“All I Want for Christmas. . . “   by Dr. JC “Kay” Neine

Published in the December 1st  issue of Vivacini!  To experience a “real magazine”,  read the article in the flipping book version here:  Vivacini! 01 December 2012.

Each spring animal shelters across the country fill up with dogs who were given as “presents” for Christmas . . . those are the more fortunate ones.  Others are heartlessly abandoned somewhere in the wilderness or chained and neglected in a backyard.

Everyone loves a puppy.  They’re adorable, irresistible and many children plead with their parents to get them one for Christmas.  If you are one of those parents who is tempted to give your child what he or she wants, a puppy, please resist, and instead use this as a teaching experience for your child.  This is a desperate plea from someone who sees abused, neglected, unwanted and wonderful dogs who deserve a much better fate than what they were dealt.

Here are some issues that need to be considered and discussed with any child who wants a puppy.

1.  Cute and cuddly puppies grow up.  They need to be worked with on a daily basis from day one, exercised and taught manners in a loving way.  Otherwise they grow up to be “problems” and falsely accused of being “bad dogs” through no fault of their own . . . the real cause is that no one bothered to teach them anything.  The holidays are way too hectic to start working with any new dog or puppy.

2.  Not every breed of dog is suitable for every lifestyle.  Border collies are high energy, both mentally and physically.  They have to be worked with and be mentally stimulated, or they will bring you to your knees.  I’ve seen many an owner outsmarted by these dogs.  Labrador retrievers are rambunctious, also high energy, and take longer to make it through puppyhood.  They also grow into large dogs, so they don’t belong in a home where an osteoporotic elderly person may get injured.

Ask your child to imagine the puppy as a grown dog.  What is the puppy going to grow into, and can your child commit to loving this dog and caring for him or her when the cuteness of puppyhood is over?

3.  Until we get this last point across to humans, our pets will never have the respect they deserve.  No living being should be “gifted,” especially dogs, who are the only species that will choose man over their own and offer their love so unconditionally.  We will take a great step toward our spiritual evolution when we can stop referring to our pets as property, but as fellow creatures of God.

It starts with resisting the impulse to give your child a puppy for Christmas.  Give your child a toy stuffed dog instead, and explain that after Christmas, you will help him or her decide on what kind of dog will be best suited for fitting in with the family lifestyle.  Remind your child that you will be adopting a family member, not a “thing,” that every family member needs love and understanding,  and that a new puppy is a commitment for the life of that dog . . . through good and bad, through sickness and health.

Christmas is a wonderful time to have discussions with your child about unconditional love . . . especially when it comes to a puppy they want.  How will your child feel about his or her dog when the dog becomes old and arthritic 10-15 years later and the child has grown into a teenager who has discovered team sports and dating?  Will he still love and care for the dog, or neglect and discard him because the dog is “no longer fun?”

Delayed gratification can be a powerful and constructive lesson.  If your child can understand that adding a puppy to the family is a serious and important matter and begin to comprehend what it means to love someone, dog or human, unconditionally, your child will learn about being responsible and caring, not only with his dog, but with you, his own parents and his grandparents as they age and become “less fun,” . . . and maybe we’ll live long enough to see a world where no one has to be “thrown away.”