Bounding down the steps on Christmas morning, the children notice a wiggling box with holes poked in the sides. Cautiously, they inch collectively towards the package and begin quickly to unwrap it. As the lid opens, out pops a squirming brown and white puppy with one ear tipped forward. Giggling and screaming, the children roll on the floor amongst wrapping paper and ribbon with their cuddly new companion. The perfect present!
The scene is familiar. It's one that' reenacted millions of times each year across the country. And as warm and wonderful as this vision is, I need to remind anyone considering giving a companion animal as a gift that such a gift is a commitment for life and not just for Christmas. Responsible pet ownership means asking yourself (or the person whom you are considering giving such a gift) a few key questions:
-- Are there sufficient financial resources to take proper care of the companion animal, such as a budget for veterinarian care, grooming, and proper nutrition? Daily care doesn't cost a whole lot, but unforeseen health emergencies can cost several hundred dollars. Veterinarian health insurance is available and can provide peace of mind should there ever be an emergency. -- Have they read about and know the basic needs of the pet being considered? Libraries and pet supply stores, such as PETCO, carry books and pamphlets on a wide variety of breeds and animals. A knowledgeable sales associate familiar with the breed of animal can answer many questions. Know all about the companion animal's needs before making a decision. -- Is there time available in the new owner's schedule to devote to exercising and maintaining the animal to keep it healthy? Dogs need to be walked every day. Cats need to be stimulated with some type of playful exercise to keep them healthy. Sometimes a person will choose two dogs or two cats so that they can keep each other company and exercise themselves in the bargain. Obedience classes for dogs mean a time commitment of 8-10 weeks but the rewards will be a well-behaved and socialized furry companion. -- If the primary caregiver will be away for an extended period of time, are there plans for who might consider watching the pet? Pet sitters can watch the animal in the pet's home environment and provide less disruption to the pet's routine. Many pet sitters advertise their services at the local PETCO and can be referenced through the store.
One final thing to consider is that the holidays are usually hectic and full of presents, food and people. This can be stressful to an animal trying to adjust to its new surroundings. It is important the new pet is given plenty of "downtime" so that they are not over-stressed during this busy holiday. A crate for your canine or a piece of cat furniture for your feline provides a safe haven for the new animal to retreat and be alone.
I recommend that if you want to give a companion animal, such as a dog or a cat, that you visit your local shelter or animal rescue organization to make your selection. These are animals, usually through no fault of their own who are homeless this holiday season. They would relish a chance to have a home and be part of a family again. The gift of an animal is the gift of life and continues to give long after the tinsel and ornaments are put away. A decision to adopt this holiday season must be responsible and well thought out so it is a positive experience for everyone.
(PETCO Animal Supplies, Inc., is a national chain of approximately 530 pet food and supply stores in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Devine's family includes three cats ... Edward, Dweezil and Pokey.)
SOURCE: PETCO Animal Supplies, Inc.
Contact: Don Cowan, 858-657-2086,