Christmas is just 11 days away. In our house, we are enjoying nightly Christmas movies on TV, Labradors sleeping in front of the Christmas tree, and counting the number of Star Shower Motion Laser lights in our neighborhood.
Of course all of the commercials during the Christmas movies are also holiday themed, and I had an educational conversation with my 13 year old daughter recently when we were watching a commercial in which a puppy was given as a Christmas present.
“Just for the record, dogs are NEVER a Christmas present,” I scornfully trash talked at the TV.
“Why not?” she asked, a little annoyed with me.
“Well, because it’s a living breathing creature that should only be brought into your home after a lot of thought and consideration to the fact that it is likely to be with you for the next 10-15 years and will need tons of time, training , money and attention. Plus people should pick out their own dogs, AND because most of the holiday puppies that are purchased are from pet stores who are selling puppy mill puppies. And if you’re not familiar with what a puppy mill puppy is, it’s a puppy born onto what’s basically a dog farm where their mothers and fathers are kept in cages their entire lives, the mothers give birth to litter after litter without a break, they never get to run and play and they are treated quite cruelly. So no, dogs are NEVER a Christmas present,” I answered.
I continued to explain the circumstances in which getting a dog around the holidays would be ok. “Now, if a family or a couple has thought through all of the things that a dog needs, decided that their schedule is suitable for a dog, their lifestyle is suitable for a dog, their budget is ok for a dog, and that they understand that they are making a lifetime commitment, what they could do is tell the kids that instead of buying them as many presents as other years, that they are all going to go to a shelter and choose a dog together to give the dog a new home for Christmas, then that’s a whole other story. Then they can involve the kids in the process and share with them the very special and important decision that they are making.”
After that, she was on board with what I was saying. In fact, because she attends most of my dog events with me as my helper, she is very knowledgable about the plight of dogs and the incredible responsibility involved in owning a dog, probably more than other thirteen year olds. I know that her initial annoyance with me was because she was thinking that any dog would be lucky to get a new home at Christmas, probably picturing happy families and furry puppies in a utopian scenario of love and commitment, without realizing that many of those Christmas puppies are purchased on a whim and end up in shelters after the new year because the owners did not think through what they were doing.
Because she lives in a family that values the life of animals, she doesn’t realize how many people do not value their lives. The older she gets, the more we fill her in on the things that happen to far too many dogs because of cruelty, neglect, and sometimes people simply losing interest in a dog they brought home on a whim.
Until recently I don’t think she knew how many shelter dogs never make it back out of the shelter. We go to so many rescue and adoption events that I think she thought all dogs went to new homes, and she was horrified to find out that millions of them do not and that they are put to death for no fault of their own because of the vast pet overpopulation problem.
In my book I talk about how being an adorable little puppy is both a blessing and a curse to far too many dogs, because those fluffy little bodies and kissable puppy faces cause some humans to lose all logic and purchase them without a thought to what the puppy will need for the next ten to twenty years of their life. They might have gone to the mall for a sweater and a sale on bath products; instead they brought home a living breathing creature that they are not prepared to raise.
Puppy mills are manufacturers and do not deserve the name breeders; they create the supply of puppies to stock the cribs and cages of the pet stores who sell them. In the same way that if you purchase a pair of jeans from a clothing store, the clothing store will replenish the supply of jeans that were sold, the puppy mill will continue to keep dogs in misery producing more puppies to fill the demand that the purchase of that puppy created. This happens regardless of whether or not the puppy that was purchased stays in its home forever or is surrendered to a shelter a month later because it was “too hard” to care for.
Truly responsible breeders have a demand before the female is even pregnant, because they do not ever want a puppy that they bred to be in danger or be put to sleep unnecessarily. Breeders like this are dedicated to making sure that each and every puppy that they create is loved, nurtured and cared for his or her entire life. They are actually unlikely to even have a litter of “Christmas puppies” available because their dogs are forever dogs, not something selected on a whim, not something given as a gift or selected as if it were the season’s hottest toy.
Watch for Dos and Don’ts to Bringing Home a New Dog at Christmas
in the next Love, Laugh, Woof blog.