A puppy is one of the most appealing creatures on earth. He's the embodiment of exuberance, humour, and affection. But there are a great many things that a puppy is not, and these negative aspects deserve some thought before you bring a puppy home.

A puppy is not a toy to be enjoyed while he is a novelty, then set aside in favour of a new diversion. He is a living thing whose physical demands must be met constantly for as long as he lives.

A young puppy needs more sleep than a human infant, even though your children may be in the mood to play with him. He needs to be fed regularly and often, even though his meals may conflict with family plans.

A young puppy is breakable. Very young children can inflict unintended tortures on a puppy, especially one of the small or fine boned breeds. His broken leg is much harder to fix than the broken wheel or a toy truck.

A puppy is not a teaching aid guaranteed to instil a sense of responsibility in children. If a child loves his dog, he will probably enjoy brushing him, taking him for walks, filling his water dish and other tasks. A sense of responsibility may well grow out of the relationship, but it is unfair to the animal to put his entire well being into the hands of young children.

Even the most dog-loving youngsters tire of daily chores, and parents who try to force the regime will be asking for friction. Unfortunately, it is the puppy that is the loser in this battle. Responsibility lessons are better left to household tasks that don't involve a pet. The essentials of feeding, housebreaking and discipline training will fall to an adult member of the household. Youngsters can help with the less essential jobs of grooming and walking.

Dogs and children do give each other something very valuable; time and attention that adults are often too busy to offer in sufficient quantities. This is the main function of a child-dog partnership.

A puppy is not cheap. Whether you pay a nominal fee at the city humane shelter or what seems to be a king's ransom for a really special pup, the money paid to make the pet yours, is a mere drop in the bucket to what it will cost to keep him.

There will be Veterinary bills to pay, for both emergencies and regular vaccinations and checkups. There will be city and county licenses to buy, and there are legal aspects of dog ownership you may never have considered; not just personal injury claims, but replacement of shrubbery or grass, or neighbourhood children's clothing torn in play, and there's the wear and tear on your furniture and carpet.

A puppy is not a spur of the moment purchase, or at least he shouldn't be. The wrong dog can be an unending nuisance to a household, and it's much easier to acquire a pup than it is to get rid of a grown dog that didn't work out. Animal shelters are bulging with dogs that were acquired for the wrong reasons, or without sufficient investigation.

If your family has decided to buy a dog, by all means take the time to learn about the breed you have in mind. Every breed has characteristics of temperament, and some of these traits may not fit in with your lifestyle. Some breeds are prone to physical problems such as hip dysplasia, ear cankers, and eye abnormalities. If you are aware of these problems, you can do a more intelligent job of selecting your puppy.

Many towns have kennel clubs whose members are reputable, knowledgeable, and generally helpful. Most breeders will be glad to answer your questions and to help you locate the pup you want. A Veterinarian can put you in touch with the nearest Kennel Club.

If you take the time to do some investigating before you buy, you will know what the going prices are for your breed. Pet shops are NEVER a bargain, no matter what the price, because they often sell pups of very low quality for show-dog prices, simply because few buyers bother to check. Always buy a pup from a reputable breeder; one who has been recommended by your local Kennel Club.

Many puppies are bought impetuously because they looked cute in the pet shop window, because it was a nice day for a drive in the country and there was a kennel with a "Visitors Welcome" sign, or because another family pet had died. Pups bought without being genuinely wanted - and planned for - too often end up at the animal shelter.

A puppy is not a gift unless the giver is certain that this particular pup will be wanted. Not only now, but a year from now, ten years from now, and even then the puppy should be selected by his new owner rather than by someone else. The pup that appeals to one might very well not appeal to the other. it's a matter of chemistry, like love at first sight.

A puppy is not self-cleaning. There will be puddles on rugs, vomiting occasionally, dog hair on clothing and furniture. There may be worms to be dealt with. If these prospects are intolerable to the housekeeper of the family, then perhaps the pleasures of owning a puppy will be overshadowed by the tension it will cause.

Longhaired breeds need to be groomed; not only while the pup is small and new, but also week in and week out for years. The Heavy, silky coats of breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, Tibetan Terriers, and Lhasa Apsos become matted in a very short time, especially in the areas of friction such as legs and flanks. If the dog's coat isn't combed thoroughly and frequently, it becomes unsightly and uncomfortable. The mats pull and irritate, and they make excellent hiding places for fleas and skin disorders.

A puppy is not an adult dog. He has neither the physical nor the mental ability to perform as an adult dog would. He cannot go for long periods of time without relieving himself. He cannot tolerate harsh training methods, nor can he differentiate between what is chewable and what isn't. Nor will he make any distinction between food and objects that hurt him if he swallows them. He will try the patience of the most devout dog lover in the household, and at times he may drive everyone mad. If he is very young, he will cry during his first night or two in his new home. He will require patience and understanding from everyone in the family.

A puppy is not a puppy for long. Before you succumb to the charms of a clumsy St. Bernard pup, or a sad-happy hound, or a limpid-eyed cocker, be very sure that you want not only the puppy he is now, but also the gangly, unattractive adolescent he's about to become, and the adult dog who may fall short of what you hoped he would be.

If you've faced all the negative aspects of puppy ownership and still want him, chances are good that your new dog will be one of the lucky ones who find a permanent happy home, and you will enjoy the rewards of planned parenthood dog ownership; rewards that far overshadow the drawbacks.

Reprinted from Better Homes and Gardens, February 1973.

For those seeking a cute Tibetan Terrier pup... I know most of you won't like to read this, but it is reality. Be sure you are committed to your dog, or returning it to me, the breeder, if it doesn't work out. Even Tibetan Terriers with papers have ended up at animal shelters. This should be mandatory reading for all prospective dog owners ... if you do not need a tissue after reading this then you shouldn’t have a dog.

How Could You?

When I was a puppy, I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You called me your child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad," you'd shake your finger at me and ask, "How could you?" -- but then you'd relent, and roll me over for a belly rub.

My housebreaking took a little longer than expected, because you were terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of nuzzling you in bed and listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the cone because "ice cream is bad for dogs," you said), and I took long naps in the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day.

Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in love.

She, now your wife, is not a "dog person" - still I welcomed her into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted to love them, but I became a "prisoner of love."

As they began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears, and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and their touch - because your touch was now so infrequent - and I would have defended them with my life if need be.

I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams, and together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There had been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me. These past few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had gone from being "your dog" to "just a dog," and you resented every expenditure on my behalf.

Now, you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. You've made the right decision for your family," but there was a time when I was your only family.

I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness.

You filled out the paperwork and said, "I know you will find a good home for her." They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog, even one with "papers." You had to pry your son's fingers loose from my collar as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please don't let them take my dog!" And I worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught him about friendship and loyalty, about love and responsibility, and about respect for all life.

You gave me a good-bye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a deadline to meet and now I have one, too. After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home. They shook their heads and asked, "How could you?"

They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you - that you had changed your mind - that this was all a bad dream ... or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and waited.

I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day, and I padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room. She placed me on the table and rubbed my ears, and told me not to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden, which she bears, weighs heavily on her, and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood. She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured, "How could you?"

Perhaps because she understood my dog speak, she said, "I'm so sorry." She hugged me, and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself - a place of love and light so very different from this earthly place. And with my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not directed at her. It was you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of. I will think of you and wait for you forever.

May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty?

The End
Copyright Jim Willis 2001

A note from the author:

If "How Could You?" brought tears to your eyes as you read it, as it did to mine as I wrote it, it is because it is the composite story of the millions of formerly owned pets that die each year in shelters. Anyone is welcome to distribute the essay for a non-commercial purpose, as long as it is properly attributed with the copyright notice.

Please use it to help educate, on your websites, in newsletters, on animal shelter and vet office bulletin boards. I appreciate receiving copies of newsletters, which reprint "How Could You?" or "The Animals' Saviour," sent to me at the last postal address below.

Tell the public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an important one for life, that animals deserve our love and sensible care, that finding another appropriate home for our animal is your responsibility and any local humane society or animal welfare league can offer you good advice, and that all life is precious. Please do your part to stop the killing, and encourage all spay & neuter campaigns.

Thank you.


© Siddhartha Tibetan Terriers Ireland