Considering giving or receiving an animal as a pet? Here are some things to consider.

 

“May buhay ang mga alaga natin!” This statement, for me, sums up the most important element of giving a pet to friends, loved ones, family, and associates.

Now, generally, this may not be a good idea for four-legged creatures like dogs and cats, especially if the recipient is not prepared for it. Another column in the November issue of Animal Scene, titled “Why Pets Are Not the Best Gifts to Give,” tackled this very topic.I found it interesting, as it passionately reasoned why one should not be imposing responsibilities on other people by gifting them with dogs, cats and other four legged creatures.

Now, allow me to cover what was not addressed there: fish and other low maintenance pets as gifts. I feel these are a different proposition compared to cats and dogs, and I’d like to take what I think of as a “holistic” approach to the topic. Let’s start with appreciating the responsibility attached to pet keeping.

Over the past thirty-odd years, if I can count the number of expensive pets that have died in my (or my boy’s) care, I am sure my wife will throw me out of the house almost immediately. They were worth millions, without exaggeration. However, such is life. You either find the glass half full or half empty. Luckily I had had parents, teachers, priests and mentors who carefully laid out to me the importance of a positive outlook in life. Life, after all, comes with the good as well as the bad. Lest you think I am callous about the lives of these pets, what I would like to say is that what happened to them, despite my best efforts, is something that can happen to anyone.

I feel that children in particular deserve the opportunity to learn and embrace responsibility. We coddle them enough as it is, so why should we not teach them responsibility by giving them the responsibility of taking care of other creatures?

You need to be a good judge in this case, and you have to determine if they are ready to take on this challenge. I was approached by the ten-year-old daughter of a friend who, upon seeing that I gave her cousins pet dogs, asked for one as well. Immediately I told her to seek her parents permission as it entailed involving the whole household in the dog’s care. After all, it won’t just be the child who will take care of the dog. Her dad ended up buying her a Sony Dog robot so as not to mess up the house. I honor and respect decisions such as this and I know full well that their family was conscious of the importance of their other responsibilities in considering what was best for their daughter.

Which brings me now to the topic of Chinese New Year! I confess: for me, the best gift for loved ones, friends, family, and officemates as well as their children remains to be pets. It is the gift giver, though, who should be responsible, not the recipient. You may be open to accepting the sight, smell, and mess of pets, and bravo to you!

Welcome to the real world, where pets are an integral part of our lives for the rest of their lives. See, this is something you need to consider when choosing to give a pet to someone else: pets eat, make messes, and will not always be cute. If the person you’re giving the pet to can accept this and understands the responsibility of having a pet (or can help their child understand that responsibility), then by all means, go for it.

We as the giver of gifts have to take into consideration the ability of the recipients to give pets the love and care we give our own family members. This makes the gift more meaningful. Giving with the heart means you take the responsibility of considering the welfare of the pet and the ability of the recipient to take good care of the gift.

It makes the giving of the pet something more than just a happy, giddy moment; it is like the passing on of a torch, so to speak, because you are showing your trust in the responsibility and maturity of the recipient, and you’ve taken the time to think things over. And you know you are helping to build a child’s character by giving them, at an early age, the best training in life by making sure they embrace responsibility with the ownership of pets.

That having been said, whether its cute puppies that grow into monsters, cuddly cats that turn into scratching menaces, or monster fishes that can deplete a whole month’s salary in a week’s worth of super worms, feeders, crickets, bait fish, mice, etc., it’s the thought that counts as well as the attendant personal growth that comes along when nurturing a well-meant gift. Dogs and puppies are for families who won’t mind the hours needed for potty training and the fifteen minutes a day the pet needs of your attention. Cat fanciers know that their pets can basically care for themselves and are less rowdy than most other pets. Fish can give joy to their owners by growing in size or multiplying in numbers. That calm and soothing effect of coming home each day and, instead of burying yourself in gadgets or turning on the TV, turning on the “analog” feeling of watching your pet fish happily swim to and fro in the tank is a wonderful thing. Cleaning the tank weekly is a small price to pay for such bliss.

For the more advanced hobbyists, there is an infinite number of pets they can choose to care for. If breeding is your cup of tea, birds and fish won’t require voluminous space and astronomical budgets if you are a city dweller. You can move up to breeding cats and dogs, not as a commercial venture but as a serious hobby if your sources of income run in the high six figures every month. Just be sure to remain friendly with the neighbors, and take seriously the responsibility of making sure you are not a menace to the village you live in.

Exotic and expensive pets for serious hobbyists now abound. Reptiles and expensive arowanas are flooding the market because of the upswing in the economy. If you will invest not only money but time and effort to give the utmost tender loving care, then by all means get into the hobby and treat yourself to a super red arowana or a giant tortoise that is not noisy and only eats vegetables and fruits. Allow me to end my article this month by answering the question of Celina, who lives alone in a condo apartment, asking which is the best dog breed to care for in consonance with her cat, who is friendly to dogs.

Celina, try to surf for information on dog breeds that have sedate personalities and are not excitable. Beagles, corgis and Shih Tzus are in this category, but so far the most suitable breed I can recommend is a Pekingese. I loved the days I had a Pekingese that I bought from my friend Raffy Yap. For a one-dog owner, Celina, its monthly grooming bill of Php350 isn’t going to be too much for you. But you will be so happy with the love it will give back in return as well the companionship it will provide your pet cat!

This appeared “The Best Gift Ever” in Animal Scene’s February 2016 issue.