While gifts like this may seem irresistibly appealing in pictures, art, advertising or fiction, the future for those real-life kittens and puppies who start out under the Christmas tree, in all probability, will turn out to be fairly grim. Here are some of the reasons:
The atmosphere of christmas morning frightens the new pet. The new pet needs to be introduced to its new home and family during a relaxed and quiet, gentle time, with a minimum of loud noises, flashing lights, and screeching children, ringing phones, visiting company, and other types of general hub-bub. Christmas morning is absolutely the worst time for introducing this newly-weaned youngster to its new family.
The timing teaches children the wrong values. Many families who value pet ownership do so at least partly because of what children can learn from the family pets in terms of care and responsibility, love and loyalty, and respect for other living beings. But think of what happens to the rest of the toys and gifts that start out under the Christmas tree. By Valentine's Day, most of them have been shelved or broken or traded or forgotten. The excitement inevitably wears off, and the once compelling toy becomes something to use, use up, and then discard in favor of something newer. A living animal should not be thought of in the same category as a Christmas toy. Children need to learn that a living animal is being adopted into the family as a family member who will contribute much, but who will also have needs of its own, which the rest of the family is making a commitment to try to meet. A puppy or kitten who makes its first appearance as a gift item under the Christmas tree is more likely to be thought of by children as an object, as a thing-like toy rather than as a family member. This will not teach one of the most valuable lessons there is to learn from a puppy, which is respect for living beings and concern for others in the form of attention to their needs.
The pet grows up and has needs and expenses. Food, veterinary bills, pet sitters, obedience training.... Is it fair to assume that the recipient wants or can afford those bills for the next 10-18 years? Does the new owner really have the time for an animal? Do they really want one right now? People who have not had pets before, or who have not had dogs since they were themselves children, or who have recently had a dog but one who was a canine senior citizen trained and socialized to the family's ways long ago, often are completely unaware of how much work it is to raise a puppy from infancy into a good adult canine companion. They may have mental images of happy times romping with the dog on the beach, or curling up in front of the fireplace, of playing frisbee in the park or of hunting with a loyal companion. All these are things they might well eventually enjoy with their canine companion. But they may have temporarily forgotten, or perhaps not ever really have known, how much work it takes to raise and socialize a dog from puppyhood to that point of mature canine companionship. Adults may believe that they remember a Faithful Fido from their youth who seemed never to need training; Faithful Fido always seemed to "just know" what was expected of him. But those adults were children at the time, and they did not necessarily see all the work that their parents and others put into training and socializing.
It is often between the ages of 7-14 months that the new pet (sadly, reluctantly...?) is brought to the pound or to the vet for euthanasia by a frustrated owner as an "uncontrollable" dog, a "nasty" cat, or as a pet with "behavior problems." Or perhaps it is taken to a shelter in the faint hope that it will be adopted by someone else. (Chances are almost certain that it won't; nobody else wants your untrained, unsocialized pet's behavior problems either.) By that age an untrained dog is a full-grown and unruly adolescent. These pets never had a chance. According to statistics kept by the Humane Society of the United States, the majority of puppies and kittens born in the United States never reach their second birthdays, even though their natural lifespans should be many times that length.
They die from being hit by cars, euthanized by owners, starving or being fatally injured in fights with other animals - including wild animals, or taken to shelters or pounds where they are "put to sleep," usually before the age of two. In other words, many, many deaths are squarely the responsibility of owners who did not understand what it would involve properly raise their new pet, or who *did* understand, but did not do the necessary work.
If you are absolutely set upon getting a pet for Christmas, consider this alternative instead: Purchase some supplies instead: a collar, a good book on raising a kitten or puppy, a gift certificate for a veterinary checkup, or a gift subscription to one of the pet-oriented magazines. Wrap these up and put them under the tree. As family members unwrap the various pieces of the "puzzle", their delight and anticipation will grow. They will gradually understand what this present is! Then, after the Christmas tree is taken down and the frenzy of the holiday season is behind, the family can once again enjoy together the anticipation and excitement of discussing and selecting a shelter or breeder, selecting the new family member, and so on. This will increase the family's mutual commitment to, and investment in, the well-being of the newest family member. It will be a project the family has done together, which is a wonderful way for any adoption to commence. And it will be a better start both for the pet, and for the long-term relationship between pet and owner(s).
An animal with a good introduction to its adoptive family is much more likely to become a long term companion rather than just another tragic statistic
Tis the night before Christmas and all through the town,
every shelter is full - we are lost but not found.
numbers are hung on our kennels so bare,
we hope every
minute that someone will care,
They'll come to adopt us and give us the call,
"Come here, Max and
Sparkie - come fetch your new ball!!
But now we sit here and think of the days
we were treated so
fondly - we had cute, baby ways,
Once we were little, then we
grew and we grew -
now we're no longer young and we're no longer new.
So out the back door we were thrown like the trash,
reacted so quickly - why were they so rash?
We "jump on the children:, "don't
come when they call",
we "bark when they leave us", climb over the
We should have been neutered, we should
have been spayed,
now we suffer the consequence of
the errors THEY made.
If only they'd trained us, if
only we knew...
we'd have done what they asked us and
worshiped them, too.
We were left in the backyard,or worse -let
now we're tired and lonely and out
of a home.
They dropped us off here and they
"Maybe someone else will give you a try."
So now here we are, all confused and
in a shelter with others who long for a home.
The kind workers come through with a meal and a pat,
with so many to care for,
they can't stay to chat,
They move to the next kennel,
giving each of us cheer...
we know that they wonder how long we'll be here.
We lay down to sleep
and sweet dreams
fill our heads..
of a home filled with love and our
own cozy beds.
Then we wake to see sad eyes, brimming
with tears --
our friends filled with emptiness, worry,
If you can't adopt us and there's no
room at the Inn --
could you help with the bills and
fill our food bin?
We count on your kindness each day
of the year --
can you give more than hope to everyone
Please make a donation to pay for the heat...
and help get us something special to eat.
that cares for us wants us to live,
and more of us
will, if more people will give.