Respect an animal enough NOT to give them a gift at Christmas time.
I have posted this blog before but it bears reposting in this gift-giving season. Puppies. Kittens. Rabbits. Ferrets. Birds. Fish. These are living beings and not toasters, they require care and sometimes special habitat, exercise and diet and a certain amount of thought and pre-thought into how best to accommodate the new family member.
I admit though, they seem like the perfect gift, don’t they? One can imagine how happy the receiver will be, and there is nothing quite as uplifting as being the one who brought that joy to someone’s life. But a wise giver of gifts makes sure the recipient is knowledgeable and ready to add a family member.
Consider this fact.
A large percentage of animals given as gifts at Christmas time end up at the local shelter within a year for various reasons in the case of kittens and puppies. Some ‘gifts’, like rabbits, snakes, ferrets and others come to an even uglier end, if there is such a thing, when released into the wild unprepared or just die of neglect. Other issues that can plague the unprepared are activity levels of each species, the time required to train or socialize the companion, proper accommodations and exercise requirements and, of course, the level of interest of the receiver for the LIFETIME of that animal. As a former breeder I have heard dozens of times, ‘I didn’t realize getting a puppy is like bring a baby home…they are just as much work as a child!’ (Well, yes, they are children. Just not yours.)
Children are the largest percentage of receivers of living animals during this holiday season. And I like to think a child’s life is better for having an animal companion in it, mine certainly was. But there is a proper age or maturity that is required when an animal’s well-being is at stake and eight or ten years old probably is a bit young for that kind of responsibility. (I am speaking in general terms here.) The enthusiasm is there but like every young living thing, focus is not their long suit and soon someone else, not as enthusiastic, will be taking over the chores.
The holiday season itself is not conducive to helping a new family member assimilate into the household. Nothing is normal at Christmas time. So rather than having a displaced animal come into a home that is stable, calm and ready, the new member comes into chaos. There are places to be, leaving puppy or kitten alone for hours in a strange place with odd smells and strange sounds. Time seems to be in short supply with visiting well-wishers, whether hurrying to go somewhere else or welcoming them into the home. There are trees to cause mischief, ribbons to chew on and candy and food left within reach because no one is ready and all these things can do harm to the new family member.
If a home is ready to add a new member then what does it matter if it happens after the holiday season when things are calm and there is nothing to distract from welcoming this animal into the home? Buy them a gift that has no feelings to injure, no heart to break when they tire of it; buy a gift a harried receiver can just set it aside or forget when they tire of it. A gift that it will not care.
Puppies. Kittens. Rabbits. Ferrets. Birds, Fish and other assorted living creatures. They are gifts, sometimes our most precious gifts.
But they are not Christmas presents, they are not things presented with bows and wrapping paper. They are living, loving Beings that give their heart without limits. If bringing in a new member is not well-considered with time and discussion among the entire family, the loving heart will be broken and that is a gift to no one.