I’ve become a really big advocate of animal companions in recent years. My two pet dogs, Joy and Kali, have brought immeasurable pleasure into my life, even though they can often be handful, or should I say, a houseful. They like to bark at anybody who dares to walk down the road in front of my house, and they both hate bicycles.
Joy is a wonderful mix of many breeds, estimated at age 3 when I adopted her four years ago from Alcovy Pet Rescue. I got Kali as a 10-week-old puppy over two years ago from a breeder in Macon, Miss. She is a borgi, an intentional cross of a border collie and corgi.
Joy presented some challenges as a grown dog with an unknown history. She has a hatred of people in uniforms. She is also very aggressive in protecting her food and bones. I have a couple of bite marks to prove it.
Kali, on the other hand, will let me walk right up and take a bone from her mouth, without a single growl. However, she was a terror as a pup, chewing anything that would fit into her mouth. Even now, although she’s an adult dog, I have to put certain items up high, out of her reach. Plastic clothes hangers are still a delicacy to her sharp molars.
I bring all this up because Christmas is the time of year when many people adopt pets, which is really great. However, if a little bit of my un-asked-for advice can help anybody, I’ll be happy.
First off, I hope nobody adopts a dog this Christmas simply because they think it’s cute or they think of it like a toy. Dogs are living, breathing animals that require a lot of care and are expensive to own. A big chunk of my gross domestic product goes for dog food, treats, vet bills, boarding and vaccinations. Not that I’m complaining, just stating facts.
I also hope that people don’t go to an animal shelter this holiday season and pick up a pet to put under the Christmas tree for somebody. The best idea is to take the giftee along with you and let him or her make the choice. Human-animal relationships are very complex, and like the human-to-human kind, personalities often don’t mix well.
Another consideration is how big that cute little puppy will be when he grows up. Dogs can be a physical management problem, especially if you’re a small person. My two dogs are in the 40-pound range, but they can really jerk a leash when they get distracted by squirrels or cats.
There are also some dog breeds, that I won’t mention by name, that have a reputation for being aggressive and attacking people and other pets. I know, I’ve heard all the arguments about how it’s the owners’ fault and not the animal’s. But there’s a potential for danger there, one that I’m not willing to take and I hope adoptees are aware of. Some breeds are prohibited in certain places and will bring an increase in your homeowner’s insurance.
The good news is that mixed breed, shelter dogs are no longer looked down upon. In fact, it has become sort of trendy for Hollywood stars to adopt shelter dogs. I can testify that rescue dogs are very appreciative and loving. Their pedigrees of many breeds usually make them smarter then purebred dogs that may have been interbred and suffering from genetic defects.
It’s a lot easier these days to find adoptable dogs. There are many rescue groups that specialize in specific types of dogs. There are also online websites, such as petfinder.com, which can search through listings from shelters all over the country. I found my Joy through a border collie rescue website, which referred me to the rescue group that was fostering her.
My best advice to you folks out shopping for Christmas puppies is to be sure the animal gets spayed or neutered. That way, we won’t have so many pets in the future ending up in shelters and getting euthanized. After I got Kali, I dreaded taking her for spaying. I actually postponed it to the point that she was going into her first heat when I took her to the vet, which is not the best way to do it.
If it makes you feel any better, as it did me, I found out that female dogs who are spayed almost never have mammary gland cancer. On the other hand, those who are never spayed and have a few litters, are very likely to get mammary cancer in their lifetimes.
So if I haven’t scared you enough to keep you from getting a pet, head on out to the nearest shelter and find yourself a companion. The benefits of a loving pet far outnumber the negatives, but you might want to watch where you put your best shoes.
Jones is a Carrollton resident and reporter for the Times-Georgian.