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Coming full circle 50 years later…

I remember fondly like it was yesterday when my uncle who was living with us at the time brought home a small dog. At first l didn’t make anything about it but as the weeks and months went by l became very attached to that dog and so did my family, especially my grandmother who had that dog follow her around everywhere.

Jack Russell Terrier play with big old ball

At the time myself or my family never thought twice about this dog that had become part of the family and we never looked at it as something that would help us with our stress levels or any of today’s phycological advantages that pets bring to our every day lives. We called this dog “Butchy” and he was just that …. a dog that became integrated into our family with no explanations or reasons why he was there…. he was just Butchy.

To this day, l can still remember golden moments with this dog and the impact it had on myself and my family, but at the time we didn’t look at it in those terms, but just as Butchy being part of our family. But the most dramatic event of my pet experience well over 50 years ago was the day that he no longer was around us. Aside from the day we got this dog and all the joy that he brought us, his last days are still etched in my memory bank and he holds a special spot in my heart. I truly can understand when someone loses their pet and the drama that it creates, especially when you feel that you want to replace that pet, but don’t want the emotional stress that it brings when that pet is no longer there.

50 years later l am now dealing with the possibility of getting a dog and going through all the ebbs and flows with my family, especially my son who has been researching to find the right dog to bring into our family.

Getting a pet today is much more complicated then it was 50 years ago and with everyone’s busy lifestyles you really need to step back and assess all the things you need to consider before bringing a pet home. My discussions with my family, especially my son, is the fact that you need to commit to this pet. Will you have time to walk this dog at least three times a day?

Are you prepared to exercise this pet every evening and give it some attention?

If the answer is no, and you have no one who can perform these essential tasks, you should stop right here and consider a fish or a bird as a low-demand animal companion.

I also told my family that choosing a pet based on how popular or cute it is, is probably one of the worst decisions we can make. Too often these pets are unceremoniously dropped at an animal shelter when they show themselves to be too high energy, too needy, too intolerant… the list is endless. Get to know the breed you are interested in and be open to changing your mind if it doesn’t fit your ability to provide for its temperament. Ask lots of questions from people adopting the animal out, maybe even find a breed specific group to ask questions of some of the members. Do your research and choose wisely.

I told my son and my family that getting a pet is not only a big commitment, but also a financial commitment. Owning a pet can cost quite a bit… food, grooming, toys, veterinary care and treatment are the expenses you can’t avoid if you own a dog. There is truly, a serious commitment when you decide to get a pet. Most dogs have an average life span of 10 – 15 years. Would we be able to commit to a dog for such a long time?

My dog Butchy was trained in such a way that he would go into the yard on his own to do his thing and we would never think twice about it. But today training is such a big thing and needs to be addressed. One of the basic training is potty training. There is no single, guarantee method for success in potty training. I told my family that you have to invest time and effort in it. Dogs for example need to be taught so that they will be well behaved, or they will destroy your house and leave a big mess to clean up. Time needs to be invested in this and it’s a serious effort that needs to take place.

I have tried to throw every negative possible situation at them when it comes to getting a pet.

Long working hours, a busy social life, like l mentioned before, pets require attention. They need you to play and interact with them constantly. Solitude can lead to serious behavioural problem. I told them that this pet has to accommodate to our lifestyle.

Coming full circle after 50 years, getting a pet today may be more complicated today, but it can fulfill the same values and needs that seem to never change…getting a pet that will give you unconditional love.

The last person that gave me unconditional love was my mother who passed away just over a year ago and that void is missing in my life… come to think about it, l may just get that dog for myself.

Vincent Nigro/MS

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