Most people advise against giving pets as gifts for Christmas. This is something I agree with, although I broke the rule. Twice.
Twelve years ago our daughter was getting ready to head off to college, and we knew our son would miss his sister. So we searched on Petfinder and secretly adopted a cute spaniel-mix, about a year old.
The foster mom was kind enough to meet us on Christmas Eve. When we came home, we told Andy to sit on the couch with his eyes closed. I’d tied a big, red bow around the dog’s neck. We carried her inside and placed her in his lap.
His eyes grew wide, his smile grew broad, and he could barely speak. He got down on the floor and played with his dog and was as ecstatic about his gift as we’d hoped. Kelly became a special member of our family.
Fast forward to last year. Andy was a wonderful pet parent to Kelly all these years. He’d gone off to college, graduated and got his own apartment. We all agreed that Kelly was settled and would stay with us at home.
So last Christmas, I decided to break the rule again, and get him a cat. He worked all day, we reasoned, and his apartment didn’t allow dogs. A cat would be a nice companion.
Wisely, we thought he might prefer to select his own cat, so we bought a cat carrier, bed, bowls and food, litter box and litter, and a toy catnip mouse. We tucked a plush cat in the carrier with a note.
When Andy unwrapped the carrier with the note explaining that we’d take him to a shelter to find his own rescue cat, his reaction was not at all what we expected. He read the note silently and looked up with a forced smile. I admit I was disappointed that he didn’t seem overjoyed.
Later, after we talked about it, he told us that he really wanted a dog instead. I reminded him that he couldn’t leave a dog, particularly a puppy, home alone all day and that his lease forbids dogs.
It was a discouraging end to the holiday gift giving, knowing that we’d missed the mark. I was very grateful that we didn’t have a real, live kitten in the middle of it all.
While shelters and rescue groups don’t want to discourage people from adopting pets at any time, they encourage people to put extra thought into adopting at holiday time. Christmas is a hectic time to bring a live animal into a family.
Puppies and kittens for Christmas gifts are often an impulse buy–then later you realize that they are not housebroken, they chew or claw the furniture, and no one has time to take them out for a walk or clean the litter box.
One shelter asserts, “Your Christmas puppy last year is our shelter dog today.”
If you really are set on a pet for the holidays, Petfinder.com advises that with pets as presents, planning makes all the difference. They stress that each member of the family should recognize it can be a commitment for 10 or 15 years or longer.
Here’s the rest of my story: Andy’s lease ran out a few months after Christmas. He moved to a new apartment, one that allows dogs, located across from a dog park. He got his own golden retriever, my granddog, Zeke.
And he solved the problem of leaving his dog home alone days.
He found a great puppysitter.