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There has never been a time especially around Christmas and Hanukah seasons when we who take care of homeless animals don't get requests for puppies and kittens (or dogs and cats) to be held until the right moment they can be presented as a surprise.

Puppies, kittens, cats, dogs and all other living things, no matter how small, should not be given a surprises. They are not stocking stuffers. Which is not to say they can't ever be gifts, given the right way to present them. And more important, given that serious thought has gone into what it takes to provide a happy home for an animal and to make that home happier with a pet.

Cats often live into their twenties and dogs into their teens. Caring adopters must keep that in mind. Also dogs have to be walked at least three times a day (four is better), and not just taken to the curb – they need exercise. And they are sociable, they get depressed left alone for long periods. Cats need companionship too. Having two cats is good for both of them.

Children under the age four or so can't be counted on to know the difference between stuffed toys and real kittens or puppies. They can damage those little ones for life.

The questions to ask yourself whether about another home or your own: Is there someone at home to care for a new family member, a willing someone (if it's a housekeeper or a nanny in the household, how do they feel about a new pet?). If the dog is meant especially for a kid, how long before he loses interest and/or graduates and leaves home?

If you can honestly say that you can take care of this new family member (or you've checked it out with the household not your own) and you're going to go ahead with adopting and want it to be a surprise, wrap up a leash, food, bed, toys in sparkly paper and ribbons and put them under the tree. Then when the excitement of other gifts and parties has quieted down, make an expedition to a shelter or check a humane society website. In doing this, the pleasure of the holiday is extended and the new family member gets all the attention he deserves.

PET RESCUE, P.O. Box 393, Larchmont, NY 10538  (914) 834-6955

© 2014 Pet Rescue is a volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization helping animals in need for over 30 years.