as newly home-bound people sought company, but they have re-filled as people, now unemployed, struggle to care for the basic needs of their pets. It has become a crisis that I will write about later.
I get my food and litter very generously donated to me in thanks to me for all the rescue work that I do (pshhhhaaawww, I walk under the shadows of giants and don’t deserve it, but I am thankful), but the food that my dog eats is nearly $80.00/bag. When I started working at my veterinary clinic in 1990, an office visit was $18.00, free with vaccinations; now it is $69.00 to walk in the door. Well, you can’t even walk in the door right now. Clare, my 33-year-old Eclectus hen, was sick last week, and I had to wait in horror while she was taken from me from my car and I was not allowed to handle my own animal at my old clinic. Times, these are hard right now.
So, in conclusion, for the sake of the shelters, I do hope that you consider giving a pet for the holidays, don’t forget the many rescue groups that exist that cater to specific breeds (and cats!) (and parrots, and house rabbits, don’t forget those little guys!). If you need advice or referrals to choosing a pet or breed, please feel free to contact me, I have an enormous proverbial “Black Book” full of sources to help direct you.