There are gifts and then there are gifts, but just as folks are admonished not to give bunnies or chicks for Easter presents, at this time of winter holidays it is important to be sure that the gift of a kitten or pup, cat or dog (or any other living creature) is something to which the recipient will be committed for the life of the animal. It is easy enough to choose a creature and then find that it is unwelcome, or that the amount of care it requires far exceeds the commitment in time and financing available from the new owner, or, worse yet, that the idealized concept of having a pet clashes with the reality of litter/paper training, veterinary costs, and all the emotional involvement required to make the arrangement successful.

Please do not misunderstand! Pet adoption is our goal, and there are plenty of dogs and cats available in the area in need of forever homes. However, every animal should be wanted and every pet owner should be prepared for the expense and long-term commitment that an animal deserves. There are few things more disturbing than learning from shelters and rescue agencies that the puppy or kitten "grew up" and found itself abandoned because it was no longer "cute." Perhaps the animal developed health issues and was considered to be an inconvenience. Behavioral issues often discourage pet owners, but even these can usually be overcome by employing a good trainer and/or having the patience to help the animal to adjust. It is important to remember that the animal is at the mercy of its human caregiver and it needs a commitment from that person for life.

Make this a happy holiday season for furry friends as well as their caregivers and be sure that every animal will join a loving home where it can live out its life with the attention that it deserves. Care for your pet and it will reward you many times over with unconditional devotion.

Pat Jauch is secretary of Caledonia Animal Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 4054, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; www.caledoniaanimalrescue.com.

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