By Jim Tedford, Director of Pet Identification
Within the past six months, I have gone through the process of introducing and assimilating new dogs into my household TWICE. And, these are not just ANY dogs…both are relatively high-energy, five-year-old Labrador retrievers and each is approaching 100 lbs! In other words, they come very close to qualifying as farm animals!
We did not enter into these relationships without a significant amount of forethought and soul searching. The decision to add a new companion animal to your life and home is not drastically different than the decision to add a human child! The big difference is that, if we’re lucky, our human children become increasingly self-sufficient and eventually grow up. Such is not the case with our pets…they depend upon us for all of their physical and emotional needs forever. Yes, I used the “f” word…forever!
So, before you make the decision to acquire ANY pet, take a look at your lifestyle and consider at least the following:
1. Time — Are there enough hours in your day to properly care for a pet? The time commitment extends beyond basic care (cleaning and feeding) to play time, exercise and snuggling. In other words, our animal companions need QUALITY TIME! Here at PetSafe we are a dog-friendly work place. It is not unusual to see dozens of dogs assisting their human companions throughout our offices. There is almost always somebody napping in a cushy dog bed under my desk. Most dogs, however, spend the work day at home alone. So, after a hard day of work, be prepared for the warm greeting of your best friends…and be prepared to go for a much-needed walk!
2. Training – Most pets are extremely eager to please. But, they are not born with a full understanding of what we expect of them. It is up to us to teach them boundaries and appropriate behaviors. Bodie, our black Lab, is still having a tough time learning that food on our counters was not placed there for his enjoyment. I suppose he thinks the fact he is tall enough to reach counter tops makes them fair game! My mother-in-law’s birthday cake was the last straw…PetSafe offers a full range of products to help pet owners instill proper behavior into their pets. But, there is no magic bullet. The bottom line? Be prepared to take however much time is necessary to teach your new companion what you expect. Leaving pets to their own devices is akin to letting a toddler roam freely through your home with reckless abandon. That investment of time and effort will ensure you have a friend for life!
3. Money – One of my new dogs was given to me by a family who could no longer care for him. And while the initial adoption cost me nothing, within 24 hours I was presented with a veterinary bill approaching the national debt! He needed all vaccinations. He needed a heartworm test and heartworm preventative. He was imbedded with a microchip as a permanent source of identification. He was given parasite control. And he was neutered. Add to those expenses the cost of a new collar and leash, a bottle of dog shampoo, an identification tag and the first 40-pound bag of premium dog food and I quickly realize we could’ve had a vacation home instead! Are you prepared for the financial burdens of pet ownership including food, proper housing, health care (including the occasional astronomical emergency veterinary bill), training, and boarding when you are away? The dividends we earn from our pets far exceed the cost of pet ownership. But, it is important to be prepared.
4. Lifestyle — Do you know where you will be living in the next 5 years? 15 years? Beyond? Do you work 22 hours a day? Are you willing to make a commitment to something that will be completely dependent upon you for the duration of his life? Are you prepared to take the bad along with the good? Or would your first reaction to problems be to give your pet away or take him to an animal shelter? Remember that pet ownership is more a privilege than a right. Be sure that the whole family is fully invested in the idea of having a pet before deciding to add one to the mix. And, make sure nobody in the household is allergic, too!
Jim Tedford serves as Director of Pet Identification for PetSafe. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.