DEAR OLD TRAINER: I want to give my girlfriend Lisa a dog for Valentine’s Day. I work as a firefighter so I’m gone for a week at a time and a dog could keep her company. She hasn’t talked about dogs so I don’t know whether to get her a big one or a little one. What do you think?
Dalton, Fort Worth, Texas
A: I think your heart’s in the right place, but your plan needs work. It’s NEVER a good idea to surprise anyone with a dog.
In the movie Bandits, Billy Bob Thornton says to Bruce Willis, “This is a very, very bad idea. In the history of bad ideas, this is a humdinger.”
Perfect description of giving a dog as a surprise gift.
As you point out, Lisa has never talked about dogs at all and I assure you anyone wanting a dog lets you know it. A dog requires an extensive commitment of time and money that may last 15 years. Lisa has given you no indication she wants to assume that responsibility. Does she know how to train and care for a dog? Is she interested in exercising a dog every day? Does she even want a dog around?
Maybe she does. Maybe a dog is the perfect idea. There are two ways to find out and neither involves just showing up at the door with a bundle of energy that bounds around the house like a roadrunner.
One, take her to the local shelter and let her see the dogs and play with them. Discuss the effort required to take care of one and tell her you will help and that you want to give her a dog for Valentine’s day if she wants one.
Two, if you prefer to surprise her, buy a gift certificate from the shelter and put it in a Valentine card. If she decides she wants one the two of you can visit the shelter together and find the perfect fit.
If she feels she doesn’t want one at this time she can give the gift certificate to a family that wants a dog but can’t afford one. That way you save a dog’s life, make your girlfriend happy, and change the life of a family.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: “Thank you for exposing the internet dog scam. We lost $600 on a puppy that never arrived…” “My mother got taken for $800…” “We found out crooks had hacked the Delta Airlines website and it was a total fraud…”
Big response from readers to my column discussing why you never buy a dog over the internet, all from people who learned the hard way.
It’s one of the biggest frauds going and internet criminals have scammed thousands of people by using pictures of adorable puppies. It’s routine for them create sites that look like they belong to Delta or some other legitimate business and use them as part of the criminal enterprise.
No legitimate organization sells dogs over the internet. The only ones who pretend to are operators of puppy mills or criminals out to steal your money.
Anyone who tries to sell dogs on the internet is a fraud. Save your money and save your sanity by ignoring them. Go to your local shelter, deal with honest people, and you’ll find the perfect dog.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.