Comment Of The Day: “The Throw-Away Puppy”


Here is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Throw-Away Puppy”

It seems like every holiday I see a post that is similar to this. Don’t give a new dog for Christmas. Don’t give rabbits/ducks for Easter. Don’t get turkey’s for Thanksgiving (apparently a thing out here in rural Missouri). So when my oldest son asked for a turtle for his birthday this year, I immediately said no. Of course, in his mind, this wasn’t fair. His younger brother had bought a beta fish with his birthday money. As such he thought he deserved something similar. I told him there was a big difference between a fish that lives for a few years at most and a turtle that can live up to 50+ years. If he was getting a turtle, he was in for a life-time commitment and he was too young to make that decision (at 37 I think I’m too young to make that decision).

Too many people live in the now. They want instant gratification. When that gratification wears off, they tend to move on to the next thing. This is the main reason why pets make terrible gifts: they are long term commitments. For context, lets look at how long.

The average life of a dog and a cat depending on a breed is 12 years. This assumes they are healthy for most of their life. For a horse 25-30 years. Rabbits are 10 year commitments. Hamsters and Guinea pigs fall into the 2-5 year range. Snakes, depending on the breed can live between 15-20 years. Goldfish are a lot harder to tell. Though most don’t live past a year, many have lived for decades with the oldest one in captivity living to 43. The lifespan off all of these pets illustrates the same thing: if you take on the responsibility, you should realize you are in it or the long haul.

But let’s say I’m in it for the long haul, then what? Well then you have to look at the financials. Like children, pets require food, doctor’s visits, medicine, toys, attention, and money. Sure, there upkeep tends to be a lot less then a human, but that doesn’t mean it can be ignored completely. I estimated I spent hundreds on my dog this year alone. Next year will be more. In 2019 Americans spent $95.7 billion on their animals. Though 2020 isn’t over, people now think that number is closer to $100 billion. If you use your animals for work or competition (a different discussion) you would also more than likely insure your animals adding to the cost.

Now let’s say you’re willing to take on the commitment and the cost all to make your child happy on that Christmas morning. Now you have created another problem. You have denied your child the experience of choosing your pet. The day before we decided to get Max Max, my wife and I went to the shelter. There we found a dog I thought the boys would like. We interacted with it, my wife and I both liked it and we were going to buy it. While we were in the process of doing the paperwork, the lady asked us if we had children. Saying we did, she said “they will love it.” This gave my wife pause. What if they didn’t love it? She decided, it would be best for the boys to pick out the dog. So, we stopped, came back the next day, and the boys were not excited about it. They in turn chose Max Max. And Max Max chose them.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Chemistry is required. If you don’t have chemistry, it is going to be both unfair to the pet and the recipient. They child will never interact with it because they don’t want it. They will treat it like a discarded toy or broken game. The pet, especially if it has been abused or neglected in the past, is never going to get the attention it deserves, perhaps causing it to act out in ways you would not expect.

This brings to me to my final issue: behavior. Pets are not people. Sure you can teach it a few tricks and where to go to release their bowels, but that is the extent of it. What are you going to do with your pet when you travel? Who will be responsible for making sure it is fed? Are you willing to get up at 3am because your pet needs to go potty? Are you going to punish your dog for peeing at the door every time someone rings the door bell? They ripe, tear, and chew on everything. What happens when they destroy your new sofa? And yet, they are wonderful, more forgiving than people, and are ecstatic for the little bit of attention they get. Pets can be all the best parts of people with none of the worst parts. Perhaps that is why a survey in 2019 found that 34% of people would call their pet their favorite child.

To the mom in the above post I would say your criticism is well deserved. To everyone else who wants a pet or wants to give a pet I would say, do your research. All parties involved will be better served by it.

22 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “The Throw-Away Puppy”

  1. A “chemistry” story: a legendary tale from my wife’s family.

    Her mother was reprimanded by her father for some purchase he felt was extravagant, so to demonstrate that he would not dictate her shopping decisions, she went on a shopping spree to teach him a lesson. Her biggest unapproved decision: she bought a St. Bernard puppy.
    My father-in-law got the message, and didn’t dare say a thing. He walked that dog every day, every time, and Brandy defied large breed actuary tables by living 15+ years.And he was always, always, my mother-in-law’s dog..

  2. A near-perfect comment, JP. Give Max Max an ear rub, a butt scratch, and a chest rub in that order. Tell him they’re from me. And then, gather him up and tell him you love him.

    Some people deserve dogs. Some do not. Those who do will put up with all of the aggravation – and all of the inevitable sadness – only to realize that there’s only one thing that heals their souls: another dog. Because by God, they’re worth it. I’ve been pondering one last puppy – but am thinking more and more that instead of a gorgeous Labrador pup the next dog I bring home will probably be one that’s un-gorgeous, maybe even ugly, at least half-way through their run, and desperately in need of a loving home. Because there are too many of them, and because they are all beautiful, once you see their eyes shine.

    Jack, great story about your MIL’s long-lived Saint. That dog didn’t just defy the actuarial tables – he pretty much shattered them.

    Oh, and as I remind you periodically both here and on Facebook, we are long overdue for a new picture of Spuds, that wonderful and very lucky dog.

    • Brandy was the first dog I ever had to help put down. He was still healthy at 15: the vet couldn’t believe how old he was. But one day, his rear legs just gave out. A 170 pound dog has to be able to walk. On his last night on earth, Grace’s mom slept next to him on the floor since he couldn’t get to his usual place. We drove out to their home because they couldn’t lift him alone. Brandy’s head was in my lap as we drove that noble dog to the vet. I’ve lost four of my own dogs since, but I’ll never get over that. I got teary just now recalling it…

      • Very sad, Jack, but you got me going.

        My first dog was Rusty, a little Dachshund. I remember putting him to sleep because, although I was maybe 6 years old, my dad took our family to his hospital where we all said goodbye to Rusty.

        Tabby, our cat, simply disappeared. A week later, I found her a block away, next to the highway. We buried him in the yard.

        Fred, a long-haired Dachshund got hit by a car running across the street to play with the German Shepherd and Lab at the neighbors. I was in 5th grade and was notified by phone. I don’t believe Fred survived the trip to the hospital.

        Then, we got Paddington. He was the first dog we had that got seizures. It is hard to describe a dog having a seizure so I won’t try; suffice it to say, it is disconcerting. My dad put Paddington to sleep when I was in College. For a vet, Paddington was the one that took a toll on him.

        By contrast, several years earlier, I worked for him at his hospital one summer (doing odd jobs; painting, mowing, etc.).

        He called me in at one point to help him with a cat. I held the cat and petted it as he injected it with something. The cat died. It had cancer. It was to be put to sleep. I did not know that at the time. Its owners were not there to say goodbye like we were with Rusty. The whole thing is very sad.

        But not as sad as the shelter where I worked. Again, home from College, my dad got me a position doing odd jobs. Working on the loading dock, I saw deliveries come and go. The first time they euthanized a bunch of animals will not be forgotten. They enter on one side and exit on the other. I must have seen a garbage pail with the back legs of a German Shepherd sticking out the top. Ring wheeled to a truck to take them away. The stench of death was horrible.

        Then, Hobo, our cat, died. He had been abandoned as a kitten at my dad’s hospital. The note said they could not afford to feed him—and he never missed another meal as long as he lived. But, as a big fat cat, he slipped while trying to get out of a bath my sister was giving him. Apparently, he broke his back. My sister, though not on good terms with my dad at the time, called him. My dad took care of Hobo.

        Then, when I got married, I gained 2 dogs and a cat. We were at 5 animals, once you count Felisity and Schrodinger, my cats. Ashley (the evil cat who seemed to like me) and Lexi (the incontinent Yorkie) both went within a span of 5 weeks. My wife did not know what to do, so I asked all the questions and helped her make decisions.

        Then, Felisity, my cat, got sick with kidney problems. She was the first animal that was mine where I needed to make the decision.

        Her brother, Schrodinger, disappeared. Fittingly, perhaps, his death was never confirmed, but I am pretty sure an animal got him. I consider it a personal failing that I was not able to take care of him until he died. My wife, however, took the position of Quality over Quantity.

        Our 5th pet, Claire, a yellow lab, went to live out her days with my brother-in-law in Texas. She had a big yard and lots of people to care for her. Her life was better than living in a cramped lonely house with two people who worked.

        Now, we have Ginger, Pepper, and Xena. Hopefully, our house will remain full for many years.


    • Thanks Arthur. Right now he is quite happy sitting in the back of my truck. He loves the truck but rarely gets to go. For some reason it is always when he is on his best behavior.

  3. When I was a kid, I did get a pet one Christmas. We already had 1 dog, 2 cats, 3 horses, and a fish tank, so I guess I was a bit spoiled in the animals department. But I was raised to be responsible, so I took good care of Matilda the Christmas pet, (as well as our other animals) who was indeed a long-term commitment of about a decade or so. I will always treasure the memories I have of taking her to school, petting her, seeing people freak when they saw her, watching her eat and spin her webs…I should mention Matilda was a tarantula.

  4. Our vet is a Saint. We have had 4 cats spanning 40 plus years. When their times com, you can see the pain and tiredness in their eyes, our wonderful vet comes and puts them gently to sleep. Then their ashes lie under the citrus tree outside our front door.

  5. JP: “ Too many people live in the now. They want instant gratification. When that gratification wears off, they tend to move on to the next thing. This is the main reason why pets make terrible gifts: they are long term commitments. For context, lets look at how long.”

    No, let’s not. In my household, it is quite simple:

    1) we are not “dog people”;

    2) we are not “cat people”;

    3) dogs and cats are fine;

    4) we are not rodent people;

    5) we are not fish people;

    6) we are not bird people;

    7) we are not reptile people;

    8) we don’t even mention amphibious people;

    Dogs and cats only; no freak pets.

    (Posted half in jest.)


  6. One of the biggest problems I see, as someone who trains dogs, is the tendency of owners to get their dogs for selfish reasons like loneliness, sadness, and boredom. Like JP pointed out, when emotional impulse supercedes rational analysis on why one is getting a pet, the one that may suffer most is that pet.

    However I don’t agree that “chemistry” is a reason to get a certain dog. I’ve heard more begining stories of getting a dog than your average person. Often what one thinks of as chemistry is either pity, based on the dogs sad rescue story, or, liking the look of the dog. When lifestyle and the dogs temperament is ignored while picking out a pup, often frustration follows, leading to returning a dog or even abuse.

    Pity and excitement often leads to starting dog relationships on the wrong foot because the dog sees that energy as unstable. That’s generally where problem behavior in dogs start, because they see their human as erratic.

    The issue of behavior, as JP mentioned, is also one of the last things considered when potential owners pick out a dog just for emotional reasons. Besides 3am potty breaks and doggy daycare, is a commitment to training a dog. Not just roll over and such, but helping a dog (and owner) to be good community citizens.

    Lunging at trucks, humans, or other dogs is not only bad manners, but unsafe and preventable. Being cage aggressive or nipping at kids or peeing all over the house are things some dog owners just try to ignore or minimize, rather than seek to calmly correct.

    When I explain to owners why it’s so important to socialize new dogs and puppies to a multitude of situations from public outings to riding in cars to not getting up on laps any old time they want, sometimes they don’t understand, until the very situation comes up.

    One client I had didn’t understand initially that getting their pup acclimated to cars was necessary, until an emergency came up and they had to drive with their labradoodle in the car. Another I cautioned on letting their 10lb chihuahua get up on their lap without permission. When that client had stomach surgery, and needed her stitches to heal, then my suggestion made sense.

    I had a client whose male Pomeranian, whom she got because he was so cuuuuute, wouldn’t let her leave the house without trying to nip at her feet. When it finally got to the point where she was cowering and bribing her dog so she could simply run errands, she finally accepted my directions to stop his behavior. After a couple weeks she couldn’t believe she had let herself and dog live that way.

    Having a dog means having a relationship. Any healthy relationship requires boundaries, discipline, companionship, and a commitment to have more than just something warm next to you while you scroll endlessly on your phone. It means taking the time to understand a dog’s way of communicating, and being willing to speak that (mostly silent) language. Even those who consider themselves the best owners, can neglect to do this.

    And when they’re shocked their dog ran away or bit someone or hurt themselves, it’s often because they thought spoiling a dog was more important than making them safe through proper human leadership.

    At least the woman who made that FB post was honest. Not all current dog owners can do that, even when it’s clear, their ongoing behavior is making themselves, the public, and especially their dogs, crazy.

  7. That is an excellent comment and clearly COTD worthy. Nicely done.

    But, answer me this:

    Let me lay a predicate first: You know that it is now common for parents to give party favors/remembrances for kiddos who attend their children’s birthday parties. Oh, you didn’t know that? Neither did I until we had a child. Usually, the gifts are simple, silly things – rattles, blow horns, kazoos, chocolate. Fairly unobtrusive. My wife would give party-themed gifts such as bug-shaped cookies when the theme was insects (which I might add included a cake shaped like an anthill, with critters crawling all round – all hand made and painted by her loving hands) or paper airplanes when she had an airplane shaped cake (that was amazing). Having laid the proper predicate, here is my question and I do hope that Ethics Alarmists are bracing themselves for this question because it is not, and I repeat NOT, a hypothetical. Ready? Here it is:

    Well, what do you tell the parents of a 4 year old who thought it was a fantastic idea to give your six year son a living, breathing baby chicken as a party favor?

    You read that right: They gave 2 to 3 week old living, breathing chick given as a party favor to 4, 5, and 6 year olds. Have your minds boggled yet? Now, add this: the chick came with one day’s rations of food. One day’s worth of food for a living, breathing 2 to 3 week old chick.

    My responses were:

    1. “No, thanks,” and
    2. “What’s the matter with you?!”

    Thankfully, our son didn’t want it (he was into fish at the time) so we didn’t have to fight with him about not bringing a 2 to 3 week old living, breathing chicken home.


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