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A Gift That Gives Back

It can be a Norman Rockwell moment: A child opens a beribboned box on Christmas morning and a puppy pops out.

“The holidays may be the perfect time to add a furry friend to your family,” says Gretchen Pressley, community relations manager for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR). 

That said, there are a few caveats.

“Pets should only be given as gifts to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one and who have the ability to care for a pet responsibly,” Pressley says.

That means taking into consideration the recipient’s living situation and abilities. 

For example, can a young child really accept the responsibility of a new puppy or kitten?

“Every parent knows their family best,” she says, “but maybe they’d like to try starter pets – such as guinea pigs – that children really can take care of themselves. It’s a great way to ease into taking responsibility for a pet. Of course, the parent still has to monitor that.”

Say the pet is for an elderly person who just wants some companionship. 

“We’ve seen older couples adopt puppies and they do just fine, but it’s always a good idea to know a little bit about the different breeds and their needs,” she says. “Maybe we’d recommend an older animal that is calmer and doesn’t need as much exercise, but can still provide companionship.”

The HSPPR has matchmakers who can help patrons select an appropriate pet. 

Because many people have time off from work and school during the holidays, it might be a good time to adopt a pet, she adds.

“You may be home more, which can give you the opportunity to bond with your new pet and help him acclimate better to a new household,” she says.

It’s also a chance to start toilet training for a puppy or kitten that isn’t yet house-broken. 

“Especially puppies will need quite a bit of time and training. Discipline training also is good. All our puppies come with a puppy training course” that is included in the adoption fee. 

Cats are not quite as high maintenance, she says, “but you still need to socialize them, get them used to a litter box and be mindful of the fact that kittens just look for trouble. They need a secure area.”

Older pets can be a good option, she adds.

“We’re always promoting our senior pets,” Pressley says. “They’re already used to being in a household. Already house-broken. We know how big they’re going to get, and what their personality is like. And we make sure they are healthy before going out for adoption.”

And if you don’t want to spend Christmas Eve comforting a new pet in a strange place, give the recipient an HSPPR gift certificate along with a basket of pet-related goodies, such as toys, starter food, pet stationery or a calendar. 

They’ll get the idea. 

A typical adoption fee is about $100 for cats and $200 for dogs. It includes current shots, a vet visit, and spaying or neutering. The price varies according to the individual animal, its age, condition and how long it has been in the shelter.