Last week, we added another furry face to our household! I’d like to pretend that Madelaine is a rescue dog (since we got her through a rescue organisation) but to be honest, a semi-Labrador less than three months old is definitely appealing enough that she doesn’t a lot of help to find a home. If her foster mother had been the unscrupulous type, she probably could have sold Maddy on, not just charged us an adoption fee that barely covered her microchipping and vaccinations (and can’t possibly have paid for her food and regular worming). Rescuers are definitely not in it for the money.
I’ve desperately wanted a pup for years and years, but we’ve known since 2007 that we’d be returning to Japan one day. Asking family to mind cats is one thing; dogs are more demanding. That means that sleepy little Madelaine isn’t just our newest family member; she’s a real symbol of our homecoming. And, with both of us working part time, it’s the perfect moment to introduce a new baby to the house. Because goodness me, babies are a lot of work!
Feeding, playing, grooming, etc are all fairly straightforward at this age. But toilet training is definitely an issue (2 a.m. generally finds me in the backyard chanting “Go pee. Go pee,” to a yawning pup) and getting other family members used to the situation is also a bit of a trial. Fuji, our mad, weird little cat is extremely unimpressed at the new introduction, despite all of Maddy’s best efforts to ingratiate herself. Thus far, grovelling, barking, whimpering and rolling around under Fu’s nose have all failed to impress. My housekeeping has suffered a little as well, with my office overrun by cushions and toys, while their smelly little owner snores under my desk. And we’re stretching our already-stretched finances a little further, since Madelaine is going to need her booster shots and desexing very soon.
Still, all new parents have to deal with these problems, don’t they? Whatever their species, babies are expensive, messy, time-consuming and take a lot of effort to fit into your household.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands that.
Summer is a terrible time for animal rescue organisations. The kitten-breeding season reaches its peak, adult pets are abandoned over Christmas by holiday-makers who can’t find anyone to care for their pets and, in the early months of the New Year, shelters are inundated with dog and cat surrenders from people who didn’t seem to realise that kittens don’t come toilet trained and that puppies need to be exercised.
It’s a horrible, heartbreaking period for the workers, who either have to accept that they will be euthanising perfectly healthy animals or that overcrowding will force them to turn some animals away, with no idea what will happen to them. Our local RSPCA has been trying to deal with this period by holding events at the shelter where people can meet the animals as well as by reducing adoption fees during periods of heavy occupancy.
That means that, if you’ve been thinking about adopting a new family member, now may be the perfect time to start checking out not just your local RSPCA website, but other local animal welfare organisations. The amount of surrenders over this period mean that it’s easier than ever to find the right pet to fit into your lifestyle. Both groups can help match you to the right animal and can give you lots of advice (and, often, financial assistance) to help you properly care for your new pet.
For example, if your life is too busy to deal with the demands of a puppy in the house, you might be matched with an older dog or a litter-trained kitten. If you work long hours, an adult cat, or even two might be exactly the right companions for you. Even if you live in a tiny apartment or have one room in a share house, all is not lost. They can fit you out with a guinea pig, a friendly rat or even a ferret like Esteban to keep you company!
Just remember, though, pets, even the perfect pet, require food, exercise, vet care, a clean environment and your regular attention. Even if you’re matched with the ideal animal for your lifestyle, you’re still going to have to make some changes yourself, because your pet’s needs are not going to alter according to your capacity to give. You may be sad, tired or broke; they still want walkies! If you don’t feel that you can adapt to anyone else right now, the time may not be right for you to adopt.
On the other hand, it’s not all work. Interacting with a pet isn’t nearly as demanding as interacting with another human and we manage that every day. And they will offer you their constant companionship, loyalty and unconditional love, even on days when you probably don’t deserve it. If you are sad, they will comfort you. If you need exercise, they will run with you. If you just want some company while watching T.V. or washing the dishes, they will sit on your feet and just be with you. Forget matching teatowels or a potted fern; pets are the best, fastest and most rewarding way to make your house a home. There is no other feeling of well-being that compares to a contented Fuji purring in our laps when the day’s work is done. And being greeted by Maddy’s funny, whiskery, little face in the morning brings happiness to the start of every day.
We love our furry family and are so happy to have them.
P.P.S. Internet troubles and Madelaine meant this post was late; we will still update Monday, as per usual. Meanwhile, check our our Facebook page to see what we’re up to!