I’ve seen a hundred commercials and advertisements that feature a wriggling little puppy in a Christmas stocking. Or an idyllic scene where the parents tell their young offspring “oh, look, there’s one more present” before retrieving an adorable, floppy eared canine that melts the heart. We all want to make our children’s dreams come true. And what child doesn’t want a cute puppy for Christmas? It’s heartwarming to think of all the animals given homes for the holidays, but what about those who are abandoned at an animal shelter months later? What about dogs like my Tasha?
Last night, I was looking through Tasha’s adoption paperwork, trying to see if her real date of birth was listed. I found something else that brought tears to my ears and ripped out my heart. Tasha had been abandoned at the animal shelter at Christmastime. I don’t know what Tasha’s early life was like or how she ended up at the San Antonio animal shelter. I do know that this is a reality for far too many cats and dogs. Animal shelters are overflowing with unwanted animals who are looking for a good home. These animals are confused. Heartbroken. They can’t understand why their family didn’t want them anymore.
Dogs and cats are a lifetime commitment. They love you and depend on you. If you abandon them, it is devastating. It’s cruel. And it’s avoidable. If you have any doubts about your ability to care for a new animal, don’t adopt.
Think you might like to adopt a dog for the holidays? Consider these points before you do:
- Dogs chew. A lot. Tasha has destroyed shoes, socks, dog toys, two blankets, our car insurance card, and a backpack. Despite our best efforts to watch her carefully, she will still occasionally get a hold of something she’s not supposed to have. If you’re extremely attached to your possessions, you might want to think carefully before adopting a dog.
- Dogs have accidents. Tasha was very anxious when we adopted her. She had five accidents the first day. On week two, she had extreme stomach upset, meaning I was outside in the rain with her in the middle of the night. She has a very finicky tummy, so this has happened more than once. If you hate having your sleep interrupted, a puppy definitely isn’t for you.
- Dogs need attention. They need love, exercise, and play time. Dogs crave love and affection from their families. They need it.
- Your kids won’t help you. Kids will make all sorts of promises. “But, Mom you won’t have to take the dog outside. I’ll do everything.” Do not believe them. If you’re the type of parent who will force you child to get rid of the family dog as punishment for them not taking care of their responsibilities as a pet owner, please for the love of God, do not adopt a dog. It’s better to accept the fact that you, as the adult, will be responsible for all aspects of the dog’s care. If your child won’t follow through on their promises, punish the child (take away TV time, video games, etc.). Do not punish the dog. And if you are vehemently opposed to taking responsibility for any aspect of the dog’s care, you shouldn’t adopt. Everyone in my house is expected to pitch in and help take care of the dog, whether the dog “belongs to them” or not.
- Your whole life will change. Tasha adjusted to our family structure when we adopted her. And we adjusted to her. Actually, I think we did the most adjusting. To be honest, I was a pretty sedentary person before we adopted Tasha. All that changed when she came into our lives. I walk her at least four times per day. We do training exercises, go to the dog park, go on play dates (yes, really), and have lots and lots of cuddle time and belly rubs. When we adopted her, my husband missed a family outing to an amusement park because we didn’t want to leave Tasha home all day alone. We have changed or completely abandoned plans because it conflicted with Tasha’s routine. She’s not an accessory to our lives, sitting at home on the couch waiting for us to remember to play with her. She’s family. Any addition to your family should be life-changing.
- Dogs are totally worth it. Tasha has been with us for six months and I can’t imagine life without her. She has brought so much love and joy into my life. I adore her. The broken sleep, accidental puddles, walks in the freezing rain, shredded socks, vet bills, everything – it’s all worth it.
If you decide to adopt a dog (or cat), please consider visiting a local animal shelter or rescue agency. Most shelters are overflowing, and in many cases, if a dog isn’t adopted within a certain amount of time, they are put to sleep. Also note that animal shelters are very grateful for donations. You can check their websites to see what items they need most.