Archive for Sunday, December 24, 2006

Pets don’t make good gifts

December 24, 2006

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Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Christmas. Whatever you're celebrating this month, no doubt it involves opening your hearts and taking part in the spirit of giving.

A lot of my companion animal friends know about the "giving" part, and they like to take part in it.

Poor ol' Red and B.J. never did understand, though, why I wasn't all gushy about finding their catnip mice in the toes of my shoes. Same with that brand new live baby mouse that my dog Bailey dug up out of the garden and left for me on the sofa cushion, all sticky and squirmy.

Maybe that was rude on my part, but in that case so was my friend who spent a half-hour in the middle of one night trying to catch a bird that her cat Scully had gently carried in and let loose in her bedroom as a present to her.

That was about as charming as the endless succession of wet, slimy, well-chewed rawhide bones that eventually end up in the laps of just about every dog owner whose pets just want to share.

Geez, these are gifts, after all.

And animals like being on the receiving end as well. Dakota loves getting presents, and he loves unwrapping them as much as he does playing with what's inside. In fact, every year he watches as his mom wraps each holiday present for her family and then, tail wagging as fast as it can go, he pounces on the packages and unwraps them for her.

We at the Lawrence Humane Society are all for including our pets in the gift-giving traditions. They like to be a part of everything we do, and a few new toys now and then will provide them something different and interesting.

But we have to draw the line at one aspect of gift giving that involves animals:

PLEASE don't give a pet as a gift.

Our policy states that we won't let you adopt an animal for someone else unless you're the parent who is ready and able to step in to do all the hard work of owning an animal when your child won't do it.

It's not that we're holiday Scrooges or birthday-present bad guys or Easter evil-doers.

It's really in the best interest of the animals in our care, for any number of good reasons, not the least of which is the pet and the holiday morning pandemonium that can scare the daylights out of a young animal who is in the midst of it.

When you adopt, one of the first things our staff members do with the adoption application is phone renters' landlords. We need to make sure that before any little four-footer leaves our premises, your landlord has given the thumbs-up about animals in his rental properties.

We do this for the good of the animals. It's not fair for them to leave with their new "forever" people only to have to come back in a day or two because they're not allowed to live in their new "forever" home.

Adult children: We understand - we really do - that you think Mom or Aunt Gertrude seems lonely and that a new holiday kitty would keep her company and entertain her.

But we can't be certain that Mom or Aunt Gertrude hasn't already booked the next six months solid with plans for that cruise to St. Thomas that she's always wanted to take, followed immediately by a visit to her old sorority sister down in Miami, and then from there off to New York for two weeks, and on and on.

What if Mom or Aunt Gertrude in reality doesn't want the responsibility of cleaning out those seemingly self-loading litter boxes? Or what if that recent hip replacement makes a kitten underfoot a health hazard (for her and for the kitty as well)?

Yes, Grandpa, we know that a puppy or kitten in a box with a big red ribbon would make you a hero for a day, but is your son or daughter and his or her significant other really able to take over the financial responsibility of pet ownership for your grandkids? There's the cost of bowls and leashes and collars, of food twice a day, every day, for the next 12 to 15 years. There are the annual vaccinations, flea and tick medications, and teeth cleanings. Those heartworm tablets and feline leukemia shots get pretty pricey. And then there are boarding costs, and what about that funny lump that just started growing on the animal's side - that requires a visit to the vet.

Uncle Mike, is your girlfriend's little daughter going to think that puppy is adorable the first time he piddles on the floor and she doesn't want to clean it up? Or will your girlfriend still be your girlfriend when that new kitten starts scratching the afghan that great-grandma crocheted?

Are these the kinds of responsibilities you really want to give with that cute fuzzy gift for your family member?

But there's still a way to have fun.

If you're absolutely certain that the perfect gift for your loved ones is right now residing at the Lawrence Humane Society, what we propose is that you come to the shelter and purchase a gift certificate that you can wrap up to place under the tree or next to the kinara or the menorah.

Then, if they're thrilled beyond words, join them on a trip to visit us, and watch their faces light up as they pick their next friend for life. You won't regret it, and neither will they.

Warmest holiday wishes to all of you from the Lawrence Humane Society.

- Sue Novak is president of the Lawrence Humane Society board of directors.

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