Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Right and Wrong Way to Give a Christmas Pet

Is it ever a good idea to give a kitten or puppy as a holiday gift? Most experts wave the red flag at the idea of holiday pets, but if the animal in question has been a long-considered family addition, it isn't always a bad idea. Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking of gifting a new pet this month.

The Wrong Way
"Never surprise anyone with a pet as a gift. It's not an inanimate object. It's a living, breathing being that's going to depend on [that person] for food, water, exercise and attention -- for at least 15 years," says Sandra DeFeo, director at the Humane Society in New York City.

The Right Way

Do a lot of research and preparation before bringing a puppy or kitten home. For instance, last year, Fitz Koehler, a mother of two in Gainesville, Fla., decided her children, ages 6 and 4 at the time, were ready to have a pet. "They'd been begging me for a long time to get a dog," Koehler tells Paw Nation. "We went through pet fish and lizards, and my kids were very loving toward animals. After my son carried a dead ladybug around in a box for a week as a pet, I knew they were ready."

Koehler began looking for the right dog for her family on December 1. She went to a nearby animal shelter, Haile's Angels Pet Rescue, and met several different dogs and breeds. She chose to adopt a 6-month-old, female yellow Labrador-greyhound mix who was sweet and gentle and, according to the animal shelter staff, good with children. "I asked the shelter staff a million questions," says Koehler.

Koehler named the dog Piper and arranged for Piper to stay at the shelter for several weeks until she was ready to surprise her children with their new family dog on Christmas morning.

"I visited Piper at the shelter every day and took her for long walks," says Koehler. "I also had time to get everything ready, like her food, bowls and leash. By the time Piper came home, I had everything prepared."

On Christmas Eve, Koehler arranged to have Piper stay the night at a neighbor's house. "On Christmas morning, after the kids opened all their gifts, I said there was one more present for them," says Koehler. "I brought the kids out to the backyard where Piper was waiting. They started squealing and ran to hug her. It was perfect."

A year later, Piper is very much a part of the Koehlers' family. "We're as lucky to have her as she is to have us," says Koehler.

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