It may be a great idea. But the surprise of a real live long-term responsibility wears off fast. Talk about it first & be ready for the real investment of energy & expense.

 

Question:

My fiancee has said that she might want a pet and I’m running out of time to get her a birthday present. I really love her and I want to see that look of joy on her face when she opens the wriggling box. What kind of pet do you think I should get her?

 

Dr. Nichol:

 

Boy, am I glad you asked this question. A major recent survey of pet owners showed that a full 70% of us regard our pets as children. Now that I have two human children it’s like having 2 more kids (or is that 2 more pets?). Either way, they touch your heart the same way. So the answer to your question is DO NOT MAKE IT A SURPRISE! Our emotional lives are complicated nowadays. If the object of your love gets a pet she is not ready to care for, she may keep the critter anyway because she won’t want to hurt your feelings. But pets (except maybe goldfish) take time, commitment, and expense to manage properly.

 

So here is what you do. Tell your heartthrob that you love her and that you want to share the joy and responsibility of raising a wild and crazy young dog or cat. (You can get her a gerbil or iguana but cats and dogs are easier to bond to because they have emotions that are much closer to ours). Give her a chance to say “not now, later”. If she decides to pass, don’t feel rejected but instead take it as a sign of her maturity and ability to know when to commit and when the time is not right. On the other hand, if she gushes with enthusiasm, mail a self addressed stamped envelope to me at the Journal (or call me and I’ll fax it) and I will send you a couple of great articles on selecting a pet that will end up as your first born (I hope).

 

Lastly, I will tell  you what you can do if you REALLY want to share the commitment with your fiancee. On Christmas morning present your bride with a gift certificate for the vaccination series and the spaying or neutering. Now we’re talking true love.