It’s that time of year when many folks feeling their most generous. For animal lovers, helping an animal in need can seem like the perfect gesture.
But is the giving time of year a good time to bring a new dog home?
Like so many things in life, the answer is: It depends.
The thought for years was that the holidays were a terrible time to adopt a dog. And that can make sense. For many families the hustle and bustle, travel or stream of visitors means chaos and stress — definitely not an ideal time to bring home a dog who doesn’t know you or your routine. It was also believed bringing home a dog at the holidays was impulsive.
But thinking has changed because reality can be different. For many the holiday season means vacation time spent at home, which allows for more hours to help a dog transition to its new family — instead of having just a 48-hour weekend before the typical 9-to-5er has to go back to work and the new dog faces eight hours alone.
Of course, hustle and bustle can be a good thing, depending on the age and disposition of the dog in question. That’s not going to work for many adult dogs.
But for puppies, whose socializing window (the optimum time to expose them to novel experiences) lasts only until 12 weeks, give or take a week or two, coming into a home for the holidays could be ideal. What could be a better socializing experience than a house full of guests acting erratically after too much eggnog, a carpet of wrinkled wrapping paper, an indoor tree with a bunch of sparkly things hanging on it?
And for successful puppy raising, especially house training with hourly outside potty breaks, the more hands on deck the better, right?
The only truth that remains of this old belief: Don’t get a pet as a gift for someone else. While this is a well-intentioned gesture, a pet is a life. A dog is a big responsibility that can last 15 years or more. Adding a dog to a family is something that should be thought about long and hard, and a good amount of homework should go into the decision.
While many kids dream (and beg) about getting a dog of their own, the truth is the parents are the ones who are going to raise that dog. No matter how insistent or sincere your child may be, be aware that few kids follow through past a week or so (maybe even less) of the day in, day out meeting of a dog’s needs. Families should adopt a canine companion only if the parents really want a dog and are committed.
Getting a puppy for an older person is also not recommended. While many senior citizens desire and benefit greatly from animal companionship, puppies — with their intense demands, boundless energy and very sharp puppy teeth — are rarely a good match for someone older.
On a similar note, many animal welfare groups won’t adopt out pets as gifts, but do offer adoption gift certificates so the intended owner can come in and meet a suitable canine should they really be up for the responsibility.
Jackson’s annual Home for the Holidays event brings together regional animal welfare groups in a central location for an adoption extravaganza. This year it’s scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at Teton Motors. In addition, the Animal Adoption Center has organized a pet toy drive — bring in a toy in (new or used) and set it under their tree so it can find its way to a dog or cat.
Volunteering or offering financial support can also be a ideal holiday season activity for animal lovers who aren’t in a place to adopt.
We now know for some folks the holiday season really is the perfect time to open heart and home. I met my very first dog at Home for the Holidays back in 2001, when it was held in the fairgrounds building. I was there volunteering, but was also really thinking about adopting in the near future, and the event gave me the nudge I needed. Plus, I was able to meet many adoptable dogs in one place.
I remember one or two that I was tempted to bring home, but they went to others. There were a couple who weren’t adopted, and Rebecca “Cupcake” Tinnes (who organized the event back then and later founded the Animal Adoption Center) convinced me to foster one so it didn’t have to go back to the shelter for the holidays.
Four of the remaining dogs were boarded at Spring Creek Animal Hospital overnight. I still distinctly remember my options as I stood at the kennels in the clinic that next morning: a black basset/lab mix, a boxer, a heeler mix or a white and black border collie.
For whatever reason, I took taht white and black one.
It took me till March to commit and sign the adoption papers, but I still remember that first Christmas — and the many Christmases after with the dog who became my beloved HiFi.
Maybe this season you too will find a very dear furry friend you’ve been dreaming about. And maybe, like my HiFi, that creature will prove to be a gift beyond all expectations. It is my Christmas wish for you — and for all animals waiting in shelters for the right family to find them and bring them home.