A puppy is one of the most
appealing creatures on earth. He's the embodiment of exuberance, humour,
and affection. But there are a great many things that a puppy is not, and
these negative aspects deserve some thought before you bring a puppy home.
A puppy is not a toy to be enjoyed while he
is a novelty, then set aside in favour of a new diversion. He is a living
thing whose physical demands must be met constantly for as long as he
A young puppy needs more sleep than a human infant,
even though your children may be in the mood to play with him. He needs
to be fed regularly and often, even though his meals may conflict with
A young puppy is breakable. Very young children can
inflict unintended tortures on a puppy, especially one of the small or
fine boned breeds. His broken leg is much harder to fix than the broken
wheel or a toy truck.
A puppy is not a teaching aid guaranteed to
instill a sense of responsibility in children. If a child loves his dog,
he will probably enjoy brushing him, taking him for walks, filling his
water dish and other tasks. A sense of responsibility may well grow out
of the relationship, but it is unfair to the animal to put his entire well
being into the hands of young children.
Even the most dog-loving youngsters tire of daily
chores, and parents who try to force the regime will be asking for
friction. Unfortunately, it is the puppy that is the loser in this
battle. Responsibility lessons are better left to household tasks that
don't involve a pet. The essentials of feeding, housebreaking and
discipline training will fall to an adult member of the household.
Youngsters can help with the less essential jobs of grooming and walking.
Dogs and children do give each other something very
valuable; time and attention that adults are often too busy to offer in
sufficient quantities. This is the main function of a child-dog
A puppy is not cheap. Whether you pay a
nominal fee at the city humane shelter or what seems to be a king's ransom
for a really special pup, the money paid to make the pet yours, is a mere
drop in the bucket to what it will cost to keep him.
There will be Veterinary bills to pay, for both
emergencies and regular vaccinations and checkups. There will be city and
county licenses to buy, and there are legal aspects of dog ownership you
may never have considered; not just personal injury claims, but
replacement of shrubbery or grass, or neighbourhood children's clothing
torn in play, and there's the wear and tear on your furniture and carpet.
A puppy is not a spur of the moment purchase,
or at least he shouldn't be. The wrong dog can be an unending nuisance to
a household, and it's much easier to acquire a pup than it is to get rid
of a grown dog that didn't work out. Animal shelters are bulging with
dogs that were acquired for the wrong reasons, or without sufficient
If your family has decided to buy a dog, by all
means take the time to learn about the breed you have in mind. Every
breed has characteristics of temperament, and some of these traits may not
fit in with your lifestyle. Some breeds are prone to physical problems
such as hip dysplasia, ear cankers, and eye abnormalities. If you are
aware of these problems, you can do a more intelligent job of selecting
Many towns have kennel clubs whose members are
reputable, knowledgeable, and generally helpful. Most breeders will be
glad to answer your questions and to help you locate the pup you want. A
Veterinarian can put you in touch with the nearest Kennel Club.
If you take the time to do some investigating before
you buy, you will know what the going prices are for your breed. Pet
shops are NEVER a bargain, no matter what the price, because they often
sell pups of very low quality for show-dog prices, simply because few
buyers bother to check. Always buy a pup from a reputable breeder; one
who has been recommended by your local Kennel Club.
Many puppies are bought impetuously because they
looked cute in the pet shop window, because it was a nice day for a drive
in the country and there was a kennel with a "Visitors Welcome" sign, or
because another family pet had died. Pups bought without being genuinely
wanted - and planned for - too often end up at the animal shelter.
A puppy is not a gift unless the giver is
certain that this particular pup will be wanted. Not only now, but a year
from now, ten years from now, and even then the puppy should be selected
by his new owner rather than by someone else. The pup that appeals to one
might very well not appeal to the other. it's a matter of chemistry, like
love at first sight.
A puppy is not self-cleaning. There will be
puddles on rugs, vomiting occasionally, dog hair on clothing and
furniture. There may be worms to be dealt with. If these prospects are
intolerable to the housekeeper of the family, then perhaps the pleasures
of owning a puppy will be overshadowed by the tension it will cause.
Longhaired breeds need to be groomed; not only while
the pup is small and new, but also week in and week out for years. The
Heavy, silky coats of breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers,
Tibetan Terriers, and Lhasa Apsos become matted in a very short time,
especially in the areas of friction such as legs and flanks. If the dog's
coat isn't combed thoroughly and frequently, it becomes unsightly and
uncomfortable. The mats pull and irritate, and they make excellent hiding
places for fleas and skin disorders.
A puppy is not an adult dog. He has neither
the physical nor the mental ability to perform as an adult dog would. He
cannot go for long periods of time without relieving himself. He cannot
tolerate harsh training methods, nor can he differentiate between what is
chewable and what isn't. Nor will he make any distinction between food
and objects that hurt him if he swallows them. He will try the patience
of the most devout dog lover in the household, and at times he may drive
everyone mad. If he is very young, he will cry during his first night or
two in his new home. He will require patience and understanding from
everyone in the family.
A puppy is not a puppy for long. Before you
succumb to the charms of a clumsy St. Bernard pup, or a sad-happy hound,
or a limpid-eyed cocker, be very sure that you want not only the puppy he
is now, but also the gangly, unattractive adolescent he's about to become,
and the adult dog who may fall short of what you hoped he would be.
If you've faced all the negative aspects of puppy
ownership and still want him, chances are good that your new dog will be
one of the lucky ones who find a permanent happy home, and you will enjoy
the rewards of planned parenthood dog ownership; rewards that far
overshadow the drawbacks.
Reprinted from Better Homes and Gardens, February 1973.
seeking a cute Tibetan Terrier
pup... I know most of you won't like to read this, but
it is reality. Be sure you are committed to your dog, or returning it to
me, the breeder, if it doesn't work out. Even Tibetan
Terriers with papers have
ended up at animal shelters. This should be
mandatory reading for all prospective dog owners ... if you do not need a
tissue after reading this then you shouldn’t have a dog.
How Could You?
was a puppy, I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You
called me your child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of
murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad,"
you'd shake your finger at me and ask, "How could you?" -- but then you'd
relent, and roll me over for a belly rub.
housebreaking took a little longer than expected, because you were
terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of
nuzzling you in bed and listening to your confidences and secret dreams,
and I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long
walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the
cone because "ice cream is bad for dogs," you said), and I took long naps
in the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day.
Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and
more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently,
comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you
about bad decisions, and romped with glee at
your homecomings, and when you fell in love.
your wife, is not a "dog person" - still I welcomed her into our home,
tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were
happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I
was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother
them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent
most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I
wanted to love them, but I became a "prisoner of love."
began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled
themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my
ears, and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and
their touch - because your touch was now so
infrequent - and I would have defended them with my life if need be.
sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams, and
together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There had
been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you produced a
photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me. These past
few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had gone
from being "your dog" to "just a dog," and you resented every expenditure
on my behalf.
have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be
moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. You've made the right
decision for your family," but there was a time when I was your only
excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It
smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness.
filled out the paperwork and said, "I know you will find a good home for
her." They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the
realities facing a middle-aged dog, even one with "papers." You had to pry
your son's fingers loose from my collar as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please
don't let them take my dog!" And I worried for him, and what lessons you
had just taught him about friendship and loyalty, about love and
responsibility, and about respect for all life.
me a good-bye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to
take my collar and leash with you. You had
a deadline to meet and now I have one, too.
After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your
upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home.
They shook their heads and asked, "How could you?"
as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They
feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago.
At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to
the front, hoping it was you - that you had changed your mind - that this
was all a bad dream ... or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared,
anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the
frolicking for attention of happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I
retreated to a far corner and waited.
her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day, and I padded along
the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room.
She placed me on the table and rubbed my ears, and told
me not to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but
there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of
days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden, which
she bears, weighs heavily on her, and I know that, the same way I knew
your every mood. She gently placed a
tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her
hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She
expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I
felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down
sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured, "How could you?"
because she understood my dog speak, she said, "I'm so sorry."
She hugged me, and hurriedly explained it was her job
to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or
abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself - a place of love and
light so very different from this earthly place. And with my last bit of
energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my "How
could you?" was not directed at her. It was you, My Beloved Master, I was
thinking of. I will think of you and wait for you forever.
everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty?
Copyright Jim Willis 2001
from the author:
Could You?" brought tears to your eyes as you read it, as it did to mine
as I wrote it, it is because it is the composite story of the millions of
formerly owned pets that die each year in shelters.
Anyone is welcome to distribute the essay for a
non-commercial purpose, as long as it is properly attributed with the
use it to help educate, on your websites, in newsletters, on animal
shelter and vet office bulletin boards. I appreciate receiving copies of
newsletters, which reprint "How Could You?" or "The Animals' Saviour,"
sent to me at the last postal address below.
public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an important one
for life, that animals deserve our love and sensible care, that finding
another appropriate home for our animal is your responsibility and any
local humane society or animal welfare league can
offer you good advice, and that all life is precious.
Please do your part to stop the killing, and encourage all spay & neuter
Tibetan Terriers Ireland