Although it’s been 25 years, I can still see that gangly puppy chasing my crazy-happy sons around the shelter’s meet-and-greet yard. Legs akimbo, she was all tongue, whipsaw tail and unbridled joy. After 10 minutes, I handed the lads the adoption fee.
Sophie was going home.
She’s missed to this day, but we take a lot of comfort in knowing that when she became a Shapiro, we did it right: We agreed that the timing was ideal, we went to the shelter to get acquainted, and the minute our girl bounded into the house, we were committed to taking care of her every need.
Hollywood and corporate America want us to believe that it’s the same for every puppy and kitten who’s tucked under a Christmas tree. It’s not. When animals are given as gifts or bought on a whim, their life is often no holiday.
Think about it: We’re already stressed from cooking, shopping, entertaining and hosting a rotating cast of out-of-town guests.
Now, add a new family member to the mix. She needs calm quarters, a steady routine and undivided attention. She needs patience when she soils the carpet, shreds the drapes or ruins your slippers. She needs her nails clipped, teeth cleaned and coat brushed as well as walks and playtime every day and regular veterinary checkups.
And she needs someone to love her for her entire life, for better or for worse, not to be unfairly punished when she makes a mistake because she doesn’t know the rules or her needs aren’t being met.
Even the kindest people with the very best intentions can be overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for a four-legged dependent.
The upshot? Once the holiday rush wanes, many animals, whether they’re given as gifts or purchased impulsively because they’ll look cute under the tree, are tossed out like broken toys.
Some are dropped off at well-run, severely crowded shelters that never say there’s “no room at the inn,” leaving the staff with the heart-wrenching prospect of euthanizing healthy, loving cats and dogs to squeeze in the newcomers. Being displaced is frightening, but at least these animals get a safe place to sleep, food and water, attention, veterinary care and a shot at the love and companionship they deserve.
Some aren’t as fortunate. After their would-be families tire of them, they’re given a life sentence in a squalid backyard pen or stuck at the end of a rusty, unwieldy chain. Others are left to fend for themselves. Dumped on the street or abandoned in the woods—facing starvation, the elements, disease, traffic and predators—they don’t scrape by for long.
That’s “life” when animals are treated as products to be sold, used and discarded.
Dogs sold in pet stores (and sometimes even marketed as Christmas “gifts”) typically come from puppy mills—contemptible mass-breeding factories, where they’re stuck all day every day in crude, filthy cages and denied companionship, exercise and adequate veterinary care. It’s why they’re often sickly and hard to socialize and why many end up at shelters. Kittens sold in pet stores are pumped out by similar cruel factories. So are many other small animals, including hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and rabbits.
Buying animals from a pet store or breeder—at any time of the year—endorses their exploitation and denies those in shelters a chance at a loving home.
Bringing an animal companion into the family is an important decision, so don’t rush it. When everyone in the clan is ready to make a lifelong commitment, give them a “gift certificate” from a shelter—then wait until after the holidays, when life has settled down, to find that perfect match.
Saving an animal’s life—it’s the gift that keeps on giving year-round.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Stock photo ID:492001652