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CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON

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CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON
November 25, 2012, Sunday

Think twice before you buy a pet as a gift

Every year pets are given as Christmas gifts around the world. More recently in Turkey, Turks have started exchanging gifts for New Year, not Christmas -- and sometimes the gift is a pet.

That time of year has come around again -- every year I start thinking about the number of families that are considering buying a bird, kitten, turtle, bunny or puppy for Christmas. At the risk of being a Grinch, I dislike the idea of anyone buying their kids or spouse a pet as a Christmas gift, unless there has been a chance for dialogue beforehand about caring for a pet. If you have not had a chance to talk with the person for whom you are thinking of buying a pet, there are some clever ways to lead into the idea without actually purchasing the real thing.

A few great ways to give your loved one that wonderful surprise you're after is to pick out a collar, leash, bed or toy, or a book on puppy training, or a voucher for puppy training class and wrap it under the Christmas tree. Some pet shops offer a gift certificate you can purchase. This way the receiver of the gift can choose their personal preference. Once the holidays are over, you can go together with your loved one and pick out the new puppy, cat, parrot or whatever. Not only will you make a special memory that will last a lifetime, but also your loved one will be glad you took the time to consider their feelings and choice of a new family member.

A few years ago, I saw a TV documentary on British ITV's “This Morning.” The program was about giving a dog as a Christmas gift. The ITV presenters were looking for homes for abandoned dogs in the UK. They reported that a few hundred dogs had been left on the streets as unwanted Christmas gifts, along with the few thousand abandoned during the year. The question was asked: Is it right to give a pet as a gift and then leave it on the street a few weeks or months later to fend for itself?

Every household that has a dog will relate to what I share and any person thinking of getting a dog will benefit from reading about my experience of becoming the owner of a cocker spaniel and the sharp learning curve I had.

It is true that cockers require more care, but every dog has basic care needs. Here are just a few points:

· To ensure your pet does not pick up an eye infection, you should clean their eyes once a day and give their faces a wipe.

· To prevent terrible tangles and knots in their fur, your pet should be brushed once a day.

· A cocker's beautiful long ears require care and need to be cleaned inside and out at least once a week and the ear canals regularly checked for canker, wax buildup and ear mites.

· An occasional bath in special dog shampoo and daily grooming with a special brush is a must.

· Nails grow quickly and need to be clipped every month and the fur underneath the paw needs to be trimmed carefully with small scissors.

· Sensitive skin and eczema flare-ups are common so they may need special dog food for sensitive skin.

I remember the first time I saw my dog scooting along on his rear and licking his bottom. I referred to the cocker manual and learned this probably means that his anal sacs need to be cleaned. I could not help but wonder, what on earth is an anal sac? I learned from my vet friend that the anal sacs need, as she put it, "prompting" and you need to clean them out now and then. I won't go into details on how this is done. It is one job I still let the vet do.

I can think of a few reasons why giving a pet as a Christmas or New Year present is not a good idea. A pet isn't a commodity; it is not like an Xbox or a bike. Don't set the expectation that an animal is a toy or a plaything like other types of gifts. To test the water, try one of the suggestions above first.

By the way, Turkish street dogs live in every town and village. If you are fond of animals, maybe you will consider helping reputable animal charities by donating money or food and supplies to help provide care such as spaying and giving medication to these unfortunate dogs that have been abandoned for one reason or another.

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