Christmas in July

July features the well-known patriotic holidays

July features the well-known patriotic holidays (Canada Day on the 1st, US Independence Day on the 4th, Bastille Day on the 14th) as well as a variety of other interesting observances. So mark your calendars for Eat Beans Day (July 3), Teddy Bear Picnic Day (July 10), Cow Appreciation Day (eat mor chikin on July 9th), Ratcatcher’s Day on the 22nd, and Mutt’s Day on the 31st.Don’t forget to take your houseplants for a walk on July 27. If that is not enough cause for celebration, go to holidayinsights.com for a more complete list.

Some countries in the Southern Hemisphere also have a Christmas celebration in July, during their cold season. In the Northern Hemisphere, (with the obvious exceptions of North Pole, Alaska and Santa Claus, Indiana) the Christmas shopping season is, thankfully, still a few months away. If you are considering getting the kids a pet for Christmas, however, now may be a better time. They are out of school for a while, and have time (after camp and your family vacation) to take care of and bond with your new family member, who will be referred to as Krampus for the duration of this blog.

Hopefully, you have done your homework regarding whatever species you are planning to bring home. You should have already considered such factors as your budget, the size of your living space, access to the outdoors, allergies and landlord restrictions. There is also the all-important ick factor. Your son (or, even worse, your husband) may persistently pester you for a pet tarantula. He may even promise to keep Krampus confined to a hamster ball when she is roaming around your house. However, if Krampus does manage to escape, she will undoubtedly make a beeline for any arachnophobe in the vicinity.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about other potential pets:

Exotic pets require specific environmental and dietary conditions to thrive in captivity. Reptiles, in particular, need proper temperature, humidity

and UV levels in their enclosure. This makes it difficult (but not impossible) for alligators to grow to enormous sizes in the sewer system. They may also need a diet of live prey (bugs, usually) or dead frozen animals (rodents, usually). You need to know these requirements before you bring Krampus home, especially if you have squeamish roommates and a communal refrigerator.

Birds need a lot of interaction, clean-up and sound dampening. A large, shrieking parrot will not be welcome in a thin-walled apartment next door to your landlord.

If you are considering a small mammal, bear in mind that some are quite delightful, while others are not known for their pleasant dispositions. Many of them are nocturnal, and have no qualms about running on that squeaky wheel contraption at all hours of the night. Still others may take over your kitchen and prepare fancy French cuisine. Ferrets (even though they are descented) have an odor about them, as well as a tendency to escape and to eat foreign objects. They will all require regular cage cleaning, whichnever ranks high on the list of pet owners’ preferred activities.

Three month old kittens are absolutely, unquestionably adorable. This remarkable cuteness is matched only by the ability to get into everything in your house. (See the May BLOG blog for more about creating a safe and happy kitty environment.)

Then there is the Christmas puppy. It is a lovely, heartwarming image, to be sure. It is also a major commitment of time and resources for the entire family. There is much to be considered before taking home that Greyhound whose loss cost you all your mall Santa earnings.

The realm of impulse purchases (aka the checkout line at the grocery store) is inhabited primarily by gossip rags and candy bars. This is notnecessarily a bad thing, as these items cause limited buyer’s remorse. If, onthe other hand, you spontaneously decide to add a new member to your household, the ramifications will be much more significant.

Decide in advance what kind of dog you want. This means not only the physical characteristics (size, shape, color, hair type, medical issues etc.) but also things like energy level and behavioral tendencies. If you desire a jogging buddy, a Dachshund should not be at the top of your list. If you (oryour neighbors) are very sensitive to sound, a Coonhound’s singing voice probably won’t be appreciated. If you are looking for a back-up lifeguard, a Newfoundland is much more likely to pull you out of the water than a Maltese would be.

Are you expecting your children (who nagged you relentlessly, and promised they would take care of it) to take complete responsibility forKrampus and all of her needs? If so, think again. Don’t get any pet unlessyou, yourself, are willing and able to care for him. Yes, your kids do need to learn to be responsible for the care of other living creatures before you become incapacitated, but you may have to show them by example. You may also need to nag them relentlessly to fulfill their responsibilities.

Be aware that Krampus will create ongoing expenses. Like any big purchase, pets are a financial commitment that extends well beyond thepurchase price. While they may be 8 weeks old and have “all their shots” atthat point, they need booster vaccinations (usually at 12 and 16 weeks of age). In addition to vet visits, you will need to provide food, training, toys, treats, grooming, flea and heartworm preventatives etc, etc, etc and so on.

Training is vital for all new pets. Housetraining is obviously of the utmost importance, but it is not the only thing Krampus needs to know. Puppy classes are a wonderful way to help socialize her. This means introducing him to other people and other dogs of all shapes and sizes, in a controlled, non-threatening way. Some basic commands are also very important. At some point, you will need Krampus to stop whatever behavior she is engaged in, and convince him to do something else. This is a whole lot easier if she knows a few commands, and knows she will be praised for performing them when instructed. Teaching a few tricks is also fun and provides much needed mental stimulation as time goes by.

If you are getting a puppy for your children, please consider their ages. If they are infants or toddlers, a calm, mature, housebroken dog may be a

better option for a new parent. Mom (or Dad) may be taking some time offwork to tend baby, but you do not want to pit the puppy’s needs against the baby’s. Baby will win, every time. If baby is crying to be fed and Krampus iscrying to go out, Dad (or Mom) will have a puddle (or pile) to clean up after returning from work.

If the kids are of elementary school age, you should expect them to help care for the pup. The age and maturity of the children will dictate how much supervision they need, and how much help they will actually be.

Tweens and teens should be expected to take a more active role, and should be able to help with the training process. If you get Krampus while the children are on summer break, they should be able to take him outside every hour or two. This provides a potty break for Krampus as well as some much-needed breaks for the kids from their electronic devices.

If you are ready to get a puppy, consider the source. It is often possible to obtain puppies from a local shelter or rescue. You know better than to buy a puppy from a pet store or puppy warehouse. You probably also know that if you are buying from a breeder, you want to see the breeding operation. You want to see both parents and littermates, if possible. If the breeder lives far away and wants to meet you halfway in a Wal-Mart parking lot, keep looking. They may just want to sell you an overpriced, inbred, unhealthy puppy mill specimen, but they might also rob you and steal one of your kidneys.

Do not purchase a puppy that is less than 8 weeks old. They need to stay with their mother (and littermates). They may not be nursing, they may be driving the breeder crazy, but they are learning vital social skills from their mother and siblings.

If you get a dog from a rescue or shelter, they will already have some (probably not all) vaccinations, a microchip for identification, and be spayed or neutered. This will save you money, as well as saving an animal.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, in a region with variable seasons you need to ask yourself if you really want to housetrain a puppy in cold, dark (possibly snowy) December. Even without weather issues, the end

of the year is a rather busy, stressful time for a lot of people. There is a lot of shopping, wrapping, packing, shipping, cooking, entertaining, traveling, hosting, financial planning and, on occasion, drinking to be done. You may not have a lot of time to devote to a puppy. You will also soon receive the credit card bills for your holiday indulgences. This may not leave much roomin the budget for Krampus’s impending vet visits and other expenses.

Not all Krampus acquisitions are planned, of course. There are circumstances in which a puppy may come to you quite unexpectedly. St. Bernard puppies could be offered in exchange for mechanic services, or they may wander randomly into your house. Cocker Spaniels can be a Christmas gift from your husband, Jim Dear, or a gift (not an improper campaign contribution) for your daughters from a traveling salesman. Usually, however, adding a member to your household is a conscious decision. Please consider the optimal timing before taking action.

Of course, the right time for you to get a new pet will depend on your particular situation. Just make sure that you will be able to devote the time and energy necessary for the best transition possible. A happy, healthy, well- behaved Krampus is a benefit to all.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. Dr. Debbie Appleby