We have all seen the commercial ads and movies of children running down the stairs on Christmas morning eager to tear open their presents, and in one box there is the cute, adorable 6-week old puppy full of joy and innocence. The children pick up the puppy and scream in happiness to their parents, but what happens next? The children put the puppy down and begin opening the rest of their presents while the puppy plays in the wrapping paper; meanwhile, with no one paying attention, the puppy pees on the carpet. What do mom and dad do? They scold the puppy for going on the carpet and then put the dog outside while the family finishes Christmas morning.
The children play with their new toys, the puppy included, but then it’s time to go over to grandma’s house and the puppy is put back outside in the cold by itself. When the family returns, the puppy scratches at the back door to be let in, showing his excitement for their return. As he is let in, though, the parents see he is soaking wet because of the snow and the dog is placed in the laundry room for the night. The next morning, the laundry room is found torn up and soiled because the puppy was locked in all night and the parents become angry and tell the children that this dog is their responsibility.
As the young children prove to be too young and disinterested to care for the dog adequately, and the parents don’t have the time, it is decided that the right time for a dog is not now. The family drops the dog off at the local animal shelter on their way to Wal-Mart. After being at the shelter for only a few weeks without being adopted, the puppy is put to sleep because of overcrowding.
This sad tale is all too accurate and all too common; every Christmas this happens and every Christmas animal shelters are flooded with unwanted pets. Approximately 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters each year because of overbreeding and many millions more awaiting their execution. Yet still, every Christmas, puppies (and kittens) appear under the tree only to end up at the shelter.
If you have absolutely decided that you are going to give a puppy as a Christmas present, then please, please, PLEASE adopt. If you are looking for a specific breed, you can still do the right thing and adopt. Purebred dogs are brought to shelters just as often as any other dog, and a rescue group exists for almost every breed of dog, also. What about the papers? Well, the fact is that the American Kennel Club grants papers to anyone who breeds two dogs of the same breed. The AKC does not perform inspections or genetic testing on the dogs they grant papers to.
It should also be noted, in the interest of full disclosure, that according to Friends of Animals, puppy mills comprise 80 percent of AKC’s business. The AKC has also bankrolled the opposition of legislation that tightens rules for large-scale commercial breeders.
There are some truly wonderful rescue groups and shelters around the country to check out if you are interested in adopting an animal, at any time of the year. Heaven Can Wait Animal Society is based in Las Vegas and does wonderful work throughout the community; Best Friends Animal Society is based in Salt Lake City, but also has locations in New York and Los Angeles; and PAWS Chicago is, naturally, based in Chicago. Use these links as a start when it’s time to find a new best friend.
Bringing a pet home is akin to bringing a baby home. A pet is a commitment; an individual that you are committing to have as a part of your family for a long time. This animal is dependent upon you for all of its needs; he/she does not come completely trained and is not battery operated. As a new PARENT, you are responsible for anticipating his/her needs, setting guidelines, and following through. You are also responsible for providing lots of love and affection; indeed, for any being to feel happy, he/she has to feel like he belongs.