The decision to adopt a pet is a big one for families. Dog? Cat? Hamster? Fish? Parakeet? Pony? (Of course every kid wants a pony.)
There are so many factors to consider, including whether the family lives out in the country, in the middle of Owensboro, in a house with a large yard, in an apartment … whether the family budget can accommodate another member … who will be responsible for feeding, exercising, grooming – and the inevitable “cleaning up after.” (Maybe that’s why kids never get ponies.)
Once the decision is made, everyone is excited to pick out and welcome a new member to the family, which is usually either a dog or a cat.
There used to be a lot of stray dogs and cats roaming the city streets, so much so that people used to say there was no need to ever buy a pet; just open your door and let one in.
Of course, those were the days when kids also roamed around pretty freely, usually with a dog trotting at their heels or panting along after the bicycle, but let’s face it: Kids aren’t doing that much anymore either.
The issue at hand for most families these days is whether their busy schedule keeps them away from home so much that the poor animal is left alone all day, many evenings and most weekends. Cats are a little easier to manage in this scenario, as they are usually rather independent, and a litter box solves the need to “go,” but even the most independent cat deserves affection and attention. When it comes to dogs, though, it’s just not fair to leave them alone for long hours. Even if there is a fenced-in yard, dogs are social animals. They get lonely and bored, which results in barking, destructive digging and chewing, and a generally anxious demeanor. Even worse is the cruelty of leaving a dog locked up in a crate all day.
A good owner would do well to remember the Golden Rule: Do unto critters as you would have done to yourself.
If the family schedule is not conducive to giving a pet the time and attention it deserves, the best choice is an animal of the stuffed variety – like teddy bears.
But let’s say that a family is really ready to adopt a pet.
For some people, “designer” breeds are an attractive choice. Among dogs, currently popular are labradoodles and goldendoodles, which are combinations of either Labrador or golden retrievers with poodles. These adorable dogs are usually very intelligent and great with kids, but they do require regular grooming, and unless they are trained at a young age, they can be pretty rambunctious. Poodles mixed with schnauzers (schnoodles) and pug/beagle mixes (puggles) are also a “thing.”
But honestly – some of the best dogs are just mutts. Dogs adopted from a shelter seem to instinctively know how fortunate they are, and return your investment of an adoption fee with an overflow of love and loyalty.
Yes, when it comes to pets, you really CAN buy love.
Take it from me, someone who has owned dogs and cats literally all my life: The dearest friends, most trusted confidants and most loyal companions I’ve ever had have all had four feet and a tail. Husker, Jackson, Grey, Macy, Buster, Dazy, Rufus … I have loved them all, and they’ve loved me.
I am thankful to my Mom, whom I realize now must have worried many times how she was going to feed her children and yet somehow stretched her grocery budget to include kibble. She loved me enough to give me the privilege of loving the dogs of my childhood – dogs whose memories reach far beyond the Rainbow Bridge to touch my heart still today.
I never got that pony. But I got something far more special: The experience of unconditional love from dogs who kept confidence with the secrets I whispered into their floppy ears.