Heather Forsgren Weaver, a colleague of mine at American Forces Press Service, is a regular contributor to Family Matters. Heather’s been heavily involved in this blog from the start. She edits, helps write and posts content on a daily basis.
In this blog, Heather writes about how an English bulldog became an important part of her family and gives tips to military families who are thinking about adding a non-human family member to their clans.
Choosing a Dog
By Heather Forsgren Weaver
June 10, 2010
Pets have always been an important part of my family life, and that’s true for many military families as well.
When I was 7 years old, growing up in Utah, my parents bought us a Shetland sheepdog named “Lady Sunshine Spring.” She was a member of our family until I was away at college. As I was moving to the East Coast, my family added a Maltese-poodle mix named “Monie” to the family who was with us until 2004.
By that time, I had married and I wanted a dog almost as soon as the “I-Do’s” were said. Now that I had a fenced yard, I wanted a dog. So an English bulldog, “Sir Nasdaq Rukeyser of the Internet” joined my life. Nasdaq passed away last year, but my husband and I have recently welcomed another furry addition to our family, “Rokie,” another English bulldog.
For military families, summertime, when school is out, is a great time to add a pet to the family. And, there are some great resources to help you out.
Military families are lucky to be able to tap into these sources as they are contemplating adding a non-human member to their clan.
Note, I said “non-human.” This is an important distinction, because while we chose the four-legged-with-a-tail-and-barks variety, there are lots of pets, including cats, fish, birds, rabbits, hamsters and even snakes.
Much of the pet information I came across while researching the above sites reminded me of some of the questions my husband and I asked ourselves as we were researching which animal to add to our family.
Take the idea of pet-sitting, for example, which is a great way to see if you really want the responsibility of a pet. I actually pet sat when I was single so my now-husband knew I understood the demands. To confirm we wanted a dog, as opposed to another type of pet, we cared for my nephew’s guinea pigs. It didn’t lessen my desire for a dog, but it made me realize I didn’t want a guinea pig because I really didn’t like cleaning the cages. This can also be said of litter boxes for cats and rabbits.
Pet sitting also can give you a sense of the cost in owning a pet. Remember they eat different food, they require veterinary care, including emergency care, they can’t always go on vacation with you, and if you are getting a dog, it will need training.
Another factor to consider is whether someone in your family has allergies? I am allergic to all animal hair. I am willing to take medication to relieve the symptoms, but my husband didn’t want me to suffer too much, so we looked for a breed that didn’t shed as much. Beware though, we chose a breed that according to almost every book and online resource “only sheds twice a year.” That is true for our new puppy, “Rokie,” but Nasdaq shed all of the time.
Be sure to consider how much exercise will the pet need. My brother’s Portuguese water-dogs need lots of exercise. Running two miles a day is not something I wanted to do so we chose a breed that believes sleeping is the best activity.
And remember, in the case of pets, size can matter. What size pet should you get? We own our own home in a neighborhood with no restrictions, but we made a distressing discovery recently when looking at a vacation property that we thought could eventually become our permanent home. The condo building didn’t allow pets over 30 pounds. Rokie is already 45 pounds and she is still a puppy. Many rental units and some home-owners associations have size limitations. Also, some jurisdictions have other restrictions which need to be considered.
Should you adopt a pet, or purchase one? I always thought we would adopt our dog from a shelter or rescue group, but my husband wanted to get a puppy so both of our English bulldogs have been purchased from breeders.
Another choice is to adopt a pet from a friend or family member who may have to part with the pet. This will give you the opportunity to know the pet’s temperament, health history and basic routine.
I hope you will write in and tell me about your experiences with your own pets and their adventures, as well as how you handled moves with a pet â€“ a topic I plan to write about in a future blog.