Around this time we receive a lot of emails from people who want to get a Japanese Akita puppy for their spouse, kids, or friend for Christmas. But this problem is not limited to the holiday season; we get plenty of messages about birthday presents or anniversary surprises at other times of the year. Living creatures should never be a gift or surprise. Pets are a huge responsibility which all parties must be prepared for and ready to take care of for the animal's entire life. They are not a commodity like jewelry and toys to be traded on a whim or to mark a special occasion. Here is a hyperbole for you: Would you give someone a baby for Christmas? What if they don't want a baby, or they don't like the one you picked, or they can't afford it? What if they're not ready for it or the timing is wrong? What if they decide after a year of sleepless nights that the baby is just too much work? Are you going to take full responsibility for the baby if it is neglected after the novelty has worn off? The idea of giving a baby as a gift is silly. Parents want to choose or plan for their own baby, not be given a random one. Babies are a lot of work, take a lot of preparation and planning, and require 16+ years devoted to raising and caring for them. They're also really expensive. The potential to screw up their childhood or mental well-being is very high. Giving a pet is no different than giving a baby, except that pets will be dependent upon their owners for their entire life. They'll never have the luxury of being self-sufficient and able to leave a bad situation. Pets have no choice about who they live with or where they end up in life, no opportunity to change the fate dealt to them when they're taken to their new home. If you want to give someone the gift of animal companionship, buy them a gift certificate to use at a local shelter. You get a tax write-off, the shelter can immediately put the money to use for animals in need, and the recipient can go choose a pet that fits him or her when the time is right. Everyone wins. If it turns out that the recipient didn't want a pet after all, you can both feel good knowing that you helped shelter animals and no puppy was hurt.