All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

A dog companion for a shy person...

Dear Marie,
I’d like to get a dog for my adult daughter who lives on her own.  She is a very shy person and doesn't seem to get out much and I worry about her always being alone.  I think if she had a dog, it might prompt her to be more active and get out more.  We always had dogs when she was growing up and she loved them.  Her apartment complex definitely allows pets and if there is any additional monthly charge to have one, I’d gladly pay for it.  I don’t think she would ever get a dog on her own simply for the reason that she only leaves her house to go to work or to go grocery shopping.  Do you think I am overstepping?
Jenna, Buena Park

Dear Jenna,
Your letter leaves me a little stumped.  Normally, I tell folks to NEVER give a pet as a gift.  Bringing a companion animal into one’s life is a very personal decision and one that should only be made after much thought and consideration. But I don’t know your daughter as well as you do so I don’t know if you are overstepping. 

Perhaps in the past she has mentioned that she wants a dog but for whatever reason, is too shy to deal with a rescue organization or a local shelter.  If that is the case, then it is really important that you talk to her and ask what she thinks about the idea of moving forward.  There may be something you don’t know that has led to her decision to not have a pet in her life that has nothing to do with being shy. 

Your daughter may feel that from a financial perspective, she really can’t have a pet.  Even if you offer to pay any additional rent incurred, remember that pets can be very expensive.  There is much more to caring for a pet than providing food and toys.  If a companion animal becomes sick, veterinary bills can be overwhelming.  Even regular vet checks and preventative care such as dentistry, vaccinations, etc. can cost more than what your daughter is able to afford right now.  Are you willing to help with that as well?

If she’s not ready, don’t push her into this.  Just let her know that if she is ever interested, you’d be happy to go with her to a shelter or rescue and visit some of the animals.  If she finds one she likes, help her deal with the staff or the volunteers.  For someone who is extremely shy, it may be a daunting task to get through some of the interviews and/or paperwork involved with pet adoption.

Dogs do help get people outside and more active to a certain extent.  (That's the whole idea behind getting dogs for people suffering from PTSD, particularly veterans.) But if your daughter doesn't enjoy getting out and about, having a dog won’t change her routine much.  Some dog owners will walk their dogs just long enough to get “business” taken care of.  In cases like these, dogs become as much homebodies or couch potatoes as their owners, as evidenced by the growing number of morbidly obese pets seen by veterinarians.    

If your daughter does decide to get a pet, offer to walk with her every day.  If there is a local park that’s suitable for daily strolls, suggest that location.  The great thing about walking in a park or a local greenbelt area is that there are usually lots of other dog owners who are doing the same thing.  Dog-people are universally a chatty, friendly bunch.  They talk about their dogs more than they talk about their kids (if they have kids).   When one passes the same people with the same dogs every day, it’s hard not to develop somewhat of a bond, and before you know it, you’re smiling at strangers, and not long after that, conversations ensue.  It’s great.

I walk my dogs most mornings at a particular greenbelt area.  Along the way I meet Bonnie the Pitbull and her “dad,” Harley the Australian Shepherd and her “mom,” Anubis the Labrador and his “dad,” the “parents” of the Newfie named Buddha, the Australian Cattle Dog named Sally, the Shiba Inu named Shibi, and many others.  We always stop to talk with each other while our dogs do their meet-and-greets.  There’s nothing like a happy-go-lucky dog to help break the ice and get people talking.  If your daughter is shy, then this would be a great way for her to meet people and break out of her shell.  Dogs are terrific therapists in this regard.

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