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A Pet.....Why Not?
Having been raised with animals, I know the pleasure and heartbreak they offer. My earliest memories would be of Sooner, a black lab who, as a pup, would sooner go to the bathroom on the floor than go outside. You can see where he got his name from!
I'm not quite sure what happened to Sooner, but Susie was next. She, too, was a black lab and for any of you who remember the television show Hazel, this dog was a dedicated fan of the program. Susie's in house domain was the huge furnace/mud room; however, once a week, she would push open the door to the main part of the house, crawl on her belly to the corner of the couch and lay there to watch Hazel. When the show was over, she would retreat to her world. What a wonderful animal she was, doting on my every move. Her demise was devastating to our family, but especially to me.
Over the years, we had various other dogs, and our last was Teko, a gift from a family friend who could no longer care for her. She was a Pomeranian/Pekinese cross who considered herself to be quite a stock dog! I'm not sure if she knew that the horses were coming for the oats that were being rattled in the bucket or if she actually thought she was herding them to the barn. Either way, it was quite a spectacle and she was always the first one to the door when someone said anything about getting the horses in.
Our animal contact now-a-days is minimal. Sydney, the beautiful Golden Retriever, who came to stay with us three or four times a year, is no longer with us. Ted & Shilo, the Maltese cross, occasionally come for a few days. We know from their visits, that having an animal on a full time basis is a lot of work as everything has to be planned around "our guest". The thought of having an animal again, especially a dog, is very appealing; however, having been raised where animals could roam as they pleased, our decision is to not have a pet.
It is true, that pets do provide companionship, unconditional love and sometimes a sense of safety or even a service; however, when contemplating a pet, think about what type of animal best suits you, your family and your environment. Do your homework on the various types and breeds available and what it will take to be an exceptional pet owner. I use the word exceptional because you will have undoubtedly read and heard stories of pets that are given up or abandoned. A lot of these animals are impulse pets. In other words, they were purchased on a whim or received as an unwanted gift and the owners were not fully prepared for what it takes to be a full time "pet parent".
When you have concluded that you want to have a pet, gather all of the information you can from books, veterinarians and any other source to ensure you are making an informed decision.
- Do you have room for a pet? Active animals need daily exercise usually outside the confines of a home or yard. Some pets such as cats, birds and small mammals may adapt quite nicely to any size of living quarters.
- Do you expect your pet to be active with you? Are you an outdoor type that likes to hike and camp? Most people have a pet as a companion; however, if your pet is a dog, it may play two roles, one as companion, and the other as hunting dog. Whether it be a dog, cat or snake it is important to ensure your new pet has the temperament and physical attributes to participate in your activities and environment.
- How many hours are you away from home on a given day? If everyone in your home is away all day, it is probably not a good idea to get a puppy or kitten that will need extra attention to complete the early stages of their training. They are babies, and as such, they need to know they are not alone and someone will be there if they need anything, even a hug.
- Does your job or other commitments have you travelling or away from home a lot? Here again, you must consider who will look after your animal when you are away. Who will feed, exercise and play with your new family member? It is not uncommon for a pet to ignore you if you leave it in the care of someone else for even a few days. You are their "parent" and they really don't like to be left, even if they are with a very capable sitter.
- Do you rent, lease or own your own home? These factors will play a big role in your decision to have a pet. If you lease or rent your living space, you will have to confirm that your tenant agreement allows pets and the same will hold true if you are an owner of a condominium. If you own your own home, is your yard fenced? Your neighbors may not take too kindly to an animal coming onto their property should your pet accidently get loose. If you are planning on getting a dog, do you want your dog to roam freely in your yard or will you provide a designated "run" for it to be in when it's outside?
Once you have your pet, the only cost should be food. This is a misconception that many new pet owners have. If your pet is to be outside, as we mentioned, there may be a need for a "run" or other designated area. Your pet should have a place of shelter when it's outside and possibly a kennel/cage of some type to be in when it is inside and you are away for short periods of time. There will be visits to the veterinarian and depending on the type of animal you choose, there may be licensing. For dog owners, there may be obedience training, grooming , and all of the accessories that you will come across that you think your pet needs to be comfortable. One must also consider that this member of the family is like any other and you may want to look into the availability of pet insurance to cover medical and other emergencies.
Would you buy a vehicle without having your mechanic look at it? Probably not. It is just as important to have your veterinarian look at your potential pet. Most professional operations such as pet stores and breeders will allow you to have the animal checked by your vet and will offer an agreed upon time limit in which this needs to be done in order for you to return the animal if you find health problems. Make sure you do this before you become attached to the animal. In taking the animal to a veterinarian, you will also have the opportunity to discuss other matters such as feeding and nutrition, spaying or neutering and preventative health measures.
The animal of choice has been picked out and checked out so now it's time to bring it home. Are you, your family, house and yard prepared for the new intrusion? Animals, like humans, like things to happen at the same time every day. Discuss amongst your family the schedule that will need to be followed to keep you and your new pet happy. Remember to include such activities as exercise, grooming and yes, feeding. Obtain any necessary items, such as collar, leash, scratch post, litter box, bird cage or kennel/cage before you bring your animal home. Until your pet is comfortable with its new surroundings and knows what is expected of it, you may want to pet-proof your home as you would for a child.
With all of these things considered, good luck with your new pet.