Sunday, December 7, 2014

If you give a Surprise Dog, it will be a ruff Christmas

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

If you have the space and time, there is every good reason in the world for you to have a dog.

There is also every good reason for you not to get a dog or give someone a dog for Christmas. More often than not, giving a dog to someone for Christmas is like giving a side of beef to a guy who doesn’t have a freezer. You’re emotional. You want to make a big splash. He could use it. It’s a nice thought. It will nourish him. He’s just not prepared for it all.

If you’ve talked about the dog since September, and given the giftee time to prepare, different ballgame. But if you opened a box and in it is The Unexpected Dog and you are suddenly The Unprepared Dog Owner, you will be picking up poop and broken lamps before the Yuletide sun sets.

Merry Christmas!

I never wanted a dog for Christmas, mainly because we always had dogs already. If we hadn’t had some, I’m sure I would have wanted one. Or three. Instead, one Christmas I got a horse, but he stayed in the barn down the road and had a big field to hang out in, along with other horses. He was not a lone horse trapped in my house with nothing to do while I was at school.

So please keep a check on your well-meaning emotion. The lure of the puppy is undeniable. Black Lab. Red Bow. Green tree.

But how far behind can brown poop and yellow pee be?

Happy New Year!

Santa is not equipped, first of all, to carry a lot of dogs. Dogs do not interact well with reindeer. They are not good flyers. They are no fan of heights.

Also, dogs get lost in the Christmas shuffle. They are warm and fuzzy and The Best Christmas Present Ever – until dad gets back home with the batteries that go with the toy that is suddenly much better than a dog.

Dogs aren’t like an air hockey table that you play with for a week and get bored with, or that you play with once a week and love. A dog is something that demands attention every single day. There is nothing wrong with wanting a dog and feeling, as most children do, that they can care for a dog. It’s just that few children can, not without much, much help from a grown person, preferably one who knows a vet.

Dogs are miraculous friends. The benefits to your mental and physical health are documented. Sure, cats are good too, and I miss mine: Jingle Bell made me feel better about myself because I was never quite that lazy. I sure did love that guy who, as my son said while we buried him, always thought he was a dog, just without the ambition.

But dogs, real ones and really cared for ones, keep the energy level up at home. They let you know you are loved. They encourage and protect and illustrate loyalty. In a lot of ways, dogs set the bar for us human people. A more loyal and less critical companion is hard to find. Get a dog!

But if you are going to get or give a Christmas dog, plan for next year. Get it in November. An early present. Then you can work it into the system so that by Christmas, it’s another member of the family. By then, we are squared-up on our responsibilities, on what a dog requires from us to be a fully functional dog instead of something that eats shoes or digs holes in the yard.    

This is the gift that keeps on giving, for sure, but they keep on taking, too. They take space and money and food and time. They shouldn’t have to bargain for all of those, not right out of the chute at Christmastime, when too much activity is on the calendar already. It’s hard enough to break in a new guy during the off-season.

Put it on the list for next year. Or for spring or summer. Who says you can’t have Christmas in July?