Dogs don’t make good gifts…….

23 11 2009

Twenty one years ago, I walked into the Humane Society in St. Paul, Minnesota, with my husband Jim, in search of a dog for my sister, Geri. We had decided she needed a companion at that time in her life; a busy attorney, we had determined she needed more balance in her life; a reason to go home that would hopefully nudge her off of the work treadmill she was myopically focused on. When I reflect back, I think, how arrogant of us to have made such an important determination for her, however, the forward-thinking Humane Society held us to a standard that turned a well-intended idea into a firm commitment- on our part. We chose a gray and white Australian shepherd, Border collie mix, but we were told back then it would be far better for us to give my sister a gift certificate, and to let her make this life-decision for herself. I was so convinced getting the dog was a good idea, we agreed to sign a paper that acknowledged if it did not work out with Geri, we agreed to care for the dog. We took that contract very seriously, fully prepared to take on the responsibility of another dog, a companion to our already firmly established fur child, Rafferty.

The holidays provide the perfect backdrop for some of the most disastrous gift-giving scenarios involving dogs one can imagine. What is more precious that a new puppy under a Christmas tree? What brings a smile to the face of a child more than a wagging tail and wet doggy kisses? Many programs exist on a national level promoting dog adoption at this time of year. The goal is well-intentioned and in some cases, bringing a deserving rescue animal home to a loving, lasting environment can be a dream come true for all involved. The truth is, dogs cannot be impulse items. They cannot be spur-of-the-moment decisions. No matter how adorable the face of a dog is as it stares back from an internet site, or from a cage at a shelter, or despite how hard one’s heartstrings are tugged upon when hearing about a dog’s sad circumstances, it doesn’t serve the animal well if the commitment being made is not unwavering. The holidays are a feel good time; people often go into debt just so they can be sure presents abound during the month of December; but it is important to keep in mind that the gift of an animal’s life need not fall into the “feel good” category. Long-term and well-considered responsibility at the time of adoption, despite the ups and downs life may present down the line, will result in the gift that keeps on giving.

Dogs, in my opinion, are pretty close to the most perfect creatures placed on this earth, and I join legions of people who want to see volumes of dogs adopted this time of year and all year round; but they deserve the best of ourselves. If you know of someone who might benefit from a dog, buy a certificate for the dog of their choice, or give money with the expressed purpose of adopting a dog. If a friend or family member has decided to get a dog, offer money for the accessories that will be needed to care for the animal, or go to a store and buy some of the items for them. If you have decided this is the time of year to adopt a dog, research the kind of dog that will fit in best with your lifestyle and that of your family. (A toy Poodle may not be the best choice for a jogging partner no matter how cute she is!) Once the decision to adopt a dog is made, the right match can be made by any number of excellent rescue organizations, some breed specific, or city shelters just waiting for thoughtful, loving families to contact them. As for Ali, the dog we purchased for Geri, it was a match made in heaven and lasted over sixteen years. We might have gotten lucky but we also knew what an animal-lover Geri was and we had a back-up plan to insure Ali would never go back to rescue life. Ali left a wonderful legacy; Geri and her son Sam now have two cats, TJ and Rico. (and we had nothing to do with it!)
Written by, Caryn Casey

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