Pets are not iPads: Thinking Outside the Animal Gift Box

puppy-wearing-red-bowIf you are a last minute holiday shopper, you may be tempted to buy Christmas or New Year gifts for loved ones without doing your homework.  This time of year, parents and partners can be easily persuaded to get the most heart-warming gift of them all: a cute and cuddly new animal.  It may seem like the sweetest gift idea, but often it is not most responsible decision.

Animals are unlike any other present.  They require a level of commitment and responsibility that few other holiday gifts do.  Often because people fail to recognize this, countless dogs, cats, birds, and other animals given as gifts during the holidays end up at animal shelters shortly after the New Year, facing a very uncertain future.

An animal gifted as a present isn’t a Christmas Day gift, it is a life-long commitment.  Let’s be clear here.  It’s not a gift for your life, but their life.  Thinking of getting that teeny, tiny, adorable tortoise?  Are you ready to ensure its care for well over a hundred years?  Do you want a dazzling parrot?  You can plan on 60 to even 100 years of care.  Even aquatic turtles live over 30 years of age.  The average lifespan of a cat is 13 – 17 years.  A dog’s average lifespan is 10 to 13 years.  Are you ready to dedicate yourself to this animal for that long? Animals are not just pets.  They are family members for life.

Ask yourself another tough question.  Have you considered the extent of responsibility, time, care, expenses, education, commitment, and love that this one animal will require?  These responsibilities last far past Christmas day.  Take the time and do your homework on what exactly is involved by adding an animal companion to your lifestyle.

Let’s take dogs for example.  When you decide to bring home a new canine companion, please understand that you are making a commitment for the entirety of that dog’s life.  So many people that have the best intentions rush this very important and life-long decision.

The honest and informative graphic below from The Uncommon Dog should help you and your family decide if you are truly ready to welcome a dog into your home at Christmas Time.

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Graphic provided by The Uncommon Dog

When the kids, wife, husband, or partner pleads for a new adorable pet, answer their request with a realistic question:  “Are you fully committed to this soul for its life?”  If either of you cannot answer with an unequivocal yes, then you might want to reconsider.

Parents, no matter how well intentioned your child may seem about caring for a new animal family member, the reality is that you will inevitably end up being the true caretaker of that animal.  Deciding to give your son or daughter that puppy or kitten that he or she has been asking for is really a decision made by the adult, to add another living, breathing, needing member of your family – for which you, the parent will be ultimately responsible.  It’s not quite the same, or as easy as investing in an iPad.

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After the holidays are over, animal shelters are literally overwhelmed with discarded “Christmas pets”

If you decide that “gifting” an animal isn’t the best decision, consider these options as an alternative:

  • Joining Petfinder’s Foster a Lonely Pet for the holidays program. You can give a shelter dog or cat a much-needed break from the stress of shelter life.
  • Donating in-kind goods; many shelters need used blankets, sheets, and towels to make the animals more comfortable. They often need food, toys, and medical supplies. Call or check online to see your shelter’s “wish list” items.
  • Give a goat and two chickens. Through Animal World Vision, goats nourish hungry children and families with healthy milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Make a donation to your local shelter or local humane society.
  • Start an animal food drive. This can be for an animal food bank in your community, or in conjunction with other charity drives that may be taking place through your work, house of worship, or other organization.
  • Volunteer at your local shelter. You can help by walking dogs, offer love, affection, and attention to cats, assist with adoption events, and many other ways that are much needed

Think outside the animal gift box. Find another creative, thoughtful way to show your love this season.

The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its
value. ― Charles Dudley Warner

In Gratitude

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Thanksgiving has come and gone.  This American holiday is the one day of the year that people consciously choose to reflect on what they are grateful for in their lives.  It is a time for reflection.  Our hearts are open to giving thanks for the many blessings we have, the family and friends that we share our lives with, and the variety of gifts that life has provided for us.  But this doesn’t have to be a once-a-year occurrence; we can live in gratitude every day.

As the world shows its more chaotic side these days, I have become infinitely grateful for gifts that I took for granted for most of my life.  These gifts are my animal companions.  Some are no longer with me, but thankfully, some are still by my side.  Every day I make a point to thank them for being in my life.  I have come to realize that many of my life lessons have come from them.  Each animal – past and present – reptile, bird, mammal, and amphibian, each taught me valuable lessons over the years; I could not have learned some of my greatest lessons without them.

They show me how to be fully present.  How to not fear or worry about the future, and how to not dwell on the past.  The here-and-now is their only time zone.  If I had the courage to live every moment as they do, I would enjoy and appreciate every second of this life.

From observing them, I have learned how to enjoy a sunset, a sunrise, a cool breeze, or a warm ray of sun on my face without having to discuss it, or capture it on film.

They taught me to take risks and be bold.  They have shown me how to look ahead and see life as an adventure.  They taught me to travel far and reach for what your heart desires.

They remind me that material things are meaningless.  So what if a glass or dish breaks?  So what if my favorite book was destroyed?  It’s only stuff.  It can be replaced.  The ones we love cannot be replaced.

They have made me a better human.  They have made me more understanding, and more compassionate.  I may even be a better mother to a human one day because of them.  They teach me patience.  They teach me true forgiveness.  They teach me to take time to grieve, then to move forward and not look back.  They teach me how to celebrate the passing of a loved one, and to not mourn the loss.  They teach me how to love unconditionally, and how to accept love.

They have taught me that being unapologetically myself is the only way to be.  They taught me to never shrink or hide who I really am to make others feel comfortable. They teach me to love and accept everything about myself.  They have shown me that guilt and suffering are wasted emotions.

They are never in a bad mood, even when they have every right to be.  They are always ready to move on and seize the next adventure.  When my life seems to be in a rough patch, I can shift my attention to my animal companions and see the joy, cheer and Light within them.  They are continuous examples of how to forgive, how to move on, and how to shake it off.  Their very nature is love.  Their presence alone is reassuring and comforting.  I am never truly alone with my animal companion by my side.

How can we repay someone who gives us these invaluable gifts every day?  With gratitude. Every day.

I encourage you to take a few minutes each day and give your animal companion something meaningful.  You can give your time, your undivided attention, or your affection.  After everything they bring into our lives, shouldn’t we find a way to show our gratitude to them?  They chose you.  You may have “found” them but they were always meant to be with you.  Just you.

 

They will always be there for you.  Thank them for that.

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The animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

~ Henry Beston



Take a moment to watch this touching short film to see how one man created a marvelous way to show gratitude for his feline buddy.