The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

December 17, 2011

Pets and holidays are not always a good combination.

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WASHINGTON —

A pet is a long-term commitment; will your child take on the responsibility of learning to care for it? Dogs need walked. Bowls need cleaned. Animals need fed daily. They need to be groomed and played with and loved. If you get a pet for another relative or a friend, can they afford its care and maintenance? Will they have the time for it?

Another consideration is pet selection. If, by chance, you gift a pet that’s not exactly what the recipient wants or can take care of, that animal will more than likely end up at a shelter. An active dog breed, for instance, is not a good choice for a sedentary person. A cat may be the preferable choice for someone with a busy schedule, as cats don’t need to be walked and exercised like dogs and can generally take care of themselves a little better. So I highly recommend researching breeds and their characteristics before selecting a pet — for yourself or someone else.

Perhaps a better solution for a pet-related Christmas surprise is to give the recipient some of the things s/he’ll need to care for a pet. You could get a dog bed and put bowls, a collar and leash in it; or fill a litter box with cat toys, a collar and treats. The animal itself, then, can be picked up after the holidays when schedules are back to normal. Another option might be a book on selecting or training a pet, or one on the gift recipient’s breed of choice.

If you do decide to gift a pet, I cannot emphasize enough the quality of pets found at a shelter. Many times, purebred dogs and cats find their way into a shelter, but mixed-breed animals are happy to have someone to love and care for them, too. In fact, shelter dogs can be very devoted and loving. Because they’ve often led a tough life, it sometimes takes a while for them to develop a trusting relationship. But once they do, you’ll never have a more loyal friend.

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Andrea is the proud bestie of a shelter dog named Gypsy, who gives her unconditional love and after four years will finally sleep with her — until Andrea rolls over. Andrea can be contacted at amccann@washtimesherald.com.

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