Puppies are not Presents...

17-Dec-2012 Contributed by: *Guest Contributor Lauren Shuttleworth

By Lauren Shuttleworth

When I was a child, there was one thing I wanted for Christmas more than anything. It was always at the top of my list, regardless of the latest girl-craze to hit the shelves. I fantasized about pulling the ribbon off a colourful, oversized box on Christmas morning, and squealing with delight when I discovered what was inside. It was the standout scene of every great Christmas tele-movie I’d ever watched. I didn’t think I was asking too much of good ol’ Santa Claus – I mean, it wasn’t like I was requesting a frog-prince or world peace. All I wanted for Christmas was a puppy.

Sounds like a fair enough request, right? But at my house, Santa had a strict no puppy-present policy. No exceptions. And of course, being the straight-up kinda guy that he is, no amount of cookie bribery would change his mind. Even Rudolph wouldn’t put in a good word for me. As a child, I didn’t understand it. If I promised to love, feed, and walk my puppy what was the problem? But thank goodness Santa stuck to his guns.

Let’s face it – Christmas is often a time of impulse buying, re-gifting, and last minute mad-dashing in order to meet our present quotas. And after the paper-tearing excitement of Christmas morning wears off, it doesn’t take long for kids – and adults – to lose interest. In fact, it’s expected. As cynical as it sounds, there’s a lot about Christmas that’s fleeting. We bring out the tree, the decorations, the lights, the interstate in-laws, and once the silly season is over, we simply pack them up again. This doesn’t fly for a needy, growing puppy.

The reality is that in 2011 over 67,000 dogs and 64,000 cats were surrendered to the RSPCA in Australia. And in the weeks following Christmas the number of dumped puppies and kittens increases by 15%. It’s clear that what often begins as well-intended furry present often ends up as an unwanted, sad statistic. There is just so much to consider when bringing a pet into your family. Puppies and kittens might start out as fluffy and cute, but of course they don’t stay that way forever. We are talking about a living, breathing, 10 plus year investment.

So step away from those big, liquid brown eyes and ask yourself – can you, or the furry gift recipient, really afford a pet? I’m not just talking about the initial purchase price. I’m not even referring to all of the food, bedding, collars, toys and vaccinations. Or the cost of a boarding kennel every time you go on holidays. I’m talking about the ridiculous doggy-dermatologist costs when your puppy develops a severe allergy to fleas (yes, this has happened to me). Or when he uses your favourite, most expensive pair of shoes as a quick chew toy (again, has happened to me. FIVE times this year.) And do you actually have the time to look after a pet? As much a child can promise to walk and play with a puppy, it’s easier said than done. Let me tell you, as the owner of a wildly gorgeous, but huge black Labrador, they have A LOT of energy. Taking him out on a lead can sometimes be akin to getting my sleeve stuck in the door of a moving car. Not a walk in the park (pun completely intended).

So I’m asking you – if you’re yet to finish your Christmas shopping, don’t buy a pet as a present. Those little fuzz-balls deserve to be more than just the star attraction under the Christmas tree. I never did get my puppy-in-a-box for Christmas, but a few years later, after much careful consideration and consultation with my siblings and I, my parents brought home a beautiful golden retriever. He was the sixth member of our family and we all loved him dearly. He lived with us for thirteen, long happy years. He wasn’t a present – he was a brother. And that’s the way it should be.<

Lauren Shuttleworth is an Elephant Ambassador, animal-lover and eco-fashionista. She loves volunteer travel, mango smoothies and living life with a little extra heart.


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