A Cautionary Tail
Originally published in The Suburban, written by Judy Amyot.
It’s Christmas morning and all the family is gathered around the tree, ready to open their beautifully wrapped gifts. The kids are bouncing off the walls in anticipation and have been endlessly begging their parents for a pet since they exited the womb. Please, please, please! They spot a large box with a huge bow on it and from inside can detect what sounds like whimpering. And we all know what’s going to happen next.
The box is opened and out scampers a tail-wagging, over-excited puppy. Or maybe it’s a mewling, terrified kitten. Now, please tell me that scenes like this are relics of the past as surely we know by now that pets are not “play-with-it-once” Christmas presents but rather10-15 year commitments.
In our little scene, the kids are thrilled beyond words to finally have the pet of their dreams and there is joy and laughter as they all grab at the puppy or kitten to hold it. This exhilaration might last for a day or a week until school and work routines resume and then, thud! Reality kicks in as there is now a living, sentient being added to the household that has needs and requirements that will last for its lifetime. This is the baby that will never grow up and be able to take care of itself.
Adopting a pet, any pet, should never be a spur of the moment decision or one that is made to appease the constant pleading of children. A lot of thought, reflection and research is needed before taking the plunge where you will either sink or swim. Having lost my own dog last year, I am constantly asked when I will be getting a new one as if it’s a given since I love dogs and must have a void in my life that only a new pet can fill.
And while there were so many positives in the 12 years Donny was part of our family, I cannot forget how it felt when he got sick or how our daily routine had to be tailored to his needs thus restricting our comings and goings, let alone the gut wrenching day we had to say goodbye to him. This is keeping me from letting my heart rule and making sure my head owns the day. But there is temptation in every cute, little canine face I see.
Bringing a pet into your home and family is a major decision and a lot of work and expense. It is a serious commitment much like a marriage that can end in divorce with the pet given up for reasons both understandable and unreasonable. Often, little thought is given to the feelings of the now homeless pet as they are all too frequently viewed as disposable objects rather than the sentient beings they are.
It is important to do your research and understand exactly what is involved in adding a pet to your household. It’s not like buying a pair of shoes. Consider your daily routine as it is now and decide if it is flexible and can accommodate the needs of a pet on a daily basis for 10-15 years. Your financial ability to care for a pet must also betaken into consideration as some costs are fixed, like food and annual vet care but there can be some unexpected health issues that can end up costing a small fortune.
Most pets are social animals and being left alone for hours every day can lead to both depression and destruction of your property as boredom sets in and pent-up energy cannot be released in a positive manner.
Of course, for many families, the holiday season does end up being just the right time to add a pet to the household. Give it lots of thought as adopting a pet at any time of the year should always give you cause for paws.