At this time of year, it is not unusual to find people shopping for puppies and kittens to buy for a special person as a Christmas gift. I think most of us have seen movies where a child – or often a lady – is delightfully surprised at receiving an adorable little bundle of love and we think how sweet it is! Unfortunately, early into the New Year many of these “gifts” are found neglected, mistreated, on the street or in animal shelters. This is tragic! Dogs and cats are not “things” but living, breathing animals who need lots of care, love and attention, and they should never be brought into any home without a great deal of forethought.
You should never buy a dog on impulse! Remember, dogs need to be fed, bathed, walked, trained – and loved! So if you are thinking of taking a dog into your family, here are just 5 of many areas that warrant consideration, as even the best intentioned person can tend to forget some of the many responsibilities and commitments that come with owning a pet.
1) Financial Resources: Remember that old song, “How much is that doggy in the window?” Well the purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether you are buying a dog from a breeder or a pet shop, the first thing I recommend is to take him/her to a good veterinarian for examination to make sure that the animal is healthy and has had any shots required. This will set your mind at ease and if there is a problem, it may be something minor (like fleas) that can be dealt with simply and immediately. This will also provide your vet with valuable information for follow-up visits, which are definitely required! Dogs need check-ups, just as we do, so be prepared for this expense, and if it won’t fit into your budget, then you won’t want to take on the responsibility of caring for an innocent animal and have to worry or watch it suffer through illnesses that could be avoided or treated. I’ve seen this happen. It is not intentional abuse – just lack of money – and it’s very sad!
2) Care and Safety: Think about the needs of the petyou are going to adopt and how these needs will affect you? Will you be there to train and walk your dog as needed? I’m not saying that just because you work full-time, you shouldn’t adopt a dog, but do consider the number of hours that you will be away. Animals, like people, can only wait so long before they need to relieve themselves, so if you work 12-hour shifts, perhaps a cat is better suited to you than a dog unless you arrange for your pet to be walked by others. If you do not have an enclosed outdoor area for your dog to “exercise”, be sure to keep him on a leash. Just one quick dash out into the road in pursuit of a squirrel may cause you to lose your pet forever! Of course feeding, bathing, grooming, etc. are all basics and can be time-consuming. Puppies, like babies, also go through the teething process and other similar experiences, and many of the same precautions need to be taken regarding things left within their reach.
3) Training: If you are reading this, then you are likely not familiar with training animals regarding the basics, so you will want to read up on this, and you will find lots of information handily available right here on the Internet. It is important that you be consistent in your training and signals to your pet. There are numerous very inexpensive training programs that you can perhaps attend for an hour or so one evening weekly that will get you through this stage. Be prepared to spend the time; it’s well worth it.
4) Lifestyle Restrictions: Think about the restrictions your new friend will put on your day-to-day living. Do you ever go out and stay overnight with friends or family? How about vacations? Will your dog go with you, or what arrangements will you make? In most cases, it is easier to take a child with you than a dog. Friends and families may not appreciate have a canine guest, and many resorts and hotels forbid animals.
5) Your pet and your family. It is so important to teach your children how to gently handle and treat their new friend. So many little puppies are terrified with all the attention they receive from excited children that they just tremble with fear! Many youngsters play with pets by quite innocently gently blowing in their ears and the like, not realizing that this can bring a sudden reaction by the dog to the unexpected surprises such as unintentional little nips. Teach your children how to interact with your pet and it will love and protect them for all of its days!
There are of course other considerations, including selecting the right type of dog – temperament, size, etc. – to suit your family, finding out about the dog’s background if possible, etc., before you choose your new friend. However, I’m trying to limit this to basic considerations. It is a little like adopting a child that will never grow up; your pet will always need your care, so when you adopt an animal, it’s important to take it very seriously and make the commitment to your new pet that you will care for it for the rest of its life. Of course, things may happen and situations may change, but in my opinion at least when adopting your pet your mindset should be that you are accepting that responsibility and not taking the animal on a trial basis.
I hope that by laying this on the line I am not discouraging you from adding a new family member! We have a darling little Yorkie, who has been with us for 7 years, since we lost our 13-year-old Yorkie who we had since he was 8 weeks old. We broke all the rules when we bought him. We loved dogs but had discussed it from time to time and had decided that it would not be right for us or the dog with our business commitments, social lives and vacations, but when we saw our little “Royal” at a pet shop while shopping one evening it was love at first sight and we just couldn’t resist!
However, we took him home with the full realization of what we were doing – that this was truly a commitment for the rest of his life – and I can honestly say that we never had any regrets! Any inconvenience was so worth it! He brought us such indescribable joy – such unconditional love! There was always that wagging tail and kisses galore every time we came home and the cuddling up to us when he sensed we weren’t feeling well, and so much more!. We nursed him through a few serious illnesses, always making sure that he was not suffering and could enjoy a good quality of life – and he did, until he unexpectedly passed away one weekend while sleeping by the fire surrounded by our little family. It drained us emotionally and we felt that we would not want to go through that again, but when a friend told us about someone who was looking for a good home for a 3-year old Yorkie, again we fell in love with her immediately! So much for the new-found freedom – it didn’t compare to the happiness we found with our new little Abby!
Very recently it has been discovered that The Toronto Humane Society has been avoiding euthanizing animals, and as a result, with the huge number of animals being taken in to the Society and many more expected with winter coming, numerous animals were found living in deplorable conditions as the Society did not have the resources to care for them. Some indeed had even been forgotten and were found to have suffered terribly. As an animal lover, I beseech you to do what you can to avoid these situations and to support organizations which focus on the prevention of cruelty to animals. They need our help.
In conclusion, I truly hope that this article will help you in your decision as to whether the timing is right for you to introduce a dog into your home. At the risk of being redundant, I beg of you – please don’t add to the overpopulated animal shelters! Please give your decision a great deal of thought – and then, if you are ready and able to fulfill the needs of a new family member, please make that commitment and enjoy that wonderful special love that a pet will bring to your home! They ask for so little and give so very much!
Now Pay Close Attention —
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