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The nagging Aries

November 22nd, 2008 (03:11 pm)

current mood: contemplative

I know I'm early to talk about Christmas. However, holiday music has been playing in stores since before Halloween, so I see no reason for restraint.

First, this is Harley.

I'm excited because this is my new nephew. My sister met Harley on Thursday, the day he was neutered, and was allowed to pick him up from his adoption agency on Friday. He's almost two years old. He came with all his toys, bowls, and bed from his previous home (where he was loved, but was reportedly a little too much dog for them).

Debby said that last night, Harley brought his toys upstairs one by one and put them in her bed. I think he knows he's home. They've already enjoyed walks together, nap snuggle time, and--not really by invitation--Harley joined Debby in the bathtub. She says he's sweet, energetic, funny, and has a ferocious bark--all qualities she wants.

It makes me happy that Harley has found a good home; his story could have been different.

I've been involved in no less than five conversations lately in which people have wondered why the media are focusing on the Obama family's search for a dog. Frankly, I'm glad for the media attention, particularly since Michelle Obama has announced their intention to search for and adopt a rescued puppy. There are many challenges and stories involved in a new administration, and this one could easily be lost among them. But if one quality of leadership is setting an example, this is a good one to set. And actually, this isn't an unusual interest; stories and information about White House animals have always appealed to people, particularly when they involve children. In honor of today's date, I'll mention Caroline Kennedy's pony, Macaroni, a gift from VP Lyndon Johnson. In return for being a good companion to Caroline and a great photo opportunity, Macaroni had unlimited access to the White House grounds and received tons of mail from besotted Americans.

There's a Presidential Pet Museum in Williamsburg with items, photos, and stories to preserve this facet of presidential lore. Thanks to them, I now know that:

• Millard Fillmore was a founding member and president of the Buffalo chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and

• Andrew Johnson left flour out at night for a family of mice playing in his room during his dark days of impeachment.

I also learned that the gift of a dog to the Trumans caused controversy during his presidency. It's rarely a good idea to give a puppy as a surprise gift. Many dogs and cats given at Christmas end up in shelters and pounds that don't have no-kill policies. Black dogs in particular have a hard time finding new homes.

If you're thinking of getting a dog or cat for yourself, please check local animal control facilities as well as rescue groups. Consider taking an older animal who seems well-suited to your environment, schedule, living situation, and temperament.

Avoid commercial breeders and puppy mills. Breeding is an activity best left to experts, who breed for optimal health and performance. Irresponsible breeding to make money is another reason animal shelters are full.

Some grim statistics from

• For every human born, seven puppies and kittens are born.

• One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.

• One female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years.

• More than 12 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year. Millions more are abandoned in rural and urban areas.

• Approximately 61 percent of all dogs entering shelters are killed.

• Approximately 75 percent of all cats entering shelters are killed.

• As many as 25 percent of dogs entering shelters each year are purebreds.

If you want a certain breed, check for breed-specific rescue organizations. People should research the qualities of any dog's breed(s) before getting one: their adult size, their most likely temperament, diseases to which they are susceptible. No matter where you get a dog or cat, if it's unaltered, please, please get it spayed or neutered at the earliest opportunity. If cost is an issue, check into low- and no-cost clinics in your area.

I know Tim and I talk about our dogs (and his cats) a lot on our LiveJournals, but we've tried to be responsible about balancing our fun stories with the more serious ones: River's astronomical vet bills, Margot's traumatic incident with rat poison, the stitches near Rex's eye after an altercation with EZ, EZ's story of mistreatment, rescue, and medical challenges, Guinness's and Rex's clever ability to get into things they shouldn't, like ham, Halloween candy, and coconut cake. Being a responsible companion to an animal requires thought, time, energy, and financial and emotional commitment. I applaud all the organizations and people who work tirelessly as animal advocates and caregivers. Many of my friends are among them.

Welcome to the family, Harley.


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