When my favorite Uncle entered my life, he was still a bachelor living out of town and my mom had six children under the age of nine. In not too short order that number swelled to eight children under the age twelve. We lived in a two-bedroom house. Two small bedrooms and one even smaller bath subdivided so that a minuscule bedroom could be added. We were poor. I didn’t know how poor at the time, but I do know my dad worked two jobs and the bill collectors still called on an almost weekly basis.

In retrospect, this was not the time in any mother’s life to contend with a dog and surely not a puppy. Puppies need training, they eat food, they need space, they need a fenced yard, which we did not have. But, being a happy-go-lucky bachelor, Uncle Earl decided that the best Christmas gift for six children would be a cocker spaniel puppy. Those are ridiculously cute creatures, but his opinion of an age-appropriate gift was not from the perspective of a mommy on that Christmas morning as the 1960s were beginning.

At some predetermined time known only to children under ten, those of us who could run raced down the stairs and sat under the ugly, fake white tree with the color wheel trying desperately to make the symbol of Christmas a thing of beauty. It failed miserably. But we didn’t care. To our young eyes, every toy at the North Pole was under that pathetic tree. As it turns out some were pajamas and underwear, inexpensive dolls, and cars guaranteed to lose their wheels during the first lap around the track, but to us, it was the most perfect Christmas in the history of every Christmas ever celebrated. Until Uncle Earl appeared like some six-foot-four-inch jolly elf.

“Ho, Ho, Ho!” boomed my mother’s handsome brother. “Come outside and see what I brought.”

So off we ran into the cold, bare feet, no coats, abandoning all the previously loved gifts. There was something better!

Had I looked at my mother I no doubt would have seen dismay, anger, frustration, and maybe a little love mixed in. How could he? Six little children and you bring them a puppy?

But I didn’t look at my mother. Instead, I looked into the endless wells of those black eyes as that poor dog was grabbed, mauled, held against his will, and probably ready to go back to whence he came. We named her Bobby. Or was it him? I don’t remember. I do remember he or she wasn’t very smart. I also remember the first night when things calmed down and we snuggled in our beds with visions of Bobby dancing in our heads. All was calm, as calm as six sugar-hyped children at the end of an exciting day could be, and then came the sharp bark followed by pain-filled howls.

Someone had left the basement door open and poor Bobby had tumbled down the stairs, landing on a heap on the bottom step. Uncle Earl at least paid the vet bill for the broken leg visit and treatment before flying off to that magical place where favorite uncles live.

Things settled down, Bobby somehow lived for many years, and he taught us how to share, how to nurture, about unconditional love. Bobby was the last and best gift my uncle should ever have given us, but I think even my parents loved Bobby despite all that comes with a puppy.

There are many factors that go into deciding if or when to add a dog to your family. Christmas might be a perfect time if there has already been a discussion and you are financially and emotionally ready. Any child is gung-ho for a dog for the first few days and then reality sets in. So before coming in and choosing a dog as a surprise gift now is the time for family discussion.

A Dog Is Not A Toy

It’s important to remember that a dog is not a toy you can or should easily return once the excitement or patience runs out. Dogs, especially puppies, take time, money, and work to turn them into the perfect dog for your family. You need to remember that a dog is a family commitment for a lifetime of vet visits, vaccinations, food, toys, bones, so many bones in my case, and time. The rewards far outweigh all you have to invest, but it’s important to think about that before pulling an Uncle Earl.

It Won’t Always Be Like That First Moment

Remember holding your newborn baby in your arms knowing there has never and will never be a more beautiful or perfect infant? And baby makes three and the world is perfect. Cherish that first moment because it only takes a tiny bit of time before reality sets in and you realize being a parent, regardless of the number of legs, is harder than you ever thought possible. Love will conquer the chewed shoes, the bills, the six-degree poop walk in the snow. Knowing what you’re in store for will make it easier and you’ll be less likely to rehome a dog when things go haywire.

Pulling Off the Great Surprise

So, the answer is yes. All adults are on board, the children are deemed responsible and old enough for a dog. Is Christmas morning, with all the cacophony and excitement of that day, the best time to unveil the new dog? Possibly not. At NEW PAWSibilities we want everyone thrilled to be getting a dog during this holiday season. We especially want the dog to be in the right home. We offer gift certificates you can purchase to present to the recipient so that they can be an active participant in the dog choosing process. That plus time on our website Christmas morning scrolling through pictures and bios of available dogs is a great way of gifting a pet to someone. This way you can have lots of fun but wait till things have settled down before driving over find the perfect dog in terms of age, energy level, size, etc.

Leashes, Beds, and Clothes

Another way to make Christmas morning fun is to buy and gift wrap Lupine leashes, collars, and harnesses, beds, food, and doggy clothes, coats, and booties from NEW PAWSibilities. We have a great selection of items that can be wrapped and opened to give the recipients a clue as to their “real” gift for when things calm down and the timing is better for adoption.

Where to Find the Perfect Dog

Obviously, we’re biased, but we think that NEW PAWSibilities is the perfect place to find your dog. According to the ASPCA, each year millions of dogs enter shelters, yet of the approximately 59 million owned dogs in this country, less than twenty-percent are shelter adoptees. By adopting at a shelter, you’re giving a homeless pet a new chance at life and opening up space for us to rescue more dogs who are facing certain death because of overpopulation. Another great reason is that we are in the business of helping dogs find great homes, not making a great profit. What that means for our adopters is that it’s simply more affordable to adopt from us than to buy from a pet store or breeder. We also have a great, ever-changing selection of pets and a knowledgeable and friendly staff to make sure you’re getting the right animal for your family.

The holiday season can be a fun and perfect time to introduce a dog into your family. Kids and even adults often have time off to work with the dog so that bonding can happen. However, there’s so much going on that each family needs to evaluate their own situation and make the choice that is right for them and their new dog. The good news is that we still love Uncle Earl, many, many of us have had our own dogs over the years, and, had it not been for Bobby and one other good dog experience, I wouldn’t have my lovely Coconut. Things worked out for Bobby, but it could have been more of a disaster than a broken leg.

NEW PAWSibilities is a no-kill shelter serving families in Northeast Wisconsin with the emphasis on service. While our mission is “to create a world where every dog can be surrounded by love,” we do that in the best way possible so that dogs really do find lifelong, loving homes.

We encourage thoughtful choices during this holiday season and we continue getting enormous satisfaction by connecting people and dogs because, as simple as it sounds, love is just a wag away. It was with Bobby and it can be with the dog who chooses you this year. We’ll be here no whenever you are ready and we can’t wait to help.