The Christmas season is a time for giving and celebrating with family and friends. Unfortunately it is also the time of year where many animal shelters fill up with unwanted animals. Why? Because there is an idea that gifting someone with an animal will be a wonderful gift to receive. Well of course having and caring for an animal is a wonderful experience. But what if the people receiving this animal are not ready? What if they have never considered keeping an animal in their home at this time or any other time? Are you ready to take responsibility for how this animal’s life will turn out? Can you guarantee a happy and fulfilling future for them? The other question I want you to ask yourself, is why? Why are you giving this type of gift? Is it for your kids? Is it for your partner? What are your true intentions for this animal? If this animal is to live with you too, are you ready for the responsibility?
Here at Animal Talk, we clearly do not agree with the notion of giving animals as gifts at Christmas time, or any time of the year. Bringing an animal into your home is a massive decision that should be given just as much consideration as bringing a child into the world. You are solely responsible for their welfare, and their survival for the rest of their years. It is absolutely up to the person who is to receive this animal whether they wish to make that commitment or not. Whilst it is a grand gesture from the gift giver, all of these considerations need to be taken very seriously.
One of those considerations is the saying “The animal chooses you”. I am sure you have heard of it before and perhaps even experienced it. Many of my clients have said I wasn’t going to get a boy puppy but this little guy ran right up to me at the shelter, how could I refuse he definitely wanted to come home with me. You see every animal that is with you has a reason – a Soul Purpose with you. That is why they do choose you because they know they are the one to be with you at this time and want to make sure that happens. That is why no-one else can choose an animal for you, or you for someone else. By all means, you can pay for the animal and provide the essentials but the actual attraction must be done in person and by the person in question.
This is particularly true of families with children looking to give their kids a pet. It may ruin the surprise, but a family meeting about the responsibilities of having an animal must be discussed to ensure that all members of the family understand their role with the animal. It happens all too often when the kids are caught up in the animal’s cuteness, only to lose interest and the responsibilities are left to the parents.
May I remind parents, no matter how much your kids say they will help look after the animals, the majority of care and responsibility will be on YOU. Please understand that.
Here at Animal Talk, we are fortunate enough to be able to hear and feel what every animal is thinking and feeling. We get to hear about the love and devotion your animals have for you. However, we also can hear the thoughts and feelings of the animals that have been abandoned at shelters. The ones where their humans let them down. So I would like to share with you a story from a client of mine. His name is Max the Labrador. Max shared with me his story during a consult with his new mum Karen.
Max was 8 weeks of age with these big beautiful brown eyes and big floppy ears that were too big for his head. He was adorable and goofy. He loved playing with his brothers and sisters, and rolling around on the grass. He especially loved running. Then one day, his humans put him and his brothers and sisters into a metal circle and different people would come over and give them lots of pats and cuddles. Some people were really fun, others smelt strange. This happened nearly every day for a few weeks. Then one day, one of Max’s sisters was picked up and didn’t come back. Max wondered what had happened to her. Where did she go? The next day, Max and his littermates were in the metal circle again and Max was enjoying some belly rubs from a really nice lady and her children. She lifted him up and placed him on the ground. Max started chasing and barking at the children, he thought the little humans were lots of fun. They played just like him! The next second, the lady had picked him up and carried him to the big moving machine, that Max later learned was a car that took them places. Max was in the back with the little humans. They showed up at a different house with a big front garden and back garden. There were lots of new smells and Max couldn’t wait to explore!
As Max and the little humans were exploring the backyard, Max could hear angry voices coming from the house. He could hear the lady and a man’s voice arguing over Max and why he was there, and why the man wasn’t told about him. Max went over to investigate and the man came outside. He had a scary look on his face, but he softened when he saw Max looking up at him with his big ears and tongue hanging out. So Max was allowed to stay at this new home.
As time went by, Max was learning many things about living with these humans. He was allowed to come into the house and be with the family, but he wasn’t allowed to pee in the house. He learnt that chewing on people’s shoes and the electrical cords was bad. He learnt that he could only sleep in a separate room from the family. He wasn’t allowed to bark at night, and if he did, the heavy box around his neck would spray really bad smelling stuff. Max tried to remember everything the humans taught him. He really loved them and wanted to make them happy. He didn’t like it when they got mad at him, especially the big man. He was really scary when he yelled. Max’s favourite time was when they went for outings together. They weren’t very often, but when Max saw that leash he would get so excited, and would race around the backyard until they were ready to go. Going out on the streets was so exciting! There were so many new smells everywhere. Max could smell the neighbour’s dog pee on the trees, so he would add his scent too. He could even smell the stray cat that would visit sometimes. The cat never said hi to Max, he couldn’t understand why – Max was always friendly to her! The humans didn’t seem to mind going for walks, but they were always short. Max would have loved to explore all day!
As Max got bigger, he had lots of energy. He got too big for the laundry, so he was allowed to sleep outside instead. The humans would try to teach him to do tricks, but he was so excited that they were in the garden with him, he would rather chase them instead. After a while, they would just go back inside and ignore him. He couldn’t understand why, had he done something wrong? At night, there were lots of new and different sounds and smells. Max would be up all night investigating and barking at any weird sounds. The box on his neck would spray him, but he had gotten used to that weird smell.
One night, Max heard something scurrying along the grass. He leapt from his bed and chased the rat to the fence. He couldn’t see where it went, so he started digging, trying to find it. He quite enjoyed digging, and continued to dig a big hole. He could not find the rat, so he sat & watched that fence all night. Morning came, and the big male human came storming outside. He started yelling at Max and pointing at the big hole next to him. Max could not understand why he was so angry and didn’t know what it was about. He had been protecting the family from the rat and thought they would be pleased. Max cowered against the fence and stayed there until the male human went back inside. Max waited, too anxious to move, waiting to see what would happen next. Both the man and lady came outside, the man had Max’s leash in his hand. Max wagged his tail – oh good we are going out! The man put his leash on, and scooped Max up in his arms. He carried Max to the car and off they went. Max thought it was strange that the little humans were not coming with them. But he was excited to be going out.
They drove for a long time, until they stopped in front of big white building. The man picked up Max and led him to the front door. Max could hear lots of barking and lots of different smells. They went inside and there was a big room, with people sitting and waiting. Max and his human went up to a big desk and there was a nice looking lady behind it. They talked for a little, and then the lady came around took my leash and led me to a door. I looked back at my human and he was walking out the front door. Max barked at him trying to get his attention, but he didn’t look back. The lady led him outside, where there were rows of small concrete rooms. Each one had a different dog barking and barking. She led Max into an empty room, took his leash off, gave him a pat and locked him in. As she walked away, Max tried to call out, ‘what was going on? Why am I here?’ Max wondered. Surely they were coming back to get me? They loved me, right?’ Max sat at the back and waited. As night fell, the other dogs continued to bark and bark. Every time someone walked past Max would run up to the gate, hoping it was his family coming to pick him up and take him home. No one came that night. Max curled up on the bed, and tried to sleep.
As the days went by, Max became less hopeful and stopped running up to the gate. He became withdrawn, not even interested in cuddles from the volunteers that came by to see him. He often wondered what he did wrong to be put here, and decided he must have been a really bad dog for his family to abandon him. If Max ever got out of here, he promised himself he would try to be the best dog he could possibly be.
I hope Max’s story puts into perspective the consequences of giving animals as gifts. That person may not be ready for the commitment and devotion that that animal needs. It must be a decision made by the person responsible for the animal. If you feel that the person would benefit from having an animal in their lives, there are many ways you can help them investigate if having an animal and what type of animal will suit them. You can be their support when they go to the animal shelter, and you can also help them research the best type of animal that will suit their lifestyle. This way the animal gets the best life possible and your friend or family will be ready for a lifetime of love and commitment.