It’s the stuff holiday movies are made of. The family arrives on Christmas morning to find a snuggly little puppy or kitten under the tree wearing a big red bow. Christmas, made!
But animal shelters and rescuers say that while the idea of a new pet for Christmas may be appealing, the reality is not something to be taken lightly.
Many shelters across the country are in crisis, and many are over capacity. According to the national database operated by shelteranimalscount.orgThe current trend shows that the number of dog adoptions is down 1.2% from 2022, while the months of January to September 2023 see a 2.5% increase in dog adoptions. of the. Cats, animal welfare organizations report a 9 percent increase in strays from 2021.
Isabelle “Lee” Linklater, executive director of the Assisi Animal Foundation, is right outside Crystal LakeHe said that two things are happening.
For one, “there are a lot of unwanted animals.” At the same time, there is a general holiday influx of families who want to adopt pets as gifts for their children. That sounds like a problem with no solution, but Linklater said her shelter is “careful about where (their animals) go.”
“Every holiday is like that. A lot of people think of it as a Fannie Mae box, but it’s a lifetime commitment,” Linkletter said.
He has spent decades running the foundation, it is said. McHenry CountyThe first no-kill non-profit shelter created by While it may lack the drama of a dog surprise on Christmas morning, Linklater said many families she’s spoken with have been smart enough to bring new pets home after the holidays. Decided to wait.
She pointed out that the holidays can often be quite busy as it is – with guests coming in and out, too much food in reach, hot oven doors opening and closing, Christmas trees and presents that get damaged. can deliver Adding a new pet to the mix can be overwhelming.
Linklater also believes that “the strange thing is, people are catching on. If it’s not too late to be careful, a lot of people stop.
On the other side of the equation are many well-intentioned people who can no longer keep their pets. Linklater said inflation has been an issue for many pet owners, especially the cost of keeping pets healthy.
“The fact of the matter is that inflation has driven up the cost of pet ownership,” Linklater said. “The cost of veterinary care is skyrocketing. People just can’t afford it.”
It is important to understand that adopters are in high demand, the best possible outcome for an animal entering a home ready for such a commitment, so the adoption does not result in giving up on the owner.
“A lot of it comes down to how well the rescue places an animal in the adopter’s home,” said Donna Matejka, president and CEO, Helping Paws Animal Shelter. Woodstock. “We move a lot of animals from the south where many rescues are over capacity and are adopting to make room to take more in. The shelter we work with in Texas. reported that they returned three out of five animals adopted.”
Echoing Linklater’s reminder that a pet is a long-term commitment, Matejka offered a compromise in place of the live reveal on Christmas morning to give the family adequate planning time.
“You can always put a stuffed animal in a box that represents a gift, to allow time to shop for the best fit as a unit,” Matejka said. “Consider the following: Do we have time to take care of this pet? If it’s a dog, do we have time to take them for walks? Do we have a large backyard, preferably fenced? Together? What’s the best time of year? It’s important to talk and plan as a family. Don’t do it because it’s Christmas.”
A strong support system — people who can leave the dog out and about if you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time — is also ideal, Matejka said. “If you’re someone who isn’t around the house much, a cat is probably a better choice because they don’t need to go out as much. Also consider getting a pair of kittens because they’re more companionable. have fun and often absorb each other’s energy so they don’t focus on the destruction at home,” Matejka said.
The day after Thanksgiving, Carrie Resident Chris Krug adopted Phoebe, formerly Phoenix, a 5-month-old Cattle Dog mix from Helping Paws. Krug, along with his wife and two daughters, recently lost their family dog, Rita, a lab mix and Helping Paws alum. They wanted to donate some of Rita’s belongings and set up an appointment to meet a few dogs to see if they felt ready to introduce another family pet into their home.
“We went into it with our eyes wide open,” Krug said. “We got Rita when she was 1, so she’s pretty well in terms of being potty trained and going through the chewing phase. I came equipped. With Phoebe, the training is new, and we’re back at the beginning. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. It’s hands-on, but being a good dog owner means understanding your responsibilities. They don’t come preloaded like software. You must take the time, but it is very rewarding.
Woodstock-area resident Barbara Dolmon, a volunteer at Helping Paws, said she told her husband, Lou, “The next teenage Chihuahua is coming, I’m getting it!” Dolmon previously had a miniature Chihuahua and wanted to introduce the breed back to his couple.
Dolmon has three other dogs ranging in age from 6 to 15: Lexi, Roxy and Cady. When the 6-year-old chihuahua, Gizmo, came through intake, Barbara Dolmon knew she had gotten her fourth dog. She said they were ready to add a fourth dog that was past the puppy stage. Dolmon similarly said it’s important to “calm your expectations” and make sure you’re ready and willing to do the work because, in the end, that makes all the difference.
Gizmo is 6 years old, “and that was a selling point for me at that stage in my life,” Dolmon said. “We are very active and take the dogs for daily walks, but we don’t want to go through the puppy phase. There are a lot of older dogs that need homes. She will be a perfect fit for our pack.”
As part of the adoption process, Gizmo had to meet all the family members, which meant Lou Dolmon and the three current pups held a meet-and-greet to make sure everyone moved on. go The Dolmans became an official family of 4 dogs on December 11th.
Matejka said volunteering or fostering is a great way to get first-hand experience with different breeds and ages to find out what you and your family can do if you’re considering adding a new pet. What might be appropriate for the family? She also suggests that if you think your family is more than a one-cat or one-dog household, plan for the animals to socialize with other animals, not just people.
If you’re not ready for a new pet, volunteering, fostering and donating are all ways to help animals in your community who are homeless.