[originally posted November 11th, 2009]

It’s approaching that time of year when people drink too much, eat too much, sleep with their co-workers at holiday parties (if they have jobs outside their homes that still throw holiday parties) and otherwise do self-destructive stuff. That’s really none of my business; I’m right there with them (except for the co-worker part). I’m more concerned about the people who, with the best of intentions, mess up other lives, canine as well as human. The ones who surprise someone with a dog as a holiday gift.

Let me be clear. A gift of a living creature that requires care the recipient might not be prepared to give is a lousy idea at any time of year. It’s just worse during the holidays, when the excitement of the season leads to over-stimulation and bad behavior. The dog often gets really wound up, too.

Sure, we’ve all heard stories of happy endings: The disconsolate woman who got over the loss of a child with the love of a good dog, the lonely kid who found companionship … But far more stories don’t get told because they’re too sad. Instead, they’re reflected in statistics about the spike in the number of dogs abandoned to shelters come the new year.

What if your child really wants, and is prepared to care for, a dog? I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t let her associate getting a dog with the holidays, which is one way to ensure better memories of the season than most of us have. It’s the surprise element I have a problem with.

How do you know if your kid is ready for a dog? Stay tuned…

>Update: No sooner did I post this then I sat down to lunch and read the opening paragraph of the cover article of Newsweek :

Al Gore steps onto the portico of his century-old white colonial, its stately columns framing him and the black Lab mix, Bojangles, that he and his son rescued from a shelter as a birthday present for Tipper.

Inquiring minds want to know: Did Tipper want a dog named Bojangles — or any dog? Is she stuck with poop duty or are Al and offspring dealing with cleanup? (I suspect she is; the article talks about Al’s heavy travel schedule.)

And since Bojangles is bound to be called Bo, will the inevitable comparisons be made to a certain presidential pup?

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