A Dog is for Life, Not just for Christmas!

This puppy package might look cute and endearing, but living animals should not be delivered in boxes or presented as gifts, especially surprise gifts. They are often unwelcome adolescents by the time the puppy cuteness wears off, and the reality of housebreaking and training and spending vast amounts of time with the puppy sets in. Then they are dumped ­ in droves. Witness the overflow of purebred and mixed puppies pouring into shelters in February and March when the Christmas novelty wears off.

Please. If you’re thinking about getting any animal as a gift for someone else at any time of the year, think again. And Christmas time is not typically the best time to bring home a new family member. Few people get a thrill from housebreaking, walking and training little dogs in ice and snow and freezing wind. Puppies don’t much care for it either.

If you are planning to get a puppy for yourself or your family (and it must be a family decision), please read on. What follows are some ways to prepare for your squirming, mouthing, piddling, squealing, yapping, fragile bundle of ceaseless energy (and joy).

  • Pour cold apple juice on the carpet in several places, and walk around barefoot or wearing socks in the dark. Step in cold places over and over, swearing profusely. Then get out the brush and cleaning fluid. Commence scrubbing. Sometimes the stains will lift; sometimes not. Make sure you’re okay with this.
  • Wear socks that are shredded in many places, particularly missing toes and heels. No elastic allowed. Do this many days in a row, and make sure that, too, is okay.
  • Rip and/or run the calves of every pair of panty hose owned, but don’t realize this until you put them on, or don’t have it happen until you are walking out the door, ten minutes late for something.
  • Slightly slice fingers and hands (especially knuckles) in many places with razorblades, and stick sides of hands and fingertips repeatedly with sharp needles. Repeat with feet and toes, especially heels. Make sure you can tolerate the feeling and the sore, red wounds you’ll carry with you for days.
  • Immediately upon waking, stand outside in the rain and dark saying, “Be a good puppy; make good girl! Hurry up! Come on, let’s go!” Dance in place while the wind blows up your bare legs, under your nightshirt.
  • Cover all your best suits and sweaters with dog hair. Dark suits/sweaters must use white hair, and light suits/sweaters must use dark hair. Also float some hair in your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Try to remove it before swallowing.
  • Play “catch” with a soggy, slimy tennis ball dumped in your lap.
  • Run out in the snow in your bare feet to close the gate.
  • Tip over a basket of clean laundry, and scatter clothing all over the floor. Wring urine-soaked rag (from previous clean-ups) over clothes in strategic places for full effect.
  • Leave underwear on the living room floor, especially when you have company. Make sure to shred holes in it first.
  • Jump out of your chair shortly before the end of your favorite program, and run to the door shouting, “No, no! Do that OUTSIDE!” Miss the end of the program. This will happen while you are talking on the telephone, too.
  • Smear chocolate syrup all over on the carpet in the morning, and don’t try to clean it up until you return from work that evening. This won’t give you the proper odor effect, but you’ll get the idea of texture and staining ­ sort of.
  • Pull every roll of toilet paper from its roller, and string them all over the house like a confetti party.
  • Knock over every trash can in the house, and shred contents all over every spare space on the floor. Do the same with every plant, making sure the dirt is equally distributed and ground in all carpets. Especially white ones.
  • Obtain a puppy paw print stamp, dip in mud, and place prints over much of the floor space ­ also on sliding glass doors ­ along with slimy nose prints and dried saliva dribbles.
  • Chip and gouge the legs of most tables and chairs several times with an ice pick or something equally sharp and effective. Whatever best resembles chew marks will do.
  • Get a recording of little yapping/whining noises. Put tape player in a crate, and keep it going all night long. At least for a few nights. If you can’t take it, bring a few eggs to bed, and try sleeping next to them without crushing them.
  • Set our your best or most expensive or favorite pairs of shoes, slippers, gloves and/or purses. Offer them now as a sacrifice to the puppy gods. Because the puppy will get them, at least one of the shoes or gloves from each pair ­ rendering them useless ­ and at least the straps or the edges of the purses. Ditto on the useful factor. Might as well have it over, though.
  • Get out the mop and the rags and the cleaning supplies. You will need them for quite some time. Purchase a supply of air freshener. That, too, will be needed for awhile.
  • Hire a massage therapist for bent backs from scrubbing stains, mopping floors, and bending down to squeeze into impossible places to rescue and retrieve puppy from the latest hiding place where he gets stuck.
  • Get in shape for running and fast walking. These babies can go, and they like to go (and need to go) out often. They’ll leave you in the dust if you’re not up to following.
  • Spend whatever time is necessary removing all dangerous cords from the puppy’s reach. Puppies cannot resist them, and they can get electrocuted if they bite a live wire just in the right place. If that doesn’t happen, they can get crushed pulling heavy objects down on themselves. And if that doesn’t happen, they can do some major damage to your favorite appliances. Sometimes all of the above.
  • Enroll in obedience training with a responsible, reputable trainer. Puppies need the reinforcement and gentle discipline. You won’t regret it when they become dogs.
  • Make sure you’re home ­ A LOT. A lonely puppy is an unhappy puppy. A bored puppy is a destructive puppy. An ignored, neglected puppy is a disobedient, often sick puppy. If you have to go out, try not to be gone more than a few hours at a time, and take the puppy along whenever possible to get her used to being in the car and to socialize her and make her part of your world. Never leave any animal unattended in a car for long periods of time, and never even for a few minutes on hot or cold days. A hot car can kill a dog in minutes.
  • Be prepared for anything. You never know what a puppy is going to do. No matter how ready you think you are, he will always be one step ahead of you.

These tips may seem amusing in places, but some or all of what is above can often be too true. If you’re scared away, that’s fine. A puppy is not for you. Take a look at a calmer older dog instead. There is no shame in realizing that a puppy is too much for you or your busy lifestyle. Better now than after she’s made herself at home. Too many people are not prepared, and too many puppies are dumped and die untimely deaths because of it.

If, on the other hand, you really think you’re up to the challenge of Puppy Bootcamp and can turn it into genuine Puppy Love, then you’re ready to fill out the application. If it’s a good one ­ and you survive the vet checks and home visit ­ you may welcome your new family member into the fold.

One final bit of advice (and this is a nice one, folks):

Take a warm and cuddly blanket out of the dryer, and immediately wrap it around your shoulders. This is the feeling you will get when your puppy falls asleep on your lap, when you hold and cuddle and nuzzle and get kisses from her. There is nothing in the world like puppy breath and puppy love. Those who know it are truly blessed.

Best of all, these precious critters ­ if they are loved and treated with kindness and respect ­ will become the most loyal and devoted companions and friends you have ever known when they reach maturity.

There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. Once you hold the heart of a dog ­ and he holds yours ­ you have it all. But you’ve got to give to receive it. Love and be loved. Trust and be trusted, and all that goes with it. It’s an enormous undertaking, but the rewards are unparalleled.

These babies love you in spite of yourself, but they deserve the best you’ve got, so you have to work at it. It’s a bonafide relationship ­ one of the most important you will ever have. Your dog will never willingly leave you. He will always love you, always want you, always need you ­ no matter how you look or how you smell. He will lie right beside you no matter how sick you are. You owe him the same. For life.

Please think about these things before bringing any dog or puppy home, and make sure you and your family are ready. Everyone has to want a new family member; everyone has to be excited and enthusiastic, or it will not work.

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