Puppies are not Presents…


By Lauren Shuttleworth

When I was a child, there was one thing I wanted for Christmas more than
anything. It was always at the top of my list, regardless of the latest
girl-craze to hit the shelves. I fantasized about pulling the ribbon off
a colourful, oversized box on Christmas morning, and squealing with
delight when I discovered what was inside. It was the standout scene of
every great Christmas tele-movie I’d ever watched. I didn’t think I was
asking too much of good ol’ Santa Claus – I mean, it wasn’t like I was
requesting a frog-prince or world peace. All I wanted for Christmas was a

Sounds like a fair enough request, right? But at my house, Santa had a strict
no puppy-present policy. No exceptions. And of course, being the
straight-up kinda guy that he is, no amount of cookie bribery would
change his mind. Even Rudolph wouldn’t put in a good word for me. As a
child, I didn’t understand it. If I promised to love, feed, and walk my
puppy what was the problem? But thank goodness Santa stuck to his guns.

face it – Christmas is often a time of impulse buying, re-gifting, and
last minute mad-dashing in order to meet our present quotas. And after
the paper-tearing excitement of Christmas morning wears off, it doesn’t
take long for kids – and adults – to lose interest. In fact, it’s
expected. As cynical as it sounds, there’s a lot about Christmas that’s
fleeting. We bring out the tree, the decorations, the lights, the
interstate in-laws, and once the silly season is over, we simply pack
them up again. This doesn’t fly for a needy, growing puppy.

The reality is that in 2011 over 67,000 dogs and 64,000 cats were
surrendered to the RSPCA in Australia. And in the weeks following
Christmas the number of dumped puppies and kittens increases by 15%.
It’s clear that what often begins as well-intended furry present often
ends up as an unwanted, sad statistic. There is just so much to consider
when bringing a pet into your family. Puppies and kittens might start
out as fluffy and cute, but of course they don’t stay that way forever.
We are talking about a living, breathing, 10 plus year investment.

step away from those big, liquid brown eyes and ask yourself – can you,
or the furry gift recipient, really afford a pet? I’m not just talking
about the initial purchase price. I’m not even referring to all of the
food, bedding, collars, toys and vaccinations. Or the cost of a boarding
kennel every time you go on holidays. I’m talking about the ridiculous
doggy-dermatologist costs when your puppy develops a severe allergy to
fleas (yes, this has happened to me). Or when he uses your favourite,
most expensive pair of shoes as a quick chew toy (again, has happened to
me. FIVE times this year.) And do you actually have the time to look
after a pet? As much a child can promise to walk and play with a puppy,
it’s easier said than done. Let me tell you, as the owner of a wildly
gorgeous, but huge black Labrador, they have A LOT of energy. Taking him
out on a lead can sometimes be akin to getting my sleeve stuck in the
door of a moving car. Not a walk in the park (pun completely intended).

I’m asking you – if you’re yet to finish your Christmas shopping, don’t
buy a pet as a present. Those little fuzz-balls deserve to be more than
just the star attraction under the Christmas tree. I never did get my
puppy-in-a-box for Christmas, but a few years later, after much careful
consideration and consultation with my siblings and I, my parents
brought home a beautiful golden retriever. He was the sixth member of
our family and we all loved him dearly. He lived with us for thirteen,
long happy years. He wasn’t a present – he was a brother. And that’s the
way it should be.<

Shuttleworth is an Elephant Ambassador, animal-lover and
eco-fashionista. She loves volunteer travel, mango smoothies and living
life with a little extra heart.