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December 4, 2012 > Ohlone Humane Society: Second thoughts about that gift

Ohlone Humane Society: Second thoughts about that gift

By Nancy Lyon

During this time of the year, giving gifts has long been a custom - from celebrating the Winter Solstice in ancient Rome in a kind of gift-giving birthday party for the sun's annual rebirth, to honoring the beliefs of a many faiths. As the lyrics go in Fiddler on the roof... it's all about tradition.

In Roman times, gifts were a simple giving of evergreen branches and later cakes to symbolize prosperity and the sweetness of the coming year. Today, gifting has become a more complex challenge and what will bring joy to the occasion can be a knotty problem. Some may consider the solution to be the addition of a new animal friend or presenting one as a gift to a loved one. This sweet image may not live up to reality and there are some serious concerns that should be addressed before taking the big step.

In most situations we can rule out a pony under the Christmas tree, but it can be tempting to give a cute puppy, kitten or other animal as a holiday present. Giving a living creature as a gift, especially one that has not been requested or even expected, is not always wise and doubly so during a time of celebration. However well intentioned, it is not in the best interests of the animal whose well-being and future should be of primary concern. What the special little life needs is time to adjust in calm and safe surroundings, away from the unavoidable noise and activity of celebrations.

Taking on the responsibility of a new life should require considerable thought and a lifelong commitment. That trusting, feeling being will be totally dependent upon his or her human family for many years to come. It's wise to stop and consider that you will be taking on a new "baby" with all that implies - veterinary bills, schooling, emotional and physical needs.

While it is inadvisable during a time of celebration, if you make the decision to go ahead and all are in agreement about the new addition, many things need to be considered. In the rush of festivities, it is easy to unknowingly put not only the new addition in harm's way but other resident animal companions as well.

With all that's happening, it's not hard to imagine momentarily forgetting that decorations and festive feasts are a danger to your new friend. Stolen dinner leftovers can cause digestive problems, flickering candles can burn and tempting garlands are dangerous choking hazards. In an instant, all can attract and harm unprotected animals. Electric decorations such as incredibly enticing stringed lights can give your critters an unpleasant shock should they chew on the wires. Indoor holiday plants such mistletoe and poinsettias can be toxic or irritating to sensitive digestive tracts. The list of holiday hazards is long and should be given much thought not only for your animal companion's well being but also for the sake of your finances - veterinary care can be very expensive.

If you feel you are that holiday exception - and not many are - deciding to include a new nonhuman family member at this or any time is a big decision, not to be taken lightly. Awareness and forethought of their needs and your ability and willingness to provide for them over many years - often up to 20 - should be given great consideration.

As an alternative to directly giving an animal as a present, OHS suggests that instead, you make up a gift basket containing all the essentials. Suggestions for the perfect gift basket would include books on specific animal care, leashes or collars, water and food bowls, safe toys and treats, and for dogs (cats would be amused at the thought) a gift certificate for obedience or socialization classes. If children are part of the family, a stuffed toy representing their new friend is a gift that gives anticipation and excitement of the big event.

Please consider adopting from an animal shelter and saving the life of a special companion and friend, one who will always be grateful. Many animal shelters provide a certificate for a free adoption to qualifying homes, to be honored after the holidays. After all, gifts are great but it's much more fun to be included in choosing a friend for life.

For a comprehensive list of holiday Dos and Don'ts for your animal companion's holiday safety check out ASPCA website:

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