All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Giving a Pet as a Gift to a Child


Dear Marie,
My husband and I are planning to give a puppy to our daughter (9 years old) for Christmas. She has wanted a puppy for a long time, but we’ve never been in a position to have one until now. We just moved into a home with a yard last month and this is where we are putting down our roots. Up to now, we were renters and lived in various condos that were completely unsuitable for a dog. I grew up with dogs, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had one, and honestly, my parents really handled everything pet-related. My husband has never had a dog. Can you give us some pointers that will help us start out on the right track? – Thanks, Susan of Sunset Beach
Dear Susan,
Congratulations on your new home. I’m sure your daughter is going to have a lovely Christmas, especially when she finds out what you have planned.
I do have a number of tips for you and I will start with a suggestion.
You should consider adopting an adult dog. Puppies are a lot of fun and they are awfully cute, but they require constant supervision and a lot of training.
An adult dog has already outgrown the obnoxious (but cute) behavior that puppies will almost always exhibit. Furthermore, if you adopt from a rescue or a pro-humane shelter, the staff and volunteers are familiar with their dogs’ personalities and current state of training and can recommend a pet that would be perfect for your situation. With a puppy, you never really know what you’re in for.
If I can’t talk you out of a puppy, you should take a look at the little guys that are available at www.cuddlycanines.com. This rescue organization will put entire litters that they’ve bailed out of high-kill shelters into foster homes. The foster families work with the pups and get them social and help them learn the rules of living in a home. So these puppies tend to be pretty easy to work with upon adoption.
As you recall from your own experience, parents, not kids, are pets’ primary caregivers. I’m sure your daughter will do her best to be a good pet guardian, but ultimately, it’s up to you and your husband to ensure that your new dog will be walked, fed, watered, groomed, cleaned up after, and kept healthy. Too many people write to me wanting to give up their pets because their kids aren’t taking care of their responsibilities. Please remember that this will be your dog, too, and if you don’t have the time for it, then perhaps a stuffed animal would be a more appropriate gift until you are ready. Pets are sentient beings and it is extremely distressful for them to lose a family. They deserve permanent, loving homes.
If you adopt your pet from a shelter (and most rescues) it will be spayed or neutered already. It will also have been given its vaccinations and possibly even a microchip. If for any reason you adopt a pet that has not received these veterinary services, you will need to have all of this done as soon as possible. And don’t forget to purchase a dog license once he hits four months of age.
A kennel is always a good thing to have for training purposes. If you are housetraining, a kennel is indispensable. You should also get some safe, high-quality, interactive toys. A well-engaged dog is a happy dog who is not likely to get into mischief.
The holidays are a very busy time in most households. I usually recommend that people who give pets as gifts create a certificate to be given instead of an actual pet. That way the recipient – in your case, your daughter – can pick out her own pet and bring it home after the holidays when things are calmer and holiday dangers (tinsel, electric light chains, chocolate, guests/visitors leaving doors open, etc.) are no longer an issue.
Finally, please don’t purchase a pet from a pet store. These animals usually come from puppy mills, have various physical ailments, and add to our chronic problem of pet overpopulation. There are plenty of beautiful animals that are already here and waiting for homes in shelters and rescues. In granting your daughter’s holiday wish, I hope you will also grant a homeless pet’s wish to have a forever family.
Good luck and happy holidays!

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