Monday, December 13, 2010

Home for the Holidays

It used to be that animal shelters closed for the week preceding the Christmas holiday. Not so we could all go on vacation but so we could prevent people from adopting animals around the holidays.

The prevailing notion was that gift adoptions are bad things—impulse decisions that could ruin the life of an animal. We had this notion that people would be irresponsible in their gift-giving, adopting a six-month-old Rottweiler puppy for great aunt Madge or springing a kitten on allergy-ridden little Timmy. We thought people would just be too busy over the holidays to trouble with having a new animal in the house.

But we at the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society have re-examined these old myths.

Myth: Gift adoptions will result in the dumping of incompatible animals on animal shelters.

Reality: The statistics show that animals received as gifts are actually less likely than animals acquired by other means to be relinquished by their caretakers. In fact, it is unusual for the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society to receive an animal as the result of a gift gone awry.

The Christmas holiday is stressful and hectic in everyone’s life.

Reality: Not everyone celebrates Christmas. And not everyone’s household is Grand Central Station during this time of year. Many people stay home with only their immediate family or one or two other guests. Lots of people have a great deal of time off during the holidays (especially people on an academic schedule). This may actually be the perfect time to introduce a new animal!

Myth: Gift adoptions are based on impulse buying.

Reality: Many people put a great deal of thought into the gifts they give (remember, the thought does count!). Besides, people acquire animals for themselves on impulse all the time. Good adoption counseling should help to identify and prevent impulse buying.

Myth: The gift recipient needs to be involved in the adoption process.

Reality: This is true…to a point. Certainly matching many dogs may rely on pre-adoption introductions to all family members (and the family dog) to ensure everyone’s safety. But some cats and kittens may be successfully adopted as a surprise for other family members who want a feline companion.

Gift adoptions can go wrong if the giver does not take precautions to be sure the recipient of his generosity wants the animal and can care for the animal properly. After all, an animal isn’t a Billy Bass Singing Fish or a necktie. He is a sentient creature with a personality and needs. Think of giving an animal as being more like offering an engagement ring—you are offering your loved one a lifetime commitment. And such things should not be offered lightly.

Giving the gift recipient the opportunity to pick out her own pet may be a better idea than doing it for her. To this end, Dakin offers gift certificates. Dakin gift certificates are redeemable for adoptions or for any purchase from one of our adoption centers, our retail selection, our Diamonds in the Ruff thrift shop, dog training classes, or our Community Spay/Neuter Clinic. Just visit our Leverett or Springfield locations to purchase your certificate.

If you are considering adding a four-legged family member to your household this holiday season, please visit your local animal adoption agency first. You can talk to knowledgeable counselors who are committed not just to making a great match, but also to supporting your relationship with your new animal for years to come.

Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society adoption centers in Leverett and Springfield are open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5:30 (we’re open Thursday nights until 7:30) and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:30. We will be closed on Christmas day to allow our staff to spend time with their own families. Before that, we’d like to spend time with yours.