Puppies CAN be presents
My eleven-year-old daughter bought a shirt that reads, “Puppies aren’t presents.” It’s a slogan you hear a lot this time of year, but puppies—and dogs of any age—can be presents, and the holidays can be a great time to give them, so long as a good deal of forethought goes into the getting. If you’ve been considering adding a Fido to your family, here’s why now may be the right time, along with a few things you need to know should you decide to go the rescue route.
Home for the Holidays
The holidays can be an ideal time to bring a dog into the home, especially if there are children in the household. Days off from school and work provide an unparalleled opportunity to start building that human-canine bond—a bond that will be as beneficial to the humans in your household as it is to your new canine companion.
You can also get a solid start training your four-legged family member. Puppies, obviously, need lessons on where—and where not—to relieve themselves, but older dogs may need a refresher, too. And no matter a dog’s age, she should know basic commands like sit, stay, and come.
Finally, with studies showing that dogs have the mental capacity of two-year-olds, time at home equals time to establish your dog’s daily routine. Like kids, dogs thrive on consistency.
Adopt. Don’t Shop.
Where will you find your family’s Fido? Animal welfare groups urge adoption. Why? Because each year U.S. animal shelters euthanize about 1.2 million dogs, 90 per cent of whom are healthy and adoptable and would make great pets. As for pet stores, they often sell dogs purchased from puppy mills. So to save lives and starve puppy mills of the dollars that are their lifeblood, adopt, don’t shop.
To adopt a shelter dog, you can, of course, visit your local shelter. Or you can adopt from one of the growing number of animal rescues that pull dogs from shelters, creating space for those shelters to take in ever more dogs. But as I learned while reporting Dogland, not all rescues work in the best interests of their dogs.
“Rescue has become part of the pet trade,” says Libby Williams, who runs a non-profit organization that seeks to educate people about shady rescues. “There is a lot of selling going on for profit, and a lot of so-called rescues preying on the emotions of adopters.” The result: Dogs that have not been vetted or behavior tested are being adopted out.
To determine if the rescue you’re dealing with this holiday season—or during any season—is reputable, look for the following warning signs:
- Payment is cash-only.
- There are a high volume of puppies for adoption. These “rescues,” also known as puppy-flippers, sometimes get their puppies from puppy mills and then advertise them as shelter dogs.
- Dogs lack health records, and if they’ve crossed state lines, inter-state health certificates.
- The rescue won’t guarantee a dog’s health for even 48-72 hours, and it isn’t willing to provide you with the names of veterinarians who treat its dogs.
- The rescue won’t take back a dog if the adoption doesn’t work out.
- The rescue’s website and/or Facebook page doesn’t include the names of the people associated with it or any means to contact it directly, such as a phone number or email address.
- The rescue doesn’t interview you. Just as you want to ensure the rescue is reputable, the rescue should want to make sure it’s turning over its dogs to the best home possible. Thus, reputable rescues screen applicants, require references and whenever possible, do home checks.
Bottom line: This holiday season, the best present you can give yourself and your family might be a dog. My husband and I adopted Galen five years ago this month, and she remains one of the greatest gifts we’ve ever given ourselves and our children.
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist, author and adjunct professor of communication. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she spent a decade as a writer and producer at CNN before turning to teaching. Jacki launched WRITE Now to assist students in writing the college application essays that will chart their future. Read More...