Pets as Gifts?

First off, Happy New Year! Here’s hoping that 2014 is everything you want it to be.

There’s a timely issue making the rounds that I thought would result in an interesting discussion: giving pets as gifts. I’m sure you’ve all heard the warnings to “never give a pet as a gift.” Yet, recently that advice has been questioned by several different sources. Emily Weiss of the ASPCA did a study which found that people who received pets as gifts were as attached to them as pets acquired otherwise. In addition, the same percentage of gifted pets stayed in the home as those from routine adoptions. You can read more about this in an ASPCA Guest Blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker.

The well-known sanctuary Best Friends made the same point this December, see their blog entitled Debunking the Adoption Grinch. I have admit that I had to stop and think about this, because I’ve had a raft of clients who weren’t happy about being “gifted” a dog or cat. That got me thinking about what criteria might lead to successful “pets as gifts,” versus those that would lead to the opposite. Here are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

1. The gift’s receiver must have already decided that he or she both wanted a pet. Giving a dog to a twelve-year old child after she spent months researching breeds, and when the family is all on board, is a good idea, not a bad one. The problems occur when someone decides that the recipient should want a pet. The most common problem pet-as-gift I can think of, and that I saw relatively often, was an animal given to someone who had experienced a loss, and the giver decided, on their own, that a pet would make things better. Here’s an example from my case files: A woman loses her husband of 40 years, and her children decide to give her a puppy to cheer her up. Except that the only thing the widow was looking forward to was finally being able to travel. A lot. With no responsibilities any more. Finally. And yet, her children were adamant that a dog would be GOOD FOR HER (yes, they were yelling at one point). The poor woman sat in my office in tears because she didn’t want to have to take the dog back to the shelter, and yet, really, really didn’t want a dog in her life.

2. Everyone in the household understands and welcomes the implications of bringing a sentient life into the home. That means that the entire family is willing and able to welcome  a newcomer, including one who chews on shoes if they aren’t put away in the closet. Gifts to one person can be punishment to another, if it means that they can’t have their friends over anymore because their sister has a dog who is defensively aggressive around teenaged boys. Dogs and cats, at any age, can’t be put into the back closet because Auntie Jane didn’t know her nephew wanted a Labrador instead of a Pekinese. Bottom line: It’s impossible to give a pet as a gift to one person who lives with others, so everyone in the household has to want the pet for it to work out well.

3. Conditions need to be appropriate for a new animal to come into the family. I expect this is why many people advocate to avoid giving pets at Christmas time or during the holidays. Indeed, the holidays can be extra busy for some, with house guests and parties and travel away from the home. However, the holidays can also be quiet times for some people, and it’s not always true that they are the worst time to get a pet. Every situation is different, and every family needs to ask themselves if they have the extra time required to settle a new member of the family into the house. That may, or may not be during the holidays.

One other situation, indirectly related to pet-as-gift, are the animals who have been “inherited,” usually by a parent from a child. Either the kid went off to college or joined the Peace Corps or for whatever reason doesn’t want Fluffy or Fido anymore, and prevails upon his or her parents to adopt it. Sometimes it works out beautifully, but other times the parents at best exhausted, or at worst resentful. My advice is for parents to think long and hard before agreeing to take on anyone else’s pet, and only do so if they really, really want a dog or cat themselves. If not, they can help most by assisting in finding the animal a good home, rather than being forced to take on a new family member that they don’t want.

My only personal experience with receiving a pet as a gift was when my ex-husband and I bought a Saint Bernard puppy with money sent as a wedding present. My very proper aunt had generously sent the money for us to buy engraved silver. She was clearly appalled that a set of engraved silverware had been turned into a 160 pound mass of drool and hair. Was “Cosby” the Saint Bernard a practical “gift” for two young people with no money and no permanent home? No. But we really, really wanted him, and we really, really loved him, and did indeed give him a wonderful home for many years. And besides, we didn’t have to polish him.

So… your thoughts? Have you ever gotten a pet as a gift? Given one?

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Holy Moly it’s cold! Sorry to repeat myself, but it’s impossible to not talk about the farm without talking about the weather. Right now the highs are below 10 degrees farenheit (minus 12 Celsius) and the lows have gotten down to minus 15 F (minus 26 C). Next week the high is predicted to be -5 F. I’m not sure Tootsie will be able to manage to potty outside at that temperature, I might have to train her to go in the garage or to wear booties. Just this morning she started picking up her paws and looking desperate after being outside less than a minute. Even Willie, eyes shining, face glowing, began picking up a paw while we were playing outside. The difference in their response was predictable but still amusing: Willie–“Gotta hold one of my paws up so can keep playing, no problem.” Tootsie–“Oh No Oh No, this is horrible! My paws hurt, please please get me inside! Can you pick me up, please?” (Answer: Sorry Toots, let’s just run together back to the house!)

I do sympathize. I grew up in Arizona and remember being shocked by the fact that very cold things feel like they are burning your skin. The first time I “met” snow was at age nine, when I ran outside to play in it (after saying “It’s raining white stuff!” to my parents) and immediately made a snowball as I’d seen kids do in movies and in cartoons. “It’s HOT! It’s HOT!” I said, running back inside with tears streaming from my face, as if betrayed by the difference between expectation and reality.

Needless to say, our exercise around the farm has been severely restricted. I’m planning on playing the “Make Up Stuff Around a Box” idea with both dogs, in which you present them (one at a time of course) with a large box, and begin clicking anything they do with, around or in the box. It’ll be good mental exercise for all of us, me as much as the dogs.

The upside of the weather is that is it just gorgeous outside, especially when the sun comes out or after a new snow. We’ve had a lot of both, so if you can grit your teeth and take your camera out in this weather (meaning: take your gloves off and touch metal), there are a lot of photo ops. Here’s a tree in a neighbor’s yard that we drive by every day. I love the soft contrast between the tree, the snow and the sky.

snow tree 2013



  1. says

    My first vizsla was a gift from my mom- as in my mother paid for her when I graduated from college. I had wanted a vizsla for 12 years, I researched breeders and dogs, I chose the breeder and the dog myself and my mom simply paid for her. Best gift I have ever received and we all have a fantastic life.

  2. says

    I wanted a dog my entire life and was never allowed to have one at home.

    My Elka is technically a birthday gift. However, while my fiancè purchased her, I did the breed and training research, and he’d had dogs before. We’d bought a house together the previous fall, and decided, together, it was the right time for a dog.

    I would only ever give a pet as a gift if it was a similar situation. A household who, as a whole, wanted said pet and who were able to adequately house and care for said pet.

  3. Gordon says


    You’ve lived here a lot longer than me, but I have never seen it like this. We have had, with only a one or two day exception, lows of double digits below zero (F) since the first week of December. Several days have exceeded -20F, with two below -25. I see, over the next few days, HIGHS of double digits below zero (-10F and -13F) with lows again below -25. It doesn’t necessarily affect my dogs (they are Alaskan Malamutes and they don’t do the paw hop thing), they revel in it. Running like there is no tomorrow. And, to see Atka run, after his 3 orthopedic surgeries on his left foreleg, is a blessing and a sight that defies description.

    Now, seeing them lying on their backs, as if they were sunbathing, or clinging to the last bit of shade from the house, when it is 10 below zero, or burrowing their faces as far into the snow as it physically possible, also defies description.

  4. TB says

    Thanks for pointing out that this is not a free-for-all to head to the shelter and start buying up cats and dogs for everyone on your list. I have to question anyone who thinks that giving an animal to someone as a “surprise gift” is a good idea.
    I read the study and it appears that out of the 1000 interviewed, only a couple hundred received pets as gifts. Of those, even fewer received those pets as a “surprise gift” — in other words, most were involved in the selection. The use of the word gift here, I think, is being misrepresented by the ASPCA. If it’s used to mean “someone else is paying for the pet after careful consideration by the recipient” — that’s one thing. But it almost sounds like the ASPCA is promoting giving pets as a surprise under the tree.

  5. Jes says

    My experience receiving a puppy as a gift was not a good one. I had dogs in my family growing up but had never taken care of one myself. I had recently moved into my father in law’s home with my husband. My in laws once heard me talking about how much a loved German shepherd dogs and took matters into their own hands to surprise us with a German shepherd puppy. It was atrocious. I had done no research, had no idea how to care for my own dog and to make matters worse, my husband’s father would not allow indoor pets so the poor thing was a tie-out dog :(. We had been planning to move out on our own, out of state, for quite some time and a dog was certainly not in the moving equation at that time; in the end, overwhelmed and overburdened, unable to come up with a way to bring the dog we never actually wanted with us, he sadly got left behind. It’s one of my biggest regrets to this day.

    I personally love dogs and when we were ready and had done our homework and research an were in a place in our life where we were ready my husband and I have brought two wonderful dogs into our family and it has been a wonderful experience. It’s completely different than the nightmare of being gifted a pet when we weren’t ready for it.

  6. Gordon says

    As far as pets as gifts go, I’ve never given nor received one. Not because of some well thought out plan, but that’s just how it’s gone. Of course, knowing what I know now, I don’t think I could ever recommend doing so. I’d be hard pressed to envision a set of circumstances that would warrant me doing so. Now, I will admit that, under certain circumstances, where it HAS been well thought out, and fully discussed among all, that it might be fine. But then, that…to me, no longer what I view as a the “pet as a gift” thing. To me, that implies the puppy under the Christmas tree surprise sort of thing. Maybe the problem with all that is my narrow view of what qualifies as a “gift”. Something to think about.

  7. widogmom says

    Great article. Thank you for pointing out that not everyone’s house turns into a bad Lifetime movie during the holidays. My husband and I don’t (usually) travel over Christmas, so for us it was lots of time off to spend with our new rescue dog. It was great to have the extra bonding/training time with her!

  8. Adrianne Mock says

    I think this is another ‘one size does NOT fit all’ issue. If someone is prepared to bring a new pet into the family at a holiday, birthday … why NOT? It has to be individual to the particular family (and DOG or cat). Breed, timing, desire for a pet all has to be known quantities.

    No surprises… because that rarely works out.

    I would not mind at all if someone surprised me with a red-tail black cockatoo … .

    Happy new year to you and thanks for all you do!!!

  9. says

    I feel about giving pets as gifts the way I feel about marriage proposals. Both should be a joint decision between all parties involved and everyone should already have discussed expectation and pitfalls well beforehand. I’m not saying the gift/proposal can’t be exciting or timed in a way that is unexpected, but if there’s any suspense about the response or any risk that the other person could decline.

    To me, the greatest cruelty in gifting a pet to someone who cannot care for it or who does not want it is that pets are not able to advocate for themselves and there is no way to explain to them what is happening. The idea that an animal could go from a shelter/breeder to a hiding place and then into a chaotic home and then be shipped off to a shelter seems terribly cruel and to be avoided at any cost.

  10. Joe says

    Nice shot of the tree! Re: Pets in cold weather, personal: My Lab Cocoa seems to be OK with the cold, at least if it’s moderate, and there is a warm house/car handy for afterwards. She is really good about going outside to “do her business” and then coming back in when called. Maybe I’m just lucky.

  11. Jennie says

    I have been a giver twice to the same person, my mother. The first case was some time after my mother had lost her beloved Sheltie, Royal. It had been many months and my brother and I (both still at home) had been testing the waters skillfully… listening carefully to her replies and gauging that she was getting close to ready. She had fallen in love with Poms after seeing the one win Westminster and had in fact already decided after reading up on them that her next dog would be a Pom. Her birthday was coming up and my brother and I found a breeder ahead of time with perfect timing! We left the house on a story of a day trip to the cities… well, we WERE going there… just a bit further! When we came back we had a ‘special’ Avon box on our hands and told her that her Avon had arrived. She looked perplexed! The day was wrong for a delivery. We just shrugged and told her she might want to check it out then. When I set the box in her lap there was a scratching sound. Inside the box was 8 week old little Fizzgig (we named him what we knew she had selected already from the Dark Crystal film). My mom melted! It was the right time, and the best birthday present ever for her. She adored Fizzy to his dying day this last year (he was 13 years old). Now, we had made certain she wanted him and was ready for him, that she was at the right place in Royal’s mourning to accept another dog into her heart. Then again, we are a dog household!

    The second gifting came a few years later, this was the Christmas right before my marriage (well known at this time!) I had a dog, a Sheltie named Calypso, who was close to Fizzgig the Pom. Knowing I would be moving out towards the end of next year I began tactically quizzing mom about another dog to keep her and Fizz company. Learned of course she was thinking about another Pom, maybe a female this time. Yes, this took place over months of time. My fiance (now husband) and I hooked up with a relative of his who had a litter of Poms… on a cold day in winter we zipped across the state and into another and returned with Taliesin, a sweet little female. We arrived at home (as planned) when Mom was out on errands, when she returned there was an object downstairs with a blanker over it. I had placed Tali inside Calypso’s old dog crate. My mother stood at the top of the steps and was perplexed. When she pulled up the blanket she was thrilled to find an early Christmas gift. We are a fairly quiet family, so the holidays were no trouble bringing in a pup. Taliesin and Fizzgig were the best of friends, and she is a treasure for my mother and at this point the only live-in companion to my mother.

    I believe that both of these cases worked because we had been tactful of the timing, and selected the proper desired breed. I would never simply give someone a pet on the whim. Nor would I do so directly after the loss of a pet. I have experienced that myself and know it takes time for the heart to heal. I have a multi-dog household because I enjoy the number of relationships, but also in hopes that I will not suddenly have the void of no pawsteps in my home.

  12. kabbage says

    My parents, somewhat grudgingly, gave me a Sheltie puppy when I was 13 years old. He was my Christmas present that year. I know they weren’t thrilled with the idea of another body in the house, but 4 of their 6 children were mostly (college) or totally (post-college) out of the house. He lived with them for 14.5 years as he stayed there when I was in college and afterward and was the only dog they ever owned in their 50 years of marriage. We compromised on breed — I wanted a collie after years of reading Albert Payson Terhune books but they wanted something smaller — and my mom said after raising 4 daughters she did not want any more estrogen in the house so we got a male.

    Flint came home a week before Christmas so we all adjusted to stepping over barriers into the kitchen that year. One good thing for my parents? Until I went to college I was responsible for plugging in the coffee as of the second morning we had the puppy. My dad went down to plug in the coffee the first morning in bare feet without turning on the kitchen light. Turns out the puppy had gotten out of his box and left some surprises :-)

    Overall I’d say we did okay raising Flint and my parents were okay owning him after I left home. I would never have considered getting them another dog, though, as I don’t think I ever heard them mention missing him.

  13. Trisha says

    To Gordon, who lives west of me and in an apparent freezer: (No wait, it’s MUCH colder where he is than in a freezer.) I have little to say but 1) Oh wow. 2) Thank heavens you have Huskies and 3) I hope you have hot toddies too.

    To TB: The “gift” versus “surprise gift” distinction is a good one, thanks for making it. I didn’t read the A’s blog though as promoting pets as a “surprise under the tree,” more that the drumbeat that occurs before the holidays of “No Pets Ever as Gifts” needs examination.

    To Jes: Thanks for telling us your story of a gift gone bad. I am so sorry you have to carry the burden of regret. I hope you can lay it down and remember that you did the best you could at the time. We all have things we regret about how we have treated animals… one of mine is not reporting a clear case of animal abuse when I found a little Beagle bitch in misery. I’ve never forgotten her, but tried to use it as motivation to speak up when I can. Perhaps that’s the gift they give us: information to help us navigate a clearer path in the future.

    And Jennie, I love your stories about your mom. I agree that timing and the right dog were the keys to make it work. Lucky Mom!

  14. Laura says

    My sister gave my mother a Lhasa Apso puppy as a surprise gift .My mother loved animals and we had owned a dog in the past , but my Dad didn’t like having a dog around. They didn’t follow the rules ( a lot like his kids, come to think of it). Still the dog was loved and lived a good 15 years, but it did cause strife between my parents when the dog would get on the furniture or not listen to my dad (the dog was cute but I don’t think he ever even learned how to sit on cue, never mind the far wordier instructions my engineer father would give him!) My mother made it clear that she didn’t want another dog after that, not because she wouldn’t enjoy one, but because my dad was such a pain about it. And in fairness to my father, it wasn’t that he didn’t like the dog, he was the one who gave it treats at dinner, he just didn’t want to live with one.

  15. Barb says

    Happy New Year Trish: We adopted my son’s Belgian Shepherd when he found he couldn’t keep her and his girlfriend’s Lab/Rotweiler cross in an apartment. Ewok turned out to be our soul dog. Unfortunately she passed away at 6 despite all our efforts and those of the vets at the Vet College in Guelph. It broke our hearts and I still think of her and get teary eyed. However, we now live with a beautiful diva – an Australian Shepherd. She’s my daughter’s dog (she lives with us too) and since we’re retired we spend a lot of time with Zanzi. She’s the light of my life. I also look after my son’s German Shepherd/Border Collie mix 5 days a week – they’re both laying here right now at my feet – they know I just made tuna brownies. Anyway, none of these dogs was a gift per se although we seem to have a lot to do with their care. As much as I love dogs I can’t imagine how I’d react to receiving one as a surprise gift. And giving one at Christmas time still seems a little iffy to me.
    On the weather front – here in Ontario Canada we’re having days of -20C and colder with the wind chill factor. However Saturday it’s supposed to go up to +2C….downright balmy.

  16. says

    I gave a dog to my mom too. She was a widow in her early seventies living alone in a big house, & she was definitely a dog person who had dogs all her life. About six months after her last dog died we got her a surprise pup for Christmas. Her reaction seemed a little muted. Still, she & Rosy the Brittany did well, going everywhere together, walking a lot, & I believed my mom when she said she was really glad to have the company of another dog. Then after about two years she admitted that she had been thinking about selling the house & moving into independent living, where dogs weren’t allowed. She’d had that in mind for a while, possibly before we gave her Rosy. The family who bought the house took the dog, but my mom later said that didn’t work out well & she didn’t want to talk about it. There was guilt all around. I’m still so sorry I didn’t take Rosy. I probably could have. It haunts me, & I’m sure it was a charged issue for my mother until she died.

  17. Margaret McLaughlin says

    Never been given a cat or dog, but when I was in high school (back in the dark ages) I was given an iguana by one friend, & a guinea pig by another. The iguana was not particularly welcome–I like critters with fur, tho’ I did my best to take good care of him, & thought I was ever-so-clever for naming him Ignacius. The other friend knew that I wanted a guinea pig, since I was starting college in the fall, & wanted an animal I could keep in a dorm room.
    I agree there needs to be clarification on whether “gift” means surprise, or if it means paying for an animal the giftee has already chosen. I have “given” dogs to people–career-changed service dogs I had raised, but the people involved knew they were coming, already loved them, & in one case had been saying for months, “If she doesn’t make it, can I have her, please, please?” 3 of my career-changes have gone to first-time ddog owners, which is about as good as it gets, since they start off with a well-bred, well-trained, & well-socialized dog that doesn’t usually have the baggage that can accompany a rescue dog. Win/win. And even a win for me, since even tho’ I raised the puppies to be guide dogs & am sad when they don’t make it, being a much-loved pet is not a bad second.

  18. Sarah A says

    I think your advice about pets as gifts is spot on, and I’m going to share this post, since I got into some arguments with people about the “research” alleging that pets as gifts were a good idea. (my own take being the same as yours… good idea, IF everyone is on board with the idea)
    I haven’t really given or received a pet as a gift, though one of my Staffordshire Bull Terriers was given to me by her breeder in December, so she joked that the puppy was a Christmas gift. She was a gift only in that I didn’t pay for her, though. I do know that same person has gifted her parents with a Border Terrier puppy, which was very successful, but she did know that her parents wanted a new dog, and has always been available to keep the dog for her parents if they want to travel.

  19. Robin Jackson says

    As I’ve mentioned, both my parents are Ph.d psychologists, and so were 3 of the 4 godfathers, mostly animal behaviourists. We lived in a semirural area, a couple of acres, chickens and horses. My experiences growing up were the opposite of most people’s–we got LOTS of pets as gifts, often exotic species which would no longer be legal.

    Let’s see, among them: an armadillo, a grass snake, a mud turtle, crawfish, tree shrews, a squirrel monkey, butterfly boxes, hermit crabs, a golden squirrel, earthworms, ant farms WITH queens, 4 or 5 kinds of frogs, toads, several kinds of turtles and tortoises, California king snakes, both old and new world chameleons, beetles, geckos, and many more.

    And that was in addition to what our family considered “regular” pets: dogs, cats, horses, chickens, ducks, boa constrictors, doves, finches, hooded rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits of several varieties.

    Yes, we were THAT family. Any of the godfathers might, at any time, send something in a crate from some far off place labeled LIVE ANIMAL. My mother was supposed to be told ahead of time what it would be, but wasn’t always, and sometimes “frog” turned out to be “snake” or “turtle” or whatever happened to be “interesting” at the moment the crate was sent.

    They were all well cared for, much loved, and given considerable time and attention. We had one greenhouse just for the reptiles, two ponds for the amphibians who could tolerate California weather, an outdoor lanai with trees and a running stream and benches for the people and perches and feeders for the birds.

    We were expected to know their genus, species, and individual name. What they ate, what temperature they liked, how to handle them (or not). We cleaned their habitats and brought them interesting toys. We drew pictures and wrote essays about them. We trained them with what today would be called clicker training, although then we usually used lights as markers. We had a small refrigerator in the garage with earthworms and mealworms and other things I think best left unmentioned.

    These days we know better, and exotics are left in places where they aren’t considered exotic, and of the four of us now grown children I don’t think anyone has ever had more than 8 or 9 pets at a time.

    But back then it was just part of our family life. And most of them arrived as gifts. Assuming my own children someday make me a grandmother, I expect I will, on occasion, gift a pet. But it will depend on the child, the family, the household, and the likelihood of success all around.

    It should always be a thoughtful decision, I think, but if my own family’s experience is any measure, I don’t see any reason why it can’t often go well.

    Robin J.

  20. Trisha says

    I’m reading your stories with such interest. Susan S, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I’m sorry that you have regrets about your well motivated actions, but am sure that by sharing your story you’ve helped someone else. Thanks again. And, in hopes it helps, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a regret about an animal, at least no one who truly cares about them.

    Robin J: I just want to know when the TV show is coming out based on your family!

  21. Beth says

    Some things ASPCA has done recently make me wonder….. It’s a terrible, terrible idea to give a pet as a gift unless the person who will be its primary caretaker is aware the pet is coming, wants the pet, helped choose the pet in some way, and is prepared to take it at that exact time. Hardly what most people think of when they think of “giving a pet as a gift.”

    IF parents or relatives want to “gift” a pet to a minor child whose parents are on board and consent to the pet’s arrival, that’s fine. I got my nephew (then a child) a gerbil and all accompanying items once, but his mom had been asked, had given her ok, and was willing to help care for it.

    Even those close to us don’t always share their plans and secrets. What if we gift a pet and (as relayed in some stories above) someone was planning on moving, or traveling? What if we gift a pet to someone who has a serious illness or pregnancy that they have not yet disclosed? What if we gift someone a pet based on several conversations we’ve had and the person has since decided that is not the pet they want at all but hasn’t yet told us? The list goes on.

    Christmas for most is a bad time of year to bring in even a planned-for puppy. In much of the country it is very hard to socialize a puppy in the dead of winter, since it can be hard to find enough people to socialize with. Even in areas where the weather is more mild, the days are short and the season is a bit chaotic, so housebreaking can be extra tough. Even older adopted dogs should ideally be brought in when the routine is more typical.

    A cat might be ok because usually we are told to confine a cat to one small part of the house for a few days to a couple weeks anyway, and by the time the cat is ready to move around things should be settled. But again, that would be with all the stipulations above.

    I think the message should still be out there that pets are not good gifts. Those who are already heavily involved with animals and very knowledgeable, who can make it work with all the stipulations above, already know that their case is an exception and don’t need encouragement to go ahead with their plans.

  22. Beth says

    Regarding cold weather: we are about to drop below zero here. Of my two, Maddie is ok until it hits the single digits, and then she starts the paw-lifts. Even in milder weather, if she crosses treated roads and then walks in snow, she will get ice balls and lift her feet, but a quick rub sets her right.

    Jack on the other hand is just one step removed from those huskies. I’ve had him out in zero F temps and been shivering myself in down coats and long johns, but he just wants to stay out. If I take off a glove and feel his ears, they are warm. Snow does not melt on him so he comes in bone dry. His coat is amazing. However, when it’s in the single digits, for the safety of the people (us) we don’t take our normal walks. Last time we had an extended cold snap, he figured out after about 36 hours that we were going right back inside as soon as he pottied. He normally goes as soon as he gets outside, but once he realized no walk would be forthcoming, he started holding it so he could stay outside longer. No fun for me…..

  23. says

    I read the ASPCA blog about this almost a week ago, and I have been thinking about it over the holidays. Then, two friends were given puppies for Christmas. One (by no means a close friend) was given a husky, he was trying to re-home it before new years. The other had wanted to rescue a Toller for the past several years, she had even contacted several rescues in the weeks before Christmas. Then her parents gave her a golden doodle. I have no doubt she will love the dog she was given, but it wasn’t really what she wanted.

    Fail on both accounts for dogs as gifts.

  24. Gordon says

    I’ll lay the whole “cold” thing to bed after this. Yes, I am west (northwest, to be exact) of Trisha in rural NW Wisconsin. Due to my previous career, I have lived in a LOT of places, but mostly at high altitude in Colorado or (several times) in Alaska (my previous employer WAS Alaska Airlines, after all). Although I never lived in the bitter cold of the Alaskan Interior, I did visit there often, and have experienced the ice fog of -40 (C or F…that’s the one place the two scales meet). Something about the ice fog at that temperature…you could taste it. Literally. It was, as best as I can describe it, metallic tasting. I guess it was the type of particulate matter that was the nuclei for the condensation. But, while at the high altitude of the Rockies or living in coastal Alaska, or even in the 6 years of living here in Wisconsin, I never experienced prolonged spells of bitter cold like we’ve had here for the past month. Currently, at ~9:30 pm, it is -18. We get something of a break tomorrow through Saturday, with the bitter cold returning Saturday night. The lows again drop to between -20 and -25 with the highs not even making it above -10 for Sunday and Monday. Just brutal. And the temps here at the house are typically lower than what is forecast. We sit up against a wooded hillside behind us, and between two other hills on either side. Out front, it is fairly level for a while before sloping downward a short distance with yet another hill across the way. I think, sitting between the hills as we do, the cold air pools around the house…when it is still. But the hills also tend to make it breezy quite often. Great for mosquito control in the summer. But, as I mentioned before, my Malamutes (Alaskan Malamutes..not Huskies…they get a bit touchy if someone calls one of them a’s kind of an inside joke…no offense intended or taken) live for the snow and cold. It is like someone flipped a switch, as far as their activity level goes, when the weather starts cooling in the fall. They emerge from their seasonal state of lethargy and are rarin’ to go.

    One thing I want to mention that is actually on topic here regarding giving a pet as a gift. I have often seen, and in fact it happened with my own brother and his daughter, parents (or other family member) getting a puppy as a gift for a child. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, and the child may, in all likelihood, have been begging for a pet for some time. But, what is often overlooked is the fact that the puppy is a living, breathing, eating, peeing, pooping, etc., etc. animal that can live for 12, 13 or even 15/16 years. And, by that time, the child has grown up, gone to college or otherwise left the house. Does she take her dog with her? What will be her living arrangements? Will she have a roommate? What type of dwelling will she be in? Or, will the dog be left behind with her parents in the only home it has ever known? Will the parents be up to the challenge of caring for the dog? Often, this type of “decision” to get the pet in the first place may only look at the immediate future with something along the lines of “this is going to be YOUR responsibility to care for it, feed it, clean up after it…”, being the only points of discussion. Years down the line doesn’t seem to enter into it. In the case of my brother’s family, his daughter did, in fact, grow up (imagine that) and go away to college. Fortunately, he and his wife fell in love with the dog, too. And they were, at least, prepared to properly care for the it. Whether or not this was the plan from the get-go, I couldn’t say. But, I doubt it. In this case, the dog got lucky. As we all know, that is not always the case.

    I have seen people come to puppy class with their impulse buy (very often this equates to a pet given as a gift, as many of the issues are the same) pet store puppy that the college roommates thought was “cute” and (evidently) thought would be a good addition to their “home”. But again, this pet store puppy is going to live, hopefully, for 12+ years. Where will each of them be in 12 years? What will their life situations be? Can they even reasonably predict this? What happens to their dog when they are no longer a “they”? Is this another shelter dog in the making?

    This entire issue is, obviously, a complicated and vastly important one. And it is very good to see it being championed here. Hopefully it will lead to all of us continuing to ask the important questions and seek the important answers.

  25. LunaGrace says

    I didn’t realize when I bought my first Siberian Husky (the minute I graduated from high school and moved into my own place – Mom didn’t allow dogs, thought they were “dirty”) that their prey drive was so sky-high I wouldn’t be able to own another, smaller critter as long as I had them. Which turned out to be the next 30 years. I never gave it too much thought as I considered myself a “dog person” rather than a “cat person” anyway.

    When my children were young, they’d periodically want to bring home one of the kittens in the box that were being given away FREE at the feed store or one of the kittens that the neighbor’s barn cat had given birth to. Always with disasterous results. I got so tired of mourning and burying kittens who had gotten too trusting with the Siberians that I put my foot down and said “NO CATS!” Until the LAST little-est, fiestiest black kitten ended up on our doorstep. My 8 year old daughter begged and pleaded, and I finally relented with the condition that she’d be responsible for the cat’s life, and burying, if it came to that. Miraculously, this small cat learned how to puff up, spit and swear loudly enough to put even my husband’s 110 pound Labs on the run with her chasing behind. She also learned how to stay out of the way of the Siberians.

    Years went by and this ferocious little ball of black fur had one litter of kittens before we thought to spay her so, of course, my daughter wanted to keep one of the kittens. Who also learned from his mother how to command the respect of all the dogs, Siberian Husky or retriever, and came by the name of “Slash” (taken from the Peanuts comic strip) honestly. However, Life marches forward and so did my daughter — right into the military. Tho’ the black one had passed away, her son remained, and it would be that one that would have to be left with me while Daughter was on active duty.

    I hadn’t really developed a relationship with either of the cats as they’d pretty much lived in my daughter’s room while she was at school, slept there as well, and were accompanied outdoors by her while I was engaged with the dogs, feeding or training or showing or brushing or cleaning up after. So I didn’t know what sort of creatures cats really WERE. But I was left with a rudimentary set of instructions on care and feeding of Slash and a promise I’d have to keep him only until military service was completed. Not a minute longer.

    Within 3 weeks of my daughter’s leaving for boot camp, Slash was sleeping on the bottom of my bed. Well, I grudgingly thought, that’s okay. But no sleeping on the pillows! And gradually, Slash and I worked out a relationship. He breakfasted every morning, punched his timeclock and left the house to do his “rounds” of the property, dispatching mice, gophers, and other varmints as he went. A very Useful Cat. Returning home to nap the afternoon away, he had his dinner and took his evening bath as we watched the evening news and pursued our night time activities. Then I turned out the lights and asked if he would be joining me in the bedroom, which he always did. A nice, cozy, companionable relationship.

    Years later, my daughter finished her active duty commitment and returned home to get her cat. Whereupon I told her “Go find yourself another cat, this one’s staying here!” She didn’t know whether to be disappointed that she couldn’t re-claim her cat or elated that I’d become a Cat Person while her back was turned. A few months later, Slash began throwing up everything he ate. Off to the vet we went where it was discovered he had an inoperable tumor wrapped around his lower esophagus-upper stomach. The prognosis was not good, but I could offer Slash canned food with more and more water mixed in until he got to the point where he was either drinking his meals or in a great deal of pain.

    And then it hit me. I CAN’T be without a cat! We had develoepd such a nice relationship, different from the ones I had with the Siberians, but nice in another way, that I just didn’t feel Life would be complete without a cat companion in it. Eventually, I found and adopted both BaileyCat, who is my “heart kitty” and I could not imagine Life without her, and Baxter George who is almost a clone of Slash tho’ he has long passed away.

    So the unintended and unwanted “gift” of a cat left behind when family dynamics changed turned out to be a Life-changing and very paws-itive experience for me that I would not have missed for the world.

  26. Robin Jackson says

    A friend once described our household as a cross between CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN and THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Close enough. :)

    I once gave my dad a Siamese cat for his birthday. We had several dogs and cats already, so this wasn’t that surprising, except my dad had never really been a cat man. He preferred dogs and horses. But for some reason this particular cat struck me as being exactly what my dad needed. The kitten apparently agreed, because he took to following my dad all around the house, in spite of the various other cats, dogs, and people around. Like many Siamese, he was a very talkative cat, and would join in when my dad sang “Waltzing Matilda,” which my dad thought was very amusing. They became fast friends, and in the evening when my dad would watch the news, the Siamese would sit next to him and they would have deep conversations about the day’s events.

    “Cat!” my dad would say, “Did you see that? What’s your opinion?” And the cat would always have an answer.

    That went on for many years, and the cat left a legacy, as my dad now says a house without a cat seems very empty. When my youngest brother moved into his own place after years of living with roommates, it was my dad who said, “Well, you ought to at least get a cat.” And so he did.

  27. Kat says

    Occasionally, I toy with the idea of gifting my father with a dog because watching him interact with Ranger or my brother’s dog, Sandy, it’s clear that my father misses having a dog and would like to have a well mannered dog around. However, I won’t because it is equally clear that my mother would not like to have a dog again. She likes her ‘granddogs’ well enough but she’s happy to see them go home again. Dogs are more work than a cat and she’s content with just a cat.

    I can imagine circumstances where an animal would be a welcome gift but I don’t see those circumstances when I look at my folks. A pet needs to be welcomed not merely tolerated by everyone that it will live with. My father would welcome a dog but my mother would at best tolerate it. For myself, I’d be delighted if someone paid the adoption fees for the pet I chose but I’d be reluctant to let anyone else choose for me.

  28. Frances says

    When I was 11 I set my heart on a donkey as a birthday present. I really wanted a pony, but decided that while our garden was definitely too small for a pony, it just might support a donkey … I so nearly convinced myself that it was hard to appear suitably happy with the chemistry set I got instead.

    The next year I set my sights rather lower, and simply stipulated something alive. That meant my mother was able to choose, and the siamese kitten who arrived on my bed that morning was the best present ever! My parents were well aware of the probability that they would be the ones caring for her when I was at college, or travelling, or living in a flat that didn’t allow animals, so that was never a problem. She was my constant companion through my teenage years, and whenever I was home or could wangle her into wherever I was living, and when I had to leave her I knew she was loved and well cared for.

    Many years later as a student I was given a hamster – a welcome, if expensive, present – I had to go out and buy cage, bottles, food and all the other paraphernalia. A week later it escaped and vanished under the floorboards, never to be seen again. My housemates very kindly bought another, and slipped it into the cage to be a lovely surprise. It would have helped if they had realised the cage had two doors, and closed both… I never even saw it. I like to think that in a small, damp house in the back streets of Hull there is a thriving colony of wild hamsters…

  29. says

    Most of the rescue groups I’ve been associated with over the past 15 years have not allowed adoptions if the pet would be a gift. As the adoptions manager for a new rescue that was my initial response. But this year my thinking was challenged, both by the ASPCA’s study and talking with other shelters who had had success with allowing pets as gifts. This was our first ‘gift’ season and we did more adoptions in December than any other month this year. We didn’t change our screening process, but we did have excellent opportunities to talk with people about the pros/cons of adding a pet or gifting a pet. I have two favorite ‘pet as a gift’ experience this season. The first was when a couple, who had an adolescent lab mix, came in looking for a pup for their nephew. The nephew had been wanting a pup, his parents were on board, so the aunt & uncle were on the pup search. They met one of our pups, a lab mix named Lucy. After spending almost an hour with her they decided to adopt. When I went to talk about ‘gifting’ the woman explained: “Oh no, Lucy’s going home with us. We love her! She’d be a great companion for our lab. Our nephew can come visit Lucy, but she’s ours.” The second, a man came into the store to meet one of our adoptable dogs. He’d been looking for that ‘just right’ dog for his wife, who’d been wanting a dog. He met Kali, a shy foxhound mix. Not certain if she was that ‘just right’ pup, I suggested that he take her for a walk…down the street, around the corner to his house, and let his wife meet Kali. The surprise factor would still be there and his wife could have a say in the adoption. 45 minutes later the couple walked back – and Kali had a new home. Our screening didn’t change, we had an more opportunities to educate people about pets as gifts and all of our dogs found homes for the holidays. As a rescue we now have the task of following up and providing support for our adopters as they adjust to their new companions. I am convinced that through pre adoption counseling and post adoption follow up, that ‘pets as gifts’ can work just as successfully as any other adoption or pet purchase.

  30. LisaW says

    It’s hard not to talk about the cold. Here in NW Vermont, the high yesterday was -5F, and the low tonight is predicted to be -20F. But, since it’s cold and most of us are indoors for a while, the next best thing to being outside is to have a spirited discussion about the relevance or irrelevance of wind chill. A friend and I are warming up with a lively debate — I say it’s passe and should be tossed, she says it matters and should be taken into account. At least we’re warm and have cozy homes and can banter electronically. Both our dogs are not impressed with the cold, quick out to pee or poop and back in as fast as they can go. They’ve been cooped up for a while now and it’s starting to show!

    Many years ago, I was given a pup as a gift from my brother when I was maybe 12 or 13. He had moved out of the house but thought this crazy, lab-mix puppy from an unintentional litter his friend’s dog had would be a great gift. Such a bad idea. I was not mature enough to raise and train a wild puppy and my parents didn’t know much about training dogs — they were from the old school of stern dog/master relationship. Nor were they keen on having a second dog. My mom had a miniature poodle that she loved even though that dog was a serial biter (shortly after the lab x pup came to live with us, the poodle met an untimely demise). In those days, dogs were let out after breakfast and came back for dinner. So the gift turned into a 90-pound, neighborhood roamer with few manners and fewer skills. I still regret that I didn’t take more responsibility for at least trying to work with him; we did enroll in dog training classes but we got kicked out because he was so rambunctious. I think he could have had a better life if I had been able to give him more guidance and companionship. As a teenager, I didn’t know how to ask for that or that I even needed it. My parents’ house was more a place for him to lay his hat than call home for fourteen years.

  31. Trisha says

    To Beth: Thanks for pointing out that the word ‘gift” means different things to different people. I don’t automatically associate “surprise” with “gift” at all. I can think of many gifts that don’t have the element of surprise in them. Perhaps we should simply be saying “No Pets as Surprise Gifts” to be crystal clear.

    To Gordon: Argh! There must have been a gremlin somewhere that snuck in and changed Malamute to Husky when I wrote my response to your first comment. Please tell your Malamutes that clearly I have been hacked, because surely I would never make such a foolish mistake… Re the cold: Wait, that’s it! My brain was so cold it couldn’t think anymore? No, wait, it is clearly much colder where you are. Question: Is your weather still only a “two dog night” if they are northern dogs?

    To Frances: Ouch, sorry about the hamsters!

    Loving all your stories, both of when a gifted pet works out for everyone, and when it doesn’t. So far it does seem that indeed, going back to other comments and the original post, that “expected” versus “surprised” is the key.

  32. EmilySHS says

    Personally I would be horrified to get a pet as a surprise gift… and when I explain why, I’ve found that we can head off a lot of trouble at the shelter. For me, half–maybe more than half–of the fun of getting a new pet is the anticipation, the process of choosing the right pet. If I’m going to have a relationship for 12-15 years, I want to pick the partner, not be forced into an “arranged marriage”–an analogy that seems to resonate pretty well with folks. I also tell parents if they play their cards right and turn it into a family project, they can milk the excitement value for months with the kids. So our first recommendation is the tried-and-true Gift Basket method, and we’ll even help folks put the basket together. A basket with a collar, toys, food bowls, grooming stuff, and a Gift Certificate for “Your New Pet,” all tied up with a pretty bow, can be given on the Special Day (birthday, holiday, etc.) Then comes the fun over the next few weeks of finding that perfect pet. Most folks are thrilled by the idea, which allows them to give a “surprise” while still allowing the giftee to have a choice about the pet–or a chance to decline a pet.

    That said, I’ve also found that most of the parents looking for a “Christmas pet” aren’t impulse shopping, at least in our area. They have been planning on adding a pet to the family for quite some time–they’re just thinking if they do it during the Holidays 1) they can make it extra special and 2) they often have some time off work to get the new pet settled in. Once I figured that out, I’ve made an effort to try to “score” a litter of family friendly puppies before the Holidays (checking with all our AC agencies, other rescues etc.) This year, I lucked out on a litter of stunning Lab/Shep pups and 3 families went home ecstatic with new pups and a positive shelter adoption experience. All had been planning on getting a pup… the timing was just serendipitous. And it goes without saying–it’s always got to be the right home, the right pet, the right match. But if it’d be a good adoption in Spring or Summer, it’s a good adoption on Christmas. :)

  33. says

    Here in the Netherlands it’s the warmest 3rd of January since 1901: +13C and we had a thunderstorm this evening. Weird weather… We are going on holiday coming sunday to the Alps, hoping to do some skijoring with our Sib Huskies but…. very little snow and prediction of +8c. So please, can we have some of your cold and snow?!

    I got a hamster once for my birthday, very happy with it! My mother had said ‘no more pets’ because I was always so sad when they died, but my best friend convinced my mother and I was so happy. A grey longhaired hamster named Shoopy. He lived very happily for I think 4 years, kept me company when doing my homework.
    Yep, one of the best gifts ever 😉 but I was old enough to take care of him myself.

    As for the painfull paws; I put a bit of vaseline on the paws, prevents forming of ice crystals and works very well. Off course my dogs LOVE snow and cold, although right now they have shedded their winter coat. Well, not so strange, there are still ticks around, daisy’s in bloom, mice to hunt…. We want winter!

  34. Beth says

    Trisha, you are right that “surprise” and “gift” don’t have to go together.

    However, whenever there was a campaign to NOT give pets as gifts, the campaign always seemed to me to target the surprise type of gift.

    I’m not sure there ever was a campaign that said “Don’t offer to pay for a planned-for puppy that the recipient is going to pick out themselves whenever the litter is available.” :-) So there is no need to re-examine a campaign that never existed, if you see what I mean.

    What alarmed me about the ASPCA blog was when it said: “The survey further revealed no difference in attachment based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance.” and followed up with “Pets should only be given as gifts to people with the ability, means and available time to care for one responsibly.”

    There is nothing in the whole blog that gives any indication that they frown on “surprise” gifts. Indeed, having the ability and means to care for a pet does not mean that one wants that particular pet at all. If I have my heart set on an agility and hiking companion and someone surprises me with an English Bulldog, no one will be happy even though I have the means and ability and time…..

  35. Robin Jackson says


    You make a very good point, and I think much of it comes down to the fact that “dog” just isn’t enough of a descriptor when it comes to what makes a good match. Let alone “pet.”

    Other people have commented previously on someone who wanted one type of dog and was gifted another. Someone who loves a stereotypical sheltie may just not know what to do with a lab even if they can physically manage both. Or vice versa.

    I like most types of dogs, but when it comes to the ones who would fit comfortably into our household, it’s a fairly limited set. I suspect that’s true of many people.

  36. Marjorie says

    I was a horse crazy kid and in my teens I hung around a vet helping out at the office and on the farm in exchange for access to her horses. One day she told me it was time that I have my own horse. I was 15 and did not come from a family that could afford the upkeep of a horse. I went home and pleaded with my parents to allow me have the gift of a horse. The deal was that I would work for the horses board. This put my parents in a very uncomfortable spot, but they did finally agree. The veterinarian took me to a PMU sale and purchased me a 3 month old filly. I loved my horse and learned a great deal from her, but she was a gift that drastically altered my life and I often wonder what would have been had my family and I not been gifted with such a big responsibility. There was much gained in the experience, but also much given up in my young life.

  37. Emma says

    A nice alternative is a gift certificate from a shelter for adoption of a dog or cat, chosen by the gift recipient when he or she is ready. :-)

  38. Trisha says

    Re Marjorie’s story: I worked weekends at a dude ranch in Arizona all during high school, and took care of some of the horses during the summer when the owner and wranglers went back to their homes in Idaho and Montana. My senior year, the cowboy of my adolescent dreams (Karl, who was in Marlboro commercials, remember them?) came back with a black quarter horse mare he’d won in a poker game. He wanted to give it to me in thanks for taking care of all the horses over the summer, at absolutely no cost to me if I agreed to let other wranglers use the horse for guiding if they needed to. My ultimate dream of a life time had finally come true! I was beyond thrilled. . . until my father said no. No, he didn’t want the liability. No, I would be leaving for college the next year. No, because deep down, he was terrified of horses. I always loved my father, he wasn’t perfect but he loved his children very much, but I never really forgave him for that until he was on his death bed, poor man. I guess this is my “gift in reverse” story. Thanks for reminding me of it Marjorie, just another story to remind us all of the impact of animals in our lives.

  39. liz says

    Happy New Year!
    There are really many ways of looking at the issue of pets as gifts. One way is that which is taking place here, likely similar to Weiss’ study, where the “life consequences” of gifting pets are examined. This should inform shelters’ perspectives, which comes with other considerations beyond what is typically deliberated over by owners, (one of the reasons I’m grateful the conversation is taking place).
    Enter discussion of “shelter consequences.” From a shelter standpoint, “No Pets as Gifts” is an adoption restriction. The degree to which adoption restrictions are put in place and enforced with no questions asked varies greatly. Depending on a shelter or rescue’s situation, many restrictions such as “no adoptions without a fenced yard,” which often result in obtaining pets elsewhere, overcrowding, etc., are being reexamined. What impact would flexibility have? Where should shelters allow for leniency?
    Shelters asking these questions are likely striving for improvement and not operating on autopilot. If someone wants to give a pet as a gift and displays preparedness and responsibility in the choice, a shelter should consider being a viable source for that gift. That being said, all of the horror stories of pets as gifts gone wrong should not be swept under some giant rug… and I don’t think they are in “shelter culture.” To the contrary, the horror stories are what make this recent discussion controversial. No one wants the broken heart and elevated cortisol (especially a dog’s) that occurs when there is a return to the shelter/rescue. Not to mention the logistical concerns. But all of these factors are what makes placement such an intriguing, multifaceted issue that requires ongoing evaluation. I personally think the gift certificate is a great option! And I commend everyone looking at the issue thoroughly and responsibly.

  40. Marjorie says

    Trish, your father was a wise man. The responsibility and expense of a horse at that age ended up in many promising opportunities not taken. I loved my horse and needed to prove that by making major sacrifices. I had to work extra jobs so that school, friends and other activities suffered. It was a bitter sweet experience, and if I had to do it over again knowing what I know now, I’m not sure I would have gone the same route.

  41. Cheryl says

    I was given a dog by my husband as a suprise gift (in the 70s) and I loved it. I think what you wrote is wonderful and should be followed. One of the criteria that was met was I wanted a dog. I had wanted one for a long time. I wanted a Golden Retriever . He went to the shelter and came home with a wild, turned in by her owners for ecavating her backyard, young, Irish Setter. He loved her color, which was a beautiful mahogany. We named her Red Lady, called her Red. She was, to put it mildly, wild, she ran all over the house, I don’t think she’d ever been in a house, tried to jump out car windows if left open, bolted out doors & she was fast. I knew, if I did not get this dog under control, she could not live with us like this. First thing we did was to take her to safe places (several times a day) and let her run, lots of walks and then I enrolled in my first dog training class, which started a life time of working with dogs. I worked every spare moment I had with her so we could live together. She ended up being a wonderful companion to my entire family. People wanted to know where I had gotten her, as if she came calm and a pleasure to be in her company. Red died of cancer and I’ve been fortunate to have had a steady stream of wonderful dogs in my life, but Red was a wonderful gift and taught me that learning to communicate with another species was miraclous. I will always be thankful for having her in my life.

  42. Frances says

    I did get my pony eventually – a long term loan while I was on a tropical island. Then I sort-of-adopted another mare, who dropped a foal a few months later, and found myself caring for a whole mini-herd! Somehow even in the most fantastic of my young, pony mad dreams I had never quite envisaged walking through an orchard of cacao trees to call the ponies home, or being pulled off the path so my pony could munch on wild sugar cane…

  43. Trisha says

    Ah, Marjorie, you missed the part where there would be no expenses to me or the family. The horse would live at the stable with the other horses, and be cared for by the stable. Basically, I was being given the chance to “have” a horse which I could ride whenever I wanted, but know it would be cared for by people I trusted. And I lived at the stable anyway on weekends, from dawn on Saturday to late that night, same for Sunday. So, so cost and no lost opportunities, except the chance to call her my own. However, I’m so sorry to hear though that you missed so many opportunities when you ended up with a horse long before you were ready, and I remain grateful that you have shared your story. Thanks again…. but now I’m curious. What kind of horse? Mine (or not mine) was a little black Quarter horse mare.

  44. Pat says

    I think I agree with your criteria for giving pets as gifts. I once worked with someone who had just built a house and had put in white wall to wall carpet. New Years eve the doorbell rang and there were her adult stepchildren with a Christmas present – a three month old Springer Spaniel puppy that my co-worker and husband were not expecting and didn’t want. I was thinking about getting a dog, went to meet him and fell in love with him. So things worked out well but I have no doubt that it would have been a lot different had I not taken Bailey. He was fairly high energy and had a talent for getting into things! He was a wonderful dog but would not have fit into the household he was “gifted” into.

  45. Ginger says

    After her divorce, and my sister and I were away to college, our family cat had to be put to sleep due to cancer. My mom complained for almost a year about how much she missed having a cat in the house, after my sister reclaimed her cat, who my mom had been looking after while my sister spent a year in school abroad. Then, when my mom found out my sister would be moving overseas for graduate school, she complained even more about how much she would miss not having a cat around, and she sometimes talked about how if she got another cat she would get a kitten so she could train it how she wanted.

    So, naturally, my sister and I got my mom a kitten last Christmas. (We also made sure that, if my mom truly didn’t want a cat, the kitten would still have a home with either of us). When we presented her with a wriggling, 12-week-old kitten on Christmas morning, she was shocked. Dismayed, even. But she kept the kitten, and I think he has been good for her, and was actually exactly what she needed. You see, my mom had major surgery this year, and I think her cat has helped her a lot. He snuggles with her when she’s not feeling well, and keeps her company when she can’t go out. I don’t think she’d trade him for the world.

  46. Beth says

    liz, I agree that shelter decisions and the decisions at the human end are two different things. I think that shelters should examine each situation individually before deciding if the adoption is a good one or not, regardless of the time of year.

    Personally, I think the “fenced yard required” restriction is the most counter-productive one I’ve ever heard. Our yard is not fenced. Our dogs get long walks every day (I would say we might miss, on average, 5 days a year due to weather— single-digit temps or driving rain that lasts for hours; if rain stops we’ll head out at 9pm instead of 5pm if that’s what it takes to get the walk in). I know many, many people with dogs and no fenced yards who make sure the dog gets plenty of walks. Indeed, we see them daily in the park by our house. Conversely, I personally know several people who finally got the fenced yard, and despite promises that the walks would continue, the walks dwindled down to something that was done in really nice weather only. Human nature being what it is, it’s so easy with the fenced yard to turn the dog loose to potty and be done with it.

    Knowing what I do about dogs, I think almost all of them, if given the choice between the fenced yard and the walks, would opt for the walks. In an ideal world, every dog would have both. But most of the people I know with fences don’t walk the dogs nearly as much as the average fenceless homeowner does. And the fact that many housing developments are very restrictive about fences means that many people CAN’T have a fence even if they could afford one. There are a tiny handful of breeds that absolutely need off-leash running almost daily for their sanity, but most of those can’t get up to speed in a small fenced yard anyway. For many dogs, the natural traveling gait is a trot, not a run, and these need off-leash running only occasionally to be happy.

  47. Gordon says

    Sorry in the delay getting back about this…but the Malamutes say thank you. Eve is good natured, no matter what (truly one of the most agreeable dogs I have ever met), but Atka can be somewhat particular about things (because he is so vocal, I play that up from time to time). He has a “trick” that we drag out on special occasions to demonstrate how he feels about being called a Husky. But, you get a lifetime pass. As far as the cold goes, I give up. Tonight is supposed to be in the neighborhood of -31 with a wind chill (although we have yet to have any real wind with this latest cold, but “they” keep promising it) approaching -60. That’s a three dog night regardless. Northern breed or otherwise. What’s worse, I have to drag myself out to pick up the wife at the MSP airport around 2 am because I was such a nice guy and offered to drop her off and pick her up this time. But the snow storm in the Northeast combined with her airline not faring so well with it all (she’s based at NY JFK) means she’s coming home at an un-Godly hour. Speaking of “Argh!”. :)

  48. Marjorie says

    Oh Trish, she was a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred Belgian cross with a flaxen mane and tail, a star, and one white foot. She matured to 16.2 and had incredible movement and great spirit. We had an amazing connection. She was one of the last shipments of PMU foals (pregnant mares urine – bred for estrogen for birth control pills) out of Quebec. They would use pretty decent Thoroughbred studs crossed with draft mares to produce a good hunter type riding horse. She was an absolute dream and I called her Zingara.

  49. Triangle says

    I have a ‘sort of gift’ dog story with a very unhappy ending. My father always wanted a large dog, my mother very much did not. When I was around 12, my dad found a mixed breed shepherd wandering the highway. He was able to locate the dog’s owners, but they said they no longer wanted her and so my father brought home a young, very large, and very much untrained dog.

    We had ‘Rain’ for maybe five months. My mother didn’t want her in the house, so she lived in our very large fenced yard. Since my father worked, my mother had the responsibility for actually taking care of Rain. To add…Rain was in no way a ‘bad’ dog…she was never aggressive, she was just BIG. One day I came home from school to find my mother in tears. She had been taken Rain out for a walk and lost hold of the leash, and Rain had vanished into the distance.

    I spent MONTHS searching for that dog. FINALLY mom admitted that she had recruited her brother and had driven Rain to a no-kill shelter while my father was at work and the kids were at school. My father still hasn’t forgiven her to this day.

    I think animals CAN be given as gifts very successfully, and I think the advice here is spot-on. If the pet is intended to be a gift for one member of the family, I think the others should be in on it so you know the support is there. In general, I don’t think any ‘hard’ rule works when it comes to adopting out pets…the individual circumstances should always be considered first. Setting hard rules simply ensures that more animals die in the shelter system. Our local shelter kills 85% of the cats who come in the door…but they won’t adopt a cat to anyone who plans to let them outside, will declaw, has existing pets who aren’t vaccinated, etc. Now, I keep my own cats indoors and would never declaw them…but I still would rather see a cat indoor/outdoors then dead. And my own cats are not vaccinated for valid medical reasons, but the shelter wouldn’t care about their individual requirements or needs if I tried to adopt another pet from them.

  50. HFR says

    I helped the wife of a close friend gift a black lab to her husband for his 40th birthday. It worked out really well, even tho they both had to move to London later and the dog ended up with his parents. They were supposed to get him back when they returned, but no way that was happening.

    I think the issue here is shelters operating at a disadvantage. To look at it from a brutal business point of view (altho I’m not suggesting dealing with living things is the same as a business), shelters were losing out on a marketing opportunity and a chance to move product. I’m being facetious, but I think the idea of “no gifting” needed to go away because with the multitude of dogs/cats in shelters, any chance of finding a good home is better than no chance. So in many cases, even if the gifting didn’t work out, at least the animal has a shot rather than a bleak future in the kennel or even euthanasia. I always think if you could ask a dog or cat: “Hey, want to take a chance?” I think most would say “Sure!”.

    Also, I’m a little worried about all the questions of “Where will you be in 12 years?”, etc. I think there are lot of children out there who wouldn’t have the joy of owning a pet if they had to ask what would happen to the pet when they went to college. I mean, most people say to wait until the child is old enough to be able to care for a pet. Let’s say that’s ages 7-10 years old. Well, if we have to ask about what would happen when they leave for college, then that may pretty much eliminate a lot of those kids getting pets, as in only 10 years they will be out of the house. In my case, yes, my dogs ended up with my parents who weren’t dog people. And they had to wait for them to pass before they could move out of their house into an apartment. But as I remember (it was a while ago!) that was just part of owning a dog. I’m pretty sure if I had to discuss that with my parents when we first got the dogs, there is no way they would have agreed.

    I just worry that pet stores and breeders (or some breeders anyway) have a big advantage in “moving” dogs as they are not held to as high of a bar of self-examination as some rescues and shelters. Anyway, a good discussion as usual. Thanks, Trish…beautiful photo too! It doesn’t even look real!

  51. Gordon says

    ” Setting hard rules simply ensures that more animals die in the shelter system.” If that doesn’t say, in one short sentence, more than others have said in entire books. And this can be said for virtually any area of dog training, behavior and responsible pet ownership.

  52. liz says

    Beth, I’m without fencing, too, and I very much agree. It’s wonderful that we can provide enriched lives for our dogs without considering a fence a necessity. And it shows that being fenceless does not automatically equate to dogs being tethered outside or roaming the streets at large anymore. Now that you mention it, the dogs I know with fenced yards also go for fewer walks. (I wonder if a fenced yard can, in some cases, additionally impact a commitment to training? I train for many enjoyable reasons, but would I be less inclined to keep at it if I had the convenience of a fence?)

    This is all what makes it tricky to know what should happen when the apparently organized, stay at home mother of toddlers who’s had dogs her whole life emphatically insists that her kids are the absolute best behaved in the world and that the mannerless, bowl-you-over, ~80 lb. adolescent field-bred Lab with a no kids under five restriction will fit perfectly for their home despite what anyone says… or when right before Christmas, the daughter who fosters dogs finds a reportedly cat-friendly young tricolor and wants to finally get her mother that chihuahua they’ve talked about for 18 months, with a lifetime a free dogsitting included whenever mom wants to vacation, though mom lives six hours away and can’t bring her resident cat down to meet the dog…

    I lost my mom at a young age and due to surrounding circumstances, became the caretaker of the family animals. I was far from the best owner I could be, but everyone received proper medical care and essentially an unchanged life. Their lives could’ve been improved with more experience and dedication on my part, but in retrospect, things could’ve been improved for them before the change in family dynamic, too. I never thought about rehoming then, but wondered if we all would’ve benefitted. (My hunch is that rehoming never occurred to me since subconsciously, losing/rehoming the animals in addition to the death of my mom would been intolerable, really.) While not the traditional “pets as gifts,” we all provided a level of consistency and companionship for each other that I’m not sure I could’ve done without…
    People and animals are both so amazingly adaptable. It is a beloved trait, an honor to be in the presence of, and for that, most important not to take for granted.

  53. says

    Of course pets are the best gifts to give any responsible person. Make sure that person should be responsible and careful about pets.

  54. Kim Laird says

    Gave Miranda (cat) to my sister. It became evident that she would not work out in my own house, as my current cat was very territorial and aggressive. She was taken to my sister’s house and fitted in beautifully. My sister said she’d reimburse me for the vet bills, etc. After thinking about it, I told her it was my birthday gift to her. Best birthday present ever.

    So it can work, given the right situation. I do know that both sets of grandparents had an adult child who thought it would be a good idea to give the parents a new pet after the older one had passed away. Neither were happy about it, so I’m well aware of the pitfalls in giving a pet if you don’ tknow for sure the recipient really wants it. In one case, I know of a situation where it was a positive life-changing event for the recipient, so you just have to know the people really well.

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