Monday, November 19, 2018

A New Puppy for the Holidays

A New Puppy for the Holidays
By Tricia Drammeh

We’re all familiar with the classic Holiday movie scene where a small child joyfully discovers his most cherished gift beneath the Christmas tree: an adorable puppy (or kitten) with a big red bow around its neck. A new puppy for Christmas!

I’ve always wondered, when watching such a scene play out on television or the big screen, how the parents managed to pull off such a feat. Now that I have dogs and cats of my own, I view this type of scene from an increasingly skeptical point of view.

Here’s the reality: Once that big red bow is removed, that adorable kitten is going to run to the top of your Christmas tree, sending ornaments crashing to the ground. The cute puppy will likely piddle on the Christmas tree skirt or chew up one of Junior’s brand new toys. The challenges of adopting a new animal, especially around the holidays when life is already chaotic and busy, can sometimes prove to be too much to handle. According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million animals are surrendered to shelters every year. That is an absolutely heartbreaking statistic!

A Pixel-burrito
Having a dog or cat is a lot of work. There are enormous challenges that come with bringing a new animal into your home, especially when that animal is a puppy or kitten. Puppies chew. They have accidents. They require an enormous amount of training and guidance. Kittens scratch and claw your carpets and furniture. A tiny kitten can get into impossibly small spaces, sending their owners frantically searching through the house for the “missing” kitty. An older animal will feel extremely anxious about their new living situation, and even one who has been potty trained or litter trained will likely have some accidents at first.

Nine years ago, we adopted our cat, Pouncer. He was a stray cat living in a warehouse in St. Louis. When a co-worker found him during a delivery, he asked if anyone in the office wanted a kitten. With my daughter’s birthday and Christmas right around the corner, I thought a (free!) kitten would be a great addition to the household.


This “free” kitten wasn’t free at all. Like I have told my kids numerous times, there is no such thing as a “free” kitten or a “free” puppy. When we brought Pouncer home, I immediately made an appointment with our Veterinarian. Pouncer had a very nasty case of ear mites that took us weeks to get rid of. (He actually had to be sedated to have his ears cleaned out because the regular regimen of drops didn’t work.) He had parasites (fleas, worms), so he had to be quarantined from our other cat for a few days. Over the years, he’s been a “frequent flier” at the emergency animal hospital. He’s on prescription cat food due to a urinary blockage he had a year ago. He has also (along with our other cat Pixel) made a long, multi-day trip across the country when we moved to New England. (Have you ever had to settle a cat in a hotel room? If not, you’re missing out!)

Pouncer's ready for the trip!

Three years ago, we adopted our dog, Tasha, from a shelter. She wasn’t a puppy, but she had accidents on the floor. She chewed and destroyed our shoes, the comforter on our bed, and numerous other items. She had severe separation anxiety and hated the car. She also had persistent stomach issues, and still, to this day, has problems with her ears. Tasha was, and continues to be, a lot of work. I wouldn’t trade her for the world, though. She has brought so much joy to our household.

Tasha got used to the car!

My point is, cats and dogs are living, breathing animals that require money, time, veterinary care, and exercise. If you go on vacation, plans must be made to safely and comfortably care for your animals. Cats and dogs can come with behavioral issues or health problems. They are so much more than a gift under a tree – they are important members of our family who need our attention and love for the rest of their lives.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone from adopting a cat or dog. Yes, they are a lot of work, but they also contribute so much to our families and to our lives. I am grateful every single day for our animals and I can’t imagine life without them.

But… If you are considering adopting an animal – any animal – please carefully consider your expectations. You should expect to spend time and money. You need to expect there will be some messes and accidents during the adjustment period. You should also expect to have to “puppy-proof” or “kitten-proof” your house, because young, curious animals will get into things they shouldn’t, just like toddlers do. You should research the breed of dog you might be considering to make sure they are “right” for your family. (If you have small children, some dog breeds might not be a great fit for your family.) In short, you should expect your life to change in many ways.

With careful planning and the right attitude, you should also expect years of joy, fun excursions with your new family member, and lots of cuddles. You should expect to love and care for your cat or dog for the rest of their life. Most importantly, you should expect to love your new family member will all your heart.

Who can resist that face? Not me!

If you already have a special animal in your life, please tell us about him or her in the comment section. I love to read about heartwarming animal stories!


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