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Today's Family Magazine

A new home for the holidays

By Ante Logarusic

The holiday season is upon us and we’re all thinking about that perfect gift.  Wish lists are shared and it should come as no surprise to many parents when a new puppy or kitten is right at the top of that list.

If you’ve been thinking about adding a new member to the family, there are some important things to keep in mind.  

If adopting from a breeder, do your homework and ensure that the breeder is reputable.  Don’t be afraid to ask to see where and how the dogs are housed – the breeder should not object.  That great deal you find online may be the result of a life of misery at a puppy mill.  In addition to unknown health and behavioral issues that can develop at a mass breeding facility, these dogs can also be susceptible to genetic disorders. 

A great alternative is adopting through a shelter and the reason is simple; when you adopt a shelter animal, you save a life. 

Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly and it’s a decision that should be made by the whole family.  Your family needs to determine how responsibilities will be split up and most importantly, you need to ensure that your family has the time to give your pet the love and attention that it deserves. 

Everybody wants to have the cute puppy and cute kitten on Christmas morning with the bow on them, but families have to understand that this is a significant commitment and that they will need to spend time with the pet.  A pet adoption should never be a surprise.  When a family is ready to adopt a pet, all adults in the family should agree that the adoption is a good decision.

Your newest family member is going to be with you for quite a while so making the right choice matters.  Some of the things to take into consideration include making sure your family’s energy level is in line with your new pet’s energy level. Puppies and kittens are incredibly cute but also require a lot of patience, training, and care.  Messes will be made, and boundaries need to be set before poor behavior sets in.

Costs need to be weighed as well.  Like humans, animals require medical exams and sometimes additional care to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. Another terrific benefit of adopting a shelter dog or cat is that the animals have been vetted and the initial round of wellness care has already been taken care of.

In some situations, older animals may be better suited and are often preferred.  Seniors, as well as families with older children, will often gravitate towards an older pet because they have been trained and the commitment isn’t quite as long.

“Our older pets are often adopted relatively quickly,” says Lisa Ishee, external affairs director with Geauga County’s Rescue Village.  “Something about them tugs at people’s heartstrings.  People want to get them out of the shelter life and back into a loving home.”

For many of us of a certain age, getting a dog was once as simple as taking a trip to the pound.  These days, many organizations utilize adoption counselors to ensure that pets enter the right situation and are a good fit for the family.  Counselors will work with a family to get an idea of what they’re looking for in a pet as well as assessing what kind of home they have to offer.  They’ll also spend time making sure that it’s the right fit.  Like humans, dogs and cats have unique personalities and some situations are better than others.  

The worst situation is when a family and their new pet have bonded and have to be separated. 

If you’ve checked all of the boxes and made the decision to move forward, keep in mind that any time is a good time to adopt.  You’ll be home for the holidays and that certainly helps, but experts agree that it takes about three months for a shelter pet to become completely acclimated to your environment and develop trust in your family.

The best thing you can do is establish a routine, define boundaries as well as positive reinforcement, and also give the pet the ability to have some space as well as quiet time to itself as it adjusts to its new home.

Most local shelters post available animals on their websites and those can change daily.  People are encouraged to visit often to see if their perfect pet becomes available. Shelters have different hours, fees, and rules in place.  Some host regular visiting hours while others are done by appointment only.  Be sure to visit their websites to learn more. 

Lake Humane Society

Rescue Village

Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter