You know that song, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do!”? I love that song! I don’t know why, but I do. My college roommate even got me a plastic hippopotamus Christmas ornament one year that still goes up annually.
However, when it comes to actually getting a hippopotamus for Christmas, the sensible thing is to pass. I don’t have the time, energy, money, space or experience to care for a hippopotamus, no matter how much I might want one. Yes, baby hippos are adorable (it’s the wrinkles). But you know what? Baby hippos turn into big hippos, and then even bigger hippos. And I don’t have any idea how to look at a baby hippo and tell how big it’s going to be; therefore there’s no way to properly prepare for the amount of space it will need. (Will it fit in the backyard swimming pool or not? How can I tell?)
The same applies to puppies. Puppies (and kittens and whatever other living things) for Christmas.
We’ve all seen the videos of the squealing children as the puppy tumbles out of a barely-wrapped box, red ribbon around its neck, and smothers its new people in slobbery puppy kisses. It’s adorable.
But it’s death till you part, my friends. Or it should be.
Any living thing – whether we’re talking puppies for Christmas or ducklings for Easter – is a commitment for the life of that animal. It’s not a “let’s play with it until the kids get tired and send it back” sort of thing. It’s not a “if it gets too big we’ll just get rid of it” or “if it’s too expensive we’ll just let it go” situation. It’s a “I have brought you into my life and I promise to care for you, whatever you may need, until you are no longer with us” scenario.
You wouldn’t adopt a child and give them the sense that they belong to your family and will be safe and cared for, and then send them back to the adoption agency when they don’t sleep through the night. What sort of news scandals would that cause?! I know not every one considers their pets to be their “babies,” like I do, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you can just get rid of them whenever they may become an inconvenience.
Not all pets are truly members of the family, like mine are, but there is a difference between somebody’s pet and just another animal.
I have nothing against outside pets. I wish my dogs were outside pets, and as soon as we get a fence put up they will make the transition full-time. However, if you don’t want to touch the dog except with the barest minimum head-pat; if you don’t want the dog to touch you in any way; if you don’t want there to be any sign in your home, in your car or on your clothes that you own a dog at all; if you don’t have time or knowledge to properly train the dog; if you don’t ever want to hear the dog; if you don’t see a need to socialize the dog with other animals or people — in short, if you just want the dog to sit quietly in the yard and look pretty so you can tell people you own a dog, then you don’t want a dog, you want a lawn ornament.
Buy a lawn ornament. Spare the dog the loneliness of a life with you. (And that applies all year long, not just for Christmas.)
Also, don’t get puppies as presents unless your children are old enough to care for the dog or you are prepared (inevitably) to care for the dog yourself. And you are prepared to love that dog (or kitten or hippopotamus) and provide it with proper food, shelter, medical care and, yes, companionship. Because sticking the dog in the yard and having no interaction except to put down a bowl of food once a day while the dog sits where it can’t touch you is not companionship.
If someone put their child in their room and had no interaction with him except to put some food under the door a few times a day, we’d call that neglect. Don’t put your pets through that.
Buy stuffed animals for Christmas. Buy real animals for life.