Every Christmas when I was a kid, I asked for a pony, and every year, I peeked out back just to see if someone had built a paddock out there. There are many reasons I was disappointed, year after year. One is that I lived in suburban New Jersey. Another is that we’re Jewish. Yet, I continued to ask hoping that my family would get caught up in the magical spirit of the holidays and give in to getting a pet.
But the thing to remember about getting a pet for Christmas is that once the initial happy surprise wears off, you are going to have that pet for a very long time. My sister, Sarah, is a dog trainer in New Jersey and is often asked questions by potential pet-owners that indicate they are, perhaps, not ready for a pet (at least one that isn't plush and filled with beans).
Here are the top 10 questions she’s gotten from people that indicate they're definitely not ready for a family pet for Christmas:
“Can this dog stay in the crate for 12 hours each day while we’re at work, and also when we’re home because we’re afraid she’ll pee on the carpet?” If you don’t have someone at home to walk the dog at lunchtime, then no: What you want is a fish instead.
“Can I trade your dog for mine? Mine is really crazy and I can’t stand her, but yours looks nice!” If you think your dog is crazy, it’s entirely possible that your dog is rubber and you’re glue.
“Can you recommend a bark-less dog?” No. (Well, yes! This one!)
“Can you train my dog to use a toilet?” No. But I can train you to adopt a cat.
“Is it expensive to de-claw a cat?” I don’t know how many dollars you’d have to spend, but it’ll cost you a crap-ton of karma points.
“I’ll take this dog, but will you take him back when I go on the road for half the weekends this year?” Sure. Can I bring my dogs to stay at your house while you’re out of town?
“Can you waive the adoption fee?” Maybe, but you have to consider: if you can’t afford the fee, can you afford the food, vet visits, toys, and replacement shoes?
“What kind of pet should I get?” If you haven’t thought this through, you don’t really want a pet.
“Can I come get this dog now, immediately, tonight, I must have it, can you have it here yesterday, can you drop it off right away?” Cool your jets, Captain Impulse-Purchase. You haven’t thought this through!
“Is this pet a good choice, since I have three kids under 5?” Most likely, no pet is a good choice when you’ve got all that going on!
Okay, but seriously, folks. If you’re considering getting a puppy because they’re just so darn cute, please read this, or at least know that puppies have to pee every two to three hours and are easily as much work as a newborn. And if your kids are promising to do all the work, well, see if they can keep a Tamagotchi alive first.
Kittens, too, are hard to gauge. If you simply can’t resist the cute, you can get a “kit-teen,” or slightly older kitten, from a shelter, and he’ll be just as adorbs with the added bonus that you’ll have a sense of her personality and whether it meshes with your family’s style.
Oh, and here’s my sister’s all-time favorite adopt-a-pet request:
“Hi, I live in a one-room walk-up apartment in a mostly-abandoned building with my fiance. He works long hours and is hardly home. I have three children, but a court order disallows me from having any contact with them. I already have a big dog that is really crazy. Oh, and by the way, I'm pregnant. Can I adopt your dog?”
Do you think a pet for Christmas is a good idea?
Image via Ocean/Corbis