By Sharon Jenks
Pets are one of the most loved holiday presents. During my life, I’ve adopted many dogs and volunteered for several animal shelters, helping guide hundreds of families to find their perfect pet. If you are considering adding a pet to your family this holiday season, consider these five tips:
1. Understand if you’re a “dog person” or really a “cat person”
Think about your past experiences with animals — your friends’ pets, seeing cats and dogs in commercials or videos — and think about what kind of animal you are the most drawn to. Next, go to a shelter and see which animals tug your heart the most. Also consider allergies, as you or a family member might be allergic to cat dander. Spend some time with animals or get an allergy test to see.
2. Find a shelter
When someone tells me that they are thinking of getting a dog I always say, which shelter or rescue organization are you going to? Sometimes they will say that they are looking for a specific breed, but you don’t need to go to a breeder – there are breed rescues you could look at. Shelter animals aren’t unhealthy and rescues are essential for giving lost or abandoned dogs a home.
3. Consider adult or senior dogs
It’s easy for puppies to get purchased from a breeder and so difficult for adult dogs to get a second or third chance. This is why some shelters are forced to put down un-adopted dogs every year. If you are looking for a calmer, less active dog, consider adopting a senior dog. Senior dogs are especially vulnerable to living their lives at no-kill shelters or being euthanized at high-kill shelters.
4. Take the next step
Now that you’ve fallen in love with your future pet, it’s time to fill out forms, talk with an adoption counselor and sometimes show them pictures of your home and back yard. You need to tell them what percentage of time you will leave your new pet alone, if your yard is fenced, and if there are other pets or children in the home. You will also have to understand that no pet is adopted without being neutered or spayed. Another goal of humane societies is to help to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which occur daily.
You may have to wait while your adoption application is being processed, and they might want to do a site visit. While this sounds like a lot of work to rescue a pet who no one seems to want, this process is critical because it is the shelter’s responsibility to make sure this pet is never abused or abandoned again.
5. Train your pet
You may find a dog that is perfectly trained or the one that grabs your heart but needs a lot of training. If it is the latter, you’ll need to spend the time or money to train it. Dogs want to be your best friend and make you happy. It’s wired in their DNA, but they need help in understanding commands and what you expect.
Pets love unconditionally and have proven to reduce stress and depression in humans. They bring love, appreciation and a reason to live for many. Having a pet is a big responsibility, but even if you’re not able to adopt, you can volunteer for a rescue organization or donate.
Sharon Jenks is CEO of 6 Degrees Business Networking, a San Diego-based organization connecting professionals through networking and educational programs. The organization’s holiday party on Dec. 1 will benefit Labs & More rescue organizatin. Learn more or register at 6 Degrees Holiday Party.
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