GUEST COLUMN: Is it the right Christmas gift?

Vi Hummel Shaffer

Some animal shelters are offering reduced costs for adoptions to help get the animals homes for the holidays. However, the lower cost does not mean the value of the dog’s life is less. Puppies and dogs are on many Christmas wish lists. Seeing a child’s face light up when they first see that wish come true is a precious sight. But, that love and attention are not — should not be — only a holiday experience. If you don’t plan to teach your children the responsibility and commitment of caring for a living, breathing, loving creature — or if you are too busy to give the attention and care the dog needs, please get a different gift.

We are talking about a life — not an object that can be ignored when you or your child get tired of it. A dog is not a toy. Dogs have needs. They need food, water, shelter and affection. They feel pain, fear and loneliness.

Tragically, countless dogs given as holiday gifts end up in animal shelters — many of those never find new homes. Worse yet, some are dumped on the side of the road or in wooded areas to fend for themselves.

If you still want a dog, do adopt from an animal shelter or animal rescue group (some of which are breed-specific.) Beware of the many ads for puppy sales at this time of year — some are from reputable individuals, but others are from puppy mills that may be selling unhealthy puppies. And there are also “puppy scams” that advertise in print and online, showing a picture of an adorable puppy (or puppies) from a fake litter. Their goal is to take your deposit for a puppy that doesn’t exist.

When choosing a dog, think about the size of your home and yard. Remember a puppy will get bigger — that should not be a surprise. Some people think in terms of “indoor dogs” and “outdoor dogs.” To keep a dog always tied up in the yard, without any affection or good interaction, is cruel. And, there are laws in Texas. It is wise to read those tethering laws if you are thinking of an “outdoor only” dog.

If your home or yard is small or you are unable to be physically active enough for the energy of a young dog, a senior one might be perfect for you. An older dog’s personality is already developed. They are more laid back and may even have had some training. Among the other benefits of selecting an older dog is they tend to bond more quickly and deeply with their new owner.

But please don’t adopt a dog unless you are willing to provide all they need. What you receive in return from your dog is more than you will ever give.

Vi Hummel Shaffer is a writer, author, 28-year veteran K9 handler, trainer, instructor and consultant in K9 Forensic Human Remains Detection. She is also a speaker and a court-qualified subject matter expert witness.

Trending Video

Recommended for you