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Your pet is for life, not just for Christmas.

Let’s be honest, puppies are bloody adorable. So are teeny tiny kittens. They’ve got all that long fur, big doe eyes, adorable little bark or meow…

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Plus those sharp claws, big teeth, and love of scratching or chewing anything which is placed in their path. Plus questionable toilet habits. Oh and they need lots of training and attention so that they learn the rules of their house. Oh and lots of love and cuddles at 2am because they’ve woken up cold and having a nightmare and need to be rocked back to sleep in your arms…

My name is Jodie, and I am a crazy cat lady.

My point is, having pets is hard. Like really hard work. Especially in the beginning, with toilet training, and the inevitable accidents. With pets, you can’t just take off at a moments notice. Your boyfriend has book a surprise weekend in Berlin? Oh how sweet…let me just check I can get a dog sitter. Last minute tickets to that gig you were saying to see which involves an overnight stay? Let me just check my sister can look after the cat. I would imagine it is like having a child; the difference being that one day a child will grow up and be able to look after themselves (in theory, I think my Mum is still waiting for me to reach this stage.) Your pet? Yeah they are going to need you for THEIR WHOLE LIVES. And that could be a while.

My beautiful little boy was almost 20 when he died a few years ago, and he needed me to take care of him right up until the end. And I did. Even though there were late nights and early mornings, and he got a bit confused about which house was his and where his food bowl was, I loved the bones of him right up until he went to sleep and ran out of batteries. In fact, I am welling up writing this because it is reminding me how much I love and miss him.

This is Mercy. She is now four, and came to live in her forever home when she was around eighteen months old. By that time, she had had approximately five homes that we knew of; on average, she had moved once every two to three months since she was born. She was terrified of all men, the sound of whistling, doorbells, high viz vests, cigarettes, lighters….she also has a bald patch behind her ear which the vet said was most likely caused by someone putting out a cigarette on her. At her first health check, we were told she had been badly abused, had huge anxiety, abandonment, and trust issues, and would need a heck of a lot of love and TLC.

Boy was she right.

When we got home that day, Mercy shot out of her carry basket and straight under the kkckboards beneath the sink, which had been removed while we had work done on the kitchen. Cats Protection advised us to give her time, so I spent the next fortnight with my head under the cupboards, talking to her, singing to her, trying to coax her out and letting her get used to the sound of my voice. She sneaked out at night to eat, but otherwise wanted nothing to do with us. Until one evening, while watching TV, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. She had very slowly crept out of her hiding hole and into the living room.

“Don’t look at her.” I advised, and we carried on watching TV, totally ignoring her until she jumped up and onto my lap, turned around twice and fell asleep. I cried buckets that day. Now, she is a naughty, cheeky, pampered princess, and you’d have no idea she had had such a bad start.

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The point is, that took a hell of a lot of time and effort. It was worth every second to see her progress, but my heart still breaks a little at her face when she sees an overnight bag. She knows our lovely neighbour, who comes in a feeds and spoils her when I’m away, very well, but there is a tiny part of her which will always ask if I’m coming back. And that is because some very selfish humans saw how cute she was, took her on, and then realised she comes with a host of behaviour problems. She was nervous, she bites when she’s scared (to the point that I ended up with sepsis when getting in her way), she runs at the first sight of strangers. But she’s getting better. Every day of routine and stability helps her that little bit more. All she’s asked for is a forever home.

Pets are adorable. Especially tiny baby pets. They are fluffy and sweet and oh-so-cute. They are also a lot of work. They need training, socialising, and in the case of dogs, lots of exercise. They need food and cat litter and toys and vet appointments, flea treatment and special medicine. They need love, affection, and patience, even when you’ve had a hard day. But all they will ask you for is love.

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So this Christmas season, think twice before you get a cute puppy for Christmas Day. They are not something to be thrown out with the recycling in January. They are living breathing beings who need you all year round. Sorry to use a cliche, but a dog really is for life, not just for Christmas.

Peace, love, and pets.

J x

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