When John Van Zante saw the small, gray-haired woman being pulled along the sidewalk by her powerful bulldog puppy, he ran from his office to help.
"I can still picture this poor woman as she was literally dragged up the sidewalk by the bulldog. Tears in her eyes. Stumbling," says Van Zante, spokesman for the Helen Woodward Animal Center, a nonprofit pet adoption organization in San Diego. "When I took the leash, she just stood there to catch her breath."
Holiday Guide for Pet Owners
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Finally, Van Zante says, the woman told him that her grandkids thought she was lonely so they bought her the dog for Christmas. The only problem was, the kids hadn't asked her if she wanted a pet.
The woman insisted that the dog was nice. But she lamented that her new puppy chewed sofa cushions, pooped in the house, dug up the yard, and yanked her arm so badly during walks that she'd gone to the doctor.
Though she was sad to surrender her dog to the center, she felt she had no choice. "I wanted a little kitten," Van Zante says she told him, "but nobody asked me."
Giving Pets as Gifts: 4 Tips
For the holidays or a birthday, it can be tempting to give a cute, cuddly pet as a gift. Yet along with the precious purr that won't quit or the fluffy tail that never stops wagging, there comes a commitment to another life for the next 10, 15, even 20 years.
No one wants to give an unwanted gift -- especially a vulnerable one that lives and breathes. If you're thinking about giving a pet as a gift, the experts offer these tips to help you make sure that that gift is actually a good idea.
1. Give friends and family a pet as a gift -- but never as a surprise. Pets are a wonderful addition to life, yet not everyone has the time, energy, money, or interest in having a pet, says Peggy Post, director of the Emily Post Institute, and author of the 17th edition of Emily Post's Etiquette.
That's why Post suggests always asking the receiver if they want a pet. "Some people will ask relatives or friends, but often no one asks the recipient," Post says. A surprise may feel more festive, but in the long run everyone -- whether they have two legs or four -- will be happier if you ask up front.
2. Pay the pet's adoption fees. Once you know your recipient wants a pet, tell them you'll pay the shelter's adoption fees for them in advance. If ultimately they decide against adopting a pet, you'll have made a much-needed donation to a shelter in their name.
And remember that shelters are a great resource, even if your recipient is keen on a pedigreed pet. "A lot of facilities do have purebreds," says Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center.