**Guest Post from Janet S.**
As the holiday season is here, so is the idea that we want to get loved ones “what they’ve always wanted” for Christmas. Often for children this is the cute little puppy, kitten or other small pet.
Please consider carefully before choosing the holidays as a time to give a live gift and help educate those around you if they are thinking of it.
Pets should never be an impulsive purchase or come into a household at a hectic time. While the joy on the child’s face when a puppy is presented would be priceless, we have to think about the days after when the puppy isn’t as exciting as the box of LEGOS® next to it. Children get bored after awhile with gifts and you do not want to send your child the message that this animal is a “toy.” Pets are living creatures that need daily care and attention. They bring about great joy, but are not like a toy that can be left alone.
Our household acquired our latest addition a year ago due to this exact issue. A woman in our state had bought this cute little furry Lionhead bunny for her friend’s child (granted this was without permission from the parents). The family kept him for three to four months and gave him up to the local shelter. We rescued the bunny from there after we had talked for almost a year on whether or not a rabbit would be good for our family.
If your household is considering a pet for the holidays, consider instead of preparing your household for the pet.
- Pick out books on how to care for the type of animal to give to the child.
- Buy a bank for the children to put change in that can be used in the future to pay for vet bills, treats, food or other items to care for the animal.
- Talk about who will take what responsibilities and talk about what Christmas items could have been a danger to a new pet.
Then, when the craziness of holiday lights, plastic wrap, guests, Christmas parties and other events have finally subsided and your family is back in the “normal” routine, plan a day off to go pick out the pet for your family.
I recently found the following poem on many sites and thought it was appropriate for the season.
A Shelter Dog’s Christmas Poem
‘Tis the night before Christmas and all through the town,
every shelter is full – we are lost but not found.
Our numbers are hung on our kennels so bare,
we hope every minute that someone will care.
They’ll come to adopt us and give us the call,
“Come here, Max and Sparkie – come fetch your new ball!!
But now we sit here and think of the days
we were treated so fondly – we had cute, baby ways,
Once we were little, then we grew and we grew –
now we’re no longer young and we’re no longer new.
So out the back door we were thrown like the trash,
they reacted so quickly – why were they so rash?
We “jump on the children”, “don’t come when they call”,
we “bark when they leave us”, we “climb over the wall.”
We should have been neutered, we should have been spayed,
now we suffer the consequence of the errors they made.
If only they trained us, if only we knew…
we’d have done what they asked us and worshipped them, too.
We were left in the backyard, or worse, left to roam,
now we’re tired and lonely and out of a home.
They dropped us off here and they kissed us good-bye…
“Maybe someone else will give you a try.”
So now here we are, all confused and alone…
in a shelter with others who long for a home.
The kind workers come through with a meal and a pat,
with so many to care for, they can’t stay to chat.
They move to the next kennel, giving each of us cheer…
we know that they wonder how long we’ll be here.
We lay down to sleep and sweet dreams fill our heads
of a home filled with love and our own cozy beds.
Then we wake to see sad eyes, brimming with tears –
our friends filled with emptiness, worry, and fear.
In parents’ haste to think of a gift for the kids,
there was one important thing that they missed.
A dog should be family, and it’s just not humane
To put a living, feeling pet outside on a chain.
If only Santa exclaimed as he rode out of sight,
“You weren’t giving a gift! You were giving a life!”
Another thought for the holidays if your children love animals, but you aren’t sure how they will handle the responsibility, is to contact a local shelter and see if you can volunteer for a Saturday to groom or walk the pets or clean cages. The shelter will probably be excited for extra hands and you can see how your children handle the responsibility.
We hope you and your furry ones that you already have enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!