Happy holidays to you all! At this time of year many people are wondering what gifts to give to family members and friends. Well, how about a puppy?
I just came across a video produced by the ASPCA called "Watch This Definitive Proof That Puppies Are The World's Best Gifts." At the time of my writing this short essay there are 246,000 likes. Of course, many people are going to enjoy seeing a puppy emerge from a box and happy people hugging him or her. I liked it too. It is cute and yes, as the ASPCA writes, "Watch the above video compilation of people of all ages, crying tears of happiness after receiving their new best friends. We'd be surprised if you can make it through the whole thing without getting a little misty-eyed yourself."
But what about the dogs? Are they really getting a "forever home?"
I applaud all that the ASPCA does and also that they want to find good homes for dogs in needs. Who wouldn't? However, this video really surprised and troubled me, especially in light of a recent essay in the New York Times about which I wrote a piece called "Musical Dogs: Moving Dogs From Home to Home can be Perilous" and fellow Psychology Today writer Mark Derr wrote an essay titled "What's Wrong with 'The Wrong Dog?'" (Please also see Psychology Today writer Jessica Pierce's essay caled "Giving Pets as Gifts.")
The text for the ASPCA video also notes, "Not only will you be giving companionship to a loved one, but you'll be giving the dog a forever home where they can spend many happy holidays to come."
I would like to believe that the puppies will have "forever homes," but this is hardly a guarantee. Bringing a dog or cat or other animal into a home is a hugecommitment, one that should be "forever," from "cradle to grave." But we know this isn't always the case. Even people who personally choose a new companion animal return them for a wide variety of reasons.
I beg everyone who is thinking of giving a puppy or other animal to someone as any sort of gift really think it through. Perhaps put a note under the Christmas tree about what you want to do or otherwise be 100% sure that the people really want to add a new "family member" and are ready to do all it takes to make sure that the animal won't be returned. I know that the surprise will be lost, but at least there may be more certainty that the animal really will be welcomed.
Please don't make a well-intentioned move a grievous mistake
I worry that if indeed the animal is "the wrong animal," he or she will pay a huge price for the well-intentioned move that turns into a grievous mistake. Moving dogs or other animals from one home to another -- playing "musical animals" -- really can be perilous, and it's the animal who pays the price. Happy holidays to you all, and please be careful about giving a live and sentient being as a gift.
Note: I just discovered a study called "Should Dogs and Cats be Given as Gifts?" in which the authors conclude, "results suggest there is no increased risk of relinquishment for dogs and cats received as a gift." While this makes me feel slightly better, I would like to be asked first before someone gifts me with an another being. If I say "yes," I would be no less appreciative of the person'sgenerosity.