Category: “Community Voice Column”

Tick Season is Here!

Tick Season is Here!

Reprinted with permission from Carrington College

Ticks are small, resilient creatures. Not even frost in winter can eliminate them – they are able to return once the temperatures rise again. Now that spring has arrived, pet owners ought to remember these little pests can carry potentially deadly diseases. They enjoy hitching a ride on dogs, but can also easily jump from your pet onto you. However, you do not have to panic if you find one or more ticks on your beloved pet. As this guide from Carrington.edu points out, you can get rid of these little pests on your own before they have the chance to cause too much damage.

Remove the Tick

If you suspect your pet has ticks, do a thorough exam on your pet. Put on gloves and check inside your dog’s ears, under its armpits, between toes and around the face and chin. Ticks are black, brown or tan, and have eight legs. If you find one tick, continue searching to see if there are more. Remember that some ticks can be tiny – barely the size of a pinhead.

The next step is to get a pair of clean tweezers, grab the tick’s body as close to the head as possible and firmly pull it out of your pet. Disinfect the area where the tick was found and put the tick’s body in a jar filled with alcohol. Keep the jar in case you need to show the tick to your vet at a later date. That way, the vet can test the tick for any diseases that it may have transmitted to your pet.

Disinfect the area where the tick was found with alcohol to prevent infection. You may also want to consider applying a topical tick killer to your pet just to be on the safe side. Keep an eye on your dog just in case it may still develop a tick-borne disease. Symptoms may include arthritis or lameness, lethargy, swollen joints, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, neurological problems, anemia or breathing difficulties. Be aware that it can take 7 to more than 21 days before such symptoms can appear.

Clean the Home

If you suspect that your dog brought ticks into the house, take immediate action. Should you see ticks in the home, call a pest control company to eliminate these pests once and for all. If you are not sure if your home has ticks, vacuum the entire house and all your furniture and then place your vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag before disposing of it. Treat dog bedding, carpets and even your bedding with a store-bought tick killing solution.

In case you have a large yard, put up store-bought tick tubes or make your own. Mow the grass regularly and keep bushes cut back. If you have a smaller yard or an extensive tick warfare budget, you may want to build a tick barrier from mulch, stones or gravel between the wooded, bushy areas of your yard and your lawn. You may also want to consider removing any outdoor furniture, equipment or toys away from potentially tick-filled thicket.

If you found ticks on your dog, keep an eye on it for the next few weeks as some tick-borne diseases take as long as three weeks for symptoms to show. Take your dog to the vet if it loses its appetite, has difficulty moving or breathing, experiences neurological problems, has a fever and/or is fatigued. Thankfully, removing ticks in a timely manner minimizes the risk of infection and helps you and your pet avoid having to deal with potentially life-threatening illnesses.

My Dog is a Cone-head!

My Dog is a Cone-head!

My dog is a cone-head – literally!  He has to wear an Elizabethan collar (so named after the style of dress of Queen Elizabeth) nicknamed the E-collar, until the staples come out of his face where he had his tumor removed.  The collar prevents him from scratching at the incision with his back leg and ripping the sutures out, which he would do in less than a minute.  But not only does he look ridiculous, it is, I’m sure uncomfortable and frustrating.

There are other names for the device – at the shelter we call it a party hat referring to the lampshade that you might end up wearing if you indulge too much at a party.  I’ve also heard it called the cone of shame, but I think that’s just how the dog feels when they have to wear one!  It does resemble a satellite dish so people joke about what stations the animal is picking up.

Imagine the worst itch you’ve ever had and no way to get at it!  Yes, he was on pain meds for the first three days and he’s still on antibiotics, but neither of those directly helps with an itch.  I upped his dose of antihistamine to give him some relief, but from the sound of him scratching on the plastic I can tell it’s not completely effective.  I’ve always thought it was cruel of people to just put a cone on their dog when they are having a flea reaction if they don’t also do something to actually treat the problem or give relief to the animal from the itchiness.  This is not not quite the same thing, but I know incisions itch so I’m suffering the mom-guilt of not being able to make it go away.

The cone is awkward in other ways – he is constantly bumping into my legs, into the doorjambs, banging into tables and chairs and just generally being super clumsy.  You can also tell it’s difficult for him to get into a comfortable position to sleep with this thing on his head.  Fortunately there are some new styles out that try to get away from the big, hard plastic cone that make it so difficult for dogs to eat, drink and rest comfortably.

One new style is the same shape, but it’s made out of a very stiff fabric so it doesn’t hurt as much, or do damage when they bump into you and the walls. There’s another one on the market that looks like a big buoy ring that goes around the neck.  It allows the dog to eat and drink a bit easier, but it can be harder to keep on.  The bite-not collar, which looks like a neck brace – is a very wide, stiff collar that prevents the head from turning to chew on the back end.  That, and the concept of putting on a t-shirt or Onsie-type body suit on your dog works great if the material actually covers the itchy spot or incision.  Neither of those would work, though, to prevent a hind leg from scratching at a wound on the cheek.

Sorry to bore you all with more about my dog but he’s the main focus right now – especially with that big cone on his head!  It certainly garners a lot of sympathy from everyone at work so in that way he is rather enjoying all the attention.  Hope that makes up for some of the misery!

Cancer in Dogs Hits Home

Cancer in Dogs Hits Home

This has not been a good week for Golden Retrievers in my family.  My Brandy, who is only about 5-years-old had what I thought was a fatty cyst on his cheek.  But it kept growing and when it got to be the size of a marble I made an appointment to have it checked by the vet.  Naturally, it couldn’t wait and ruptured; making a pretty ugly open wound on his face.

The vet agreed it needed to come off and did an in-house cytology to see if there were any mast cells (cancer) so she would know how big a margin she needed to take off.  Sure enough there were mast cells, so that means a bigger mass removal (fortunately he has large jowls with lots of skin) and a biopsy to see how aggressive a cancer it is.  That will happen next week (might have the results by the time this is printed) so for now he’s on antibiotics and a topical wound cleaner.

In the meantime, yesterday I got a text from my sister who also has a Golden.  Basmati (their last name is Rice) is a 10-year-old male that was adopted from our shelter.  Basi hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days and then yesterday seemed to be in a lot of pain so she rushed him to the vet and they found that a tumor in his spleen had ruptured.  Talk about an emergency surgery!  He had his spleen removed and is still in critical condition from all the blood loss.  Sadly, there is a 90-95 percent chance that it is hemangiosarcoma—an incurable, aggressive cancer of the blood vessels.

Brandy is my third Golden, so you would think I would know a lot about them, but I just found out that they are on the list of the top nine dog breeds susceptible to cancer.  Actually my first Golden also succumbed to cancer, but that was so long ago that I didn’t make much of a connection.  For your information the other eight breeds on the list are: Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs (that was my last dog and he did die from lymphoma), Bouvier des Flandres, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Bichon Frises and Boxers.  All but the bichon are large breed dogs so there’s that commonality.

The diagnosis, of course, is just the first step.  Assuming Basi pulls through this initial surgery, my sister has to decide if she’s going to try chemotherapy on him.  Knowing that, at best, it will buy just a few more months.  I might be facing a similar decision after the biopsy of Brandy’s mass comes back.  There are more treatment options available for animals than ever before, but it all comes with a price tag—both financial and emotional.  It’s never easy deciding what to do, unless your finances are such that you really can’t do anything and then the decision is sort of made for you.

For the rest of us it’s a matter of weighing the chances of recovery and/or the quality of life against the financial strain and the guilt of knowing we didn’t do “everything” possible.  Never an easy position to be in.  Please send healing thoughts to both Brandy and Basmati and give your dog a hug to appreciate his/her good health!

Easter Bunnies

Easter Bunnies

Thinking about getting the kids a real bunny for Easter?  I’m glad!  Not so much glad that you’re getting the kids a rabbit for the holiday as that you are at least doing some thinking!  We can help you out on that part – in fact, this Saturday (and the second Saturday of every month) is our Bunny Day where all our knowledgeable rabbit volunteers are on hand to answer questions and to show off our adoptable buns.  That would be a good first stop to learn more about the care that a rabbit requires.

Sadly, less than five percent of the baby bunnies (and chicks) purchased on a whim around Easter make it to one year old.  Of those that survive, many get surrendered to shelters when the novelty wears off and the reality of the daily care sinks in.  These are living animals that need food, water and a clean environment daily, not to mention exercise and other enrichment activities and toys.  The good thing about rabbits is that other than being altered and a yearly check-up, they don’t need much in the way of medical care.  Unless they get sick and then it’s almost always an emergency!

Since rabbits are prey animals, they see and interact with the world in a different way than dogs and cats, who are predators, do.  Prey animals disguise their illness until it’s almost too late – unless you are super vigilante – so by the time you notice they’re not eating or pooping, it’s a crisis.

They can be frightened to the point of having heart attacks just by having an aggressive dog charge their cage (not even making contact physically with the rabbit).  And they can break their backs if picked up the wrong way (so young children should never be allowed to pick up the bunny).

On the plus side, they make wonderful house pets.  They are quiet, can be litterbox trained, and can get ample exercise running around the house or a safe room.  Once altered, the male’s urine loses that strong odor and they stop marking.  With good care a fixed bunny can live 8-10 years or longer!  So it is a long-term commitment and should be thought through carefully.  Since the children will probably have moved on in interests, if not physically from the home, it’s important that the parents are also into having the rabbit as a pet.  We know who’s going to end up doing most of the care!

Bunny Day at the shelter is a great time to explore the options, and meet some adorable rabbits.  Our volunteers can answer more of your questions and help you select a rabbit that would work for your family and lifestyle.  Occasionally we have bonded pairs available, and that’s always a plus since rabbits are social creatures and humans tend to have busy lives.  It’s so sweet to see two bunnies grooming each other and cuddling.  One of the things our volunteers like best is the dating service they offer.  Helping single rabbits find a compatible match is so satisfying!

Hope you can hop on by during one of our monthly Bunny Days and check out the action.  If you have a rabbit, bring him/her along for a free mani/pedi and shop our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, treats and toys.  All proceeds help support the shelter’s small animal program.  If you decide that a real rabbit isn’t quite the right choice for your family –we’ll have some chocolate ones available instead!

Humans, the Worst Animal

Humans, the Worst Animal

My regard for my species is at an all time low after reading two stories circulating the web this past week about animals that were killed in the name of selfies.  People have always been incredibly stupid when taking snapshots, putting themselves, and often their children, at risk for the perfect picture.  You know, take one more step back on the edge of a cliff for a more dramatic…oops!  Sorry about that!  Or posing the children on a rocky beach ignoring warnings about sneaker waves.  My stomach twists in knots when I see that happening, and I can’t stay to enjoy the view.

In a way, though, that is nature at work.  Survival of the fittest and all that.  I guess it’s a way to weed out the stupid.  Recently a man was so into his texting that he literally walked off a cliff to his death.  Such a waste of a life! You read about this type of thing happening all the time now – people engrossed in their phones walking into traffic, falling down stairs, bumping into poles – it’s so ridiculous it’s almost funny (you can see videos of them on YouTube).  But they’re doing things by choice.  When these things happen to animals, then I really get mad!

I’m sure you all saw the photo on yahoo of the adorable baby dolphin getting handled (mauled) by the people on a beach in Argentina all wanting to get a selfie with the endangered baby. What were those people thinking!?  Let’s take a baby animal away from his mother, take a marine mammal out of the water, and pass him around like a stuffed doll so everyone gets his or her photo op.  What a great idea!  And then let’s act surprised when he dies from the shock of it all.  Really?!  Personally, I think that besides any criminal charges that can be brought against the person who yanked him out of the water that every single person they can identify from the pictures should be fined the equivalent of at least $1,000 to go to a dolphin protection agency.

Then a few days later a story surfaced about a peacock in China that died from the shock of being roughly handled for photographs and having feathers torn out for souvenirs by tourists visiting a park.  Shame on them!  But people have such a detachment from other living beings – and nothing is more important than a good picture.  It seems we’ve started living our lives through photos – if it isn’t documented and posted on Facebook, then it didn’t happen.  And the lengths we’ll go to in order to get a “special” picture is absolutely scary.

I can’t get the picture of that sweet baby dolphin out of my mind.  It makes you wonder if you would get caught up in the mob mentality and want your picture with him too or would you have the presence of mind and courage to say to the crowd “Enough! Put the baby back in the water.”  I hope I’m never in a situation like that, but if I am, I hope I’ll speak up for the animal.

Think Inside the Box!

Think Inside the Box!

Is your cat having accidents around the house?  Not using the litterbox consistently?  Before you turn him into an outdoor cat (which doesn’t really solve the problem – just takes it out of the house) please give us a call.  As mentioned in another article, myself and another employee (Ash) are taking a 10-week course on solving cat behavior problems; and litterbox issues are a huge part of what we are learning.

As I learn more about all the things that can trigger a cat to stop using a litterbox, I am amazed to think that any cat does use it with any regularity!  It seems that cats are sensitive creatures and marking (with urine) is one of their coping mechanisms.  That along with a strong need to claim territory and make it “theirs” can lead to spraying problems.  Which is different, believe it or not, than inappropriate peeing!  Telling the difference can be tricky which is why we are taught to ask a lot of questions.  When do the accidents happen?  Where?  How long has it been happening?  Is the pee a puddle or a line?  Is it on vertical surfaces or horizontal?  Are there other animals in the home?  Any changes with the family – work schedules, people coming or gone, etc.?  Any one of these things could be the cause.

Of course, the big question is – when was the cat last at the veterinarian?  It’s important to first rule out any possible health issue.  A cat can’t help having accidents if she has a bladder infection!  And putting her outside is certainly not going to help that situation.  For male cats, little dribbles of urine could indicate a life-threatening blockage so it’s important to pay attention to those kinds of details.  Only after all possible medical issues have been ruled out do you focus on behavioral and environmental elements.

Cats can be finicky about their bathroom.  They are very clean animals and may refuse to use a dirty litterbox.  Even if you’ve just scooped it – if it hasn’t been washed out in weeks, it still smells dirty to them!  Putting a cover on it might help contain the smell from the rest of the house but that just makes it all the ickier to a cat whose sense of smell is thousands of times better than ours!  Some cats won’t pee and poop in the same box and some cats won’t share a box with another cat, especially if it’s just been used.  You never want that to be the reason for a mistake, so the rule is one box per cat – plus one!  And they need to be in various locations just in case part of the issue is that one cat is guarding the boxes.

There can be so many other issues with the box itself – how deep it is, the type of litter used, where the box is located, covered or uncovered, and so on that it’s really best to talk to someone with some base knowledge (won’t say we’re experts yet) to help you sort it out.  Making frequent random changes alone (for those of you who say you’ve already tried “everything”) can be a stressor and part of the problem!

If you’re dealing with a litterbox issue, please give us a call (584-1582, open Wed 1-6:30; Thur-Fri-Sat 1-5:30; Sun 1-4:30).  Ash and I would love to chat with you about what could be causing the problem and help brainstorm ways to solve it – without the cat being put outside or surrendered to the shelter.  Here’s where thinking inside the box is the right way!

Wellness Clinic for Seniors

Wellness Clinic for Seniors

Thanks to the financial support of the Animal Shelter League we are going to be offering a Wellness Clinic to low-income senior citizens of Rohnert Park and Cotati to provide some much needed veterinary care for their pets.  The clinic will be on Feb. 27 and appointments are filling up quickly!

What is a Wellness Clinic?  We bring veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and a cadre of volunteers so we can offer health examinations, vaccinations, deworming, flea control product, microchips, nail trims and more.  We’ll have our tag machine there so we can make personalized ID tags on the spot.  The best part is it’s all done for FREE.  This is a way to help seniors keep their pets healthy and safe so they can be together longer.  With many seniors living on a fixed income, there is nothing left over for seemingly optional items like vaccinations or flea products.  Many of these people can’t afford medical care for themselves, let alone their dog or cat.  But for many senior citizens their pets are their lifelines – giving them a reason to get up in the morning, forcing them to go for walks, connecting them to other people and providing companionship for those who live alone.

We know that during these health checks other concerns will be found – pets that desperately need a dental or ear flush, a lump or bump removed, a blood panel or urinalysis for further diagnosis.  For those animals the Animal Shelter League has the Silver Paws Program that can pay for extraordinary veterinary expenses for the pets of low-income seniors in Rohnert Park and the City of Cotati.  If you agree that this is a fabulous program and that we are lucky to have a local group offering this kind of support to our older generation (no other area around here has a similar program unfortunately) please consider a donation to keep it funded.  Go to www.animalshelterleaguerp.org and click on the donation button or stop by the shelter.  Checks can be mailed to ASL at the shelter’s address, 301 J. Rogers Lane, RP CA 94928.

If you know a senior with a pet that may need some veterinary care, please tell them about this program.  They should call the shelter at 584-1582 to schedule an appointment, and do it quickly as there are limited spaces available.  The shelter is open Wednesday 1-6:30; Thursday-Friday-Saturdays 1-5:30; and Sunday 1-4:30.  We’re excited about this program and the opportunity to reach a population that loves their animals as much as we do but can’t afford to give them what they need.  We can make an immediate difference towards improving the quality of life for these pets and that makes us very happy!

Play with Your Cats!

Play with Your Cats!

Do you play with your cat?  I don’t mean the occasional toss of a paper wad or wiggling the fingers under the blanket.  Do you have regularly scheduled play sessions that gives your indoor cat an appropriate outlet for her energy and helps her meet her instincts to catch prey?  New studies are showing that this could be one of the major causes of most behavior issues we have with our pet cats.  I am taking a 10-week course on cat behavior, specifically designed to give the students the tools and information necessary to help people solve their cat behavior problems – everything from litter box issues, cat-to-cat aggression and other destructive or frustrating behaviors.  Start calling if you are having problems – the instructors would love us to work on real cases!  The first thing I’ve learned is about the importance of play.

If you think about our cats’ ancestors, and I’m only going back a couple of generations, not hundreds of years, they lived mostly outdoors (which wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it is today, but still shortened many cats’ lives) and spent a great deal of time stalking and hunting prey.  It is thought that a typical cat would need to catch 20 critters (bugs, birds and rodents) each day to meet their caloric needs.  The cat’s day would look like this:  hunt, eat, groom, nap – repeat.  Our spoiled indoor cats have it easy – full bowls of kibble whenever they are hungry and no threat of becoming the prey, getting hit by cars, or getting injured defending their territory.  But in contrast, without some creativity on the part of their parents, their lives are pretty dull.

Cats love routine and feel most secure in their familiar territory, but they do need some way to release their energy, especially young animals.  And this is where structured playtime with you comes in.  We need to meet their need to stalk and catch prey to both physically and mentally keep our pets stimulated and happy.  I’m not at all advocating releasing mice or crickets in your home!  There are many toys to choose from that will do the trick – if you take the time to use them properly.  Find toys that you can control (we’re talking interactive play here – you need to be involved!) like a fishing pole with a feather attached or a squeaky mouse.  You want to move the object in a way that will catch your cat’s attention and you will immediately notice when it does.  Every part of your docile pet kitty becomes a fierce hunter – the pupils dilate, the ears are forward and focused, the tail goes back and may swish back and forth, the cat lowers his body and slinks forward – and then he pounces!  Ta da!  A successful hunt – or not – depending on whose reflexes were quicker!

The recommendation is two play sessions daily for 10-15 minutes followed by feeding your cat a small meal (he would eat after a successful hunt, of course), then he should groom himself and settle in for a nap.  All tension released and no need to pick on his feline companions, you, or anything else.  It sounds simple but the argument makes sense.  Most behavior issues are because we have bored, under-stimulated, or stressed cats (particularly in multi-cat households).  So it makes sense that anything we can do to provide more stimulation would be beneficial.

Stay tuned, as the course progresses I will be providing more tidbits and suggestions.  Remember to email or call if you are having behavior issues with your cat.  This course will only be worthwhile if the knowledge can be used to help our community’s cats and cat parents!

Changes Coming in 2016

Changes Coming in 2016

Tired yet of all the predictions for 2016? I’m not good at guessing things but I do know some of what is coming up in the new year, since I’m the one who put the requests into the budget.   Based on what was approved we will be seeing some positive changes happening around here – and we are all excited!

Some money was approved to change the kitten room from cold stainless steel individual cages to 4 small friendly colony rooms. With the support of the Animal Shelter League and FAIRE (Friends of the animals in the Redwood Empire) who have been fundraising all last year to raise the additional funds needed for this change, we are almost there! Some room naming opportunities are still available so call me if interested, and donations are still appreciated (go to animalshelterleaguerp.org to donate online). A contractor has just been signed for the work and it’s all just hinging (literally) on a door handle from the manufacturer of the product to be installed.

Along with this change we will be making improvements to our indoor dog visiting room. This room will be getting new walls and a mural, ceiling fans for air circulation, and the floor repainted. This area was enclosed and made into an indoor room during our last renovation 11 years ago, but was never completely finished. It will be much cheerier for the public coming in and make a much better backdrop for the photographs used to promote our shelter residents for adoption.

Another exciting change for the staff here is some improvements to our kennel kitchen. Try preparing meals for 100+ hungry mouths in a small crowded space! More storage will help keep the food bowls and water bottles organized and clear the counters so we have some elbowroom to work in. Trying to keep this facility up and running and improving the workflow is always on the to-do list.

Two of our staff will be going through a Cat Retention Course and learning ways to help our community solve their cat behavior problems with the goal of keeping cats out of the shelter. If we can solve the issues, maybe the cats wouldn’t have to lose their homes (and you would be happier with your pet)! This is a 10-week course so it won’t be up and running until Spring; stay tuned and watch our Facebook page for updates. We’re super excited about this program though and hope you are too.

We’re also renaming and revamping our “No More Lost Pets” campaign. It’s now the “Get Them Back Home” campaign and it’s to promote reuniting lost animals with their families. Why do strays sit unclaimed in shelters? Pets wander away and without a way to let people now where they live, what’s an animal to do? Putting on a tag and giving him a currently registered microchip is a way to give your pet a voice. It’s like magic only simpler! And they are both FREE at our shelter for residents of RP and Cotati. Along with this we post all strays on our Facebook page (like us and become part of our animal saving team!) to make sure worried parents have a way to know their pet is in our care. Our goal? All strays going home within 24 hours – and why not?!

We will finally be rolling out the P.A.W. this spring and, again, we are super excited to be able to bring this to our community. The P.A.W. , Pet Adoption Wagon, is a van outfitted to bring adoption animals out into the community for adoption events. We are looking at creative ways to increase adoptions and this a very easy way to expand our reach new areas that might not think to come to the shelter for a pet. We will need more event volunteers so think about that and drop a note to our volunteer coordinator (volunteerwithanimals@rpcity.org) if you think that might be something that you would like to help with. New programs mean more help is needed!

We’re looking forward to the challenges of 2016. Improving the shelter and expanding our life-saving programs is definitely at the top of our New Year’s resolutions. With your help and support we will continue rise to the challenges we face. Thank you for trusting us with the care of your animals.

Giving Pets as a Gift – the Right Way

Giving Pets as a Gift – the Right Way

Thinking of surprising someone with a pet this Christmas?  There’s a right way and a wrong way to gift an animal.  If you know someone who seems to really like animals but doesn’t have one, you might want to ask them why.  They may be afraid of the expense – the initial price of getting the pet is the least of the costs involved in a lifetime of owning a pet.  There is food, toys and other supplies, veterinary costs (which can quickly add up if the pet gets sick or injured), grooming, training – you get the idea.  Pets are the gift that end up costing! You have to respect that someone has figured out that they can’t afford another mouth to feed and not put that burden on them (unless you’re going to be a true fairy godmother and offer to pay for all the pet expenses for life.)

Several years ago a new acquaintance surprised me with a kitten.  She knew I worked at an animal shelter and was always fostering kittens, so she figured I loved them, and she was sucked in by a window display of adorable kittens in a retail chain pet store in a mall.  Yikes!  Clearly I had access to all the kittens I needed and could pick and choose one to keep if I had wanted.  And retail chain stores that sell kitten/puppy mill animals are something that I would give anything to shut down.  If you don’t know about the horrors of puppy/kitten mills please take a minute to educate yourself (that’s another whole column!) by going to www.stoppuppymill.org.  She put me in a real ethical dilemma – and that’s not fair.

So step one before getting someone else a pet is to ask the simple question “I can tell you really love (dogs/cats/rabbits).  Why don’t you have one?” and really listen to the answer.  Some people might be hesitant to disclose their precarious financial situation so they might give an evasive answer.  If they say anything other than “I would love one, I just haven’t taken the time to look for one yet,” don’t get them a pet!  If they do sound seriously interested then realize that getting a pet that works for a person is a very individual thing.  That person might have their heart set on a particular breed or color or type of animal, and that’s hard to pick out for someone else.  What you can do instead of buying/adopting a pet as a surprise is buy something the pet would need (a litterbox or bed or chew toy) and wrap that up with a certificate that says “my gift is a pet of your choice at a local shelter” and then bring them to the shelter so they can choose the animal they fall in love with!

Coincidentally we have certificates that say just that available at the RP shelter.  You don’t have to prepay the adoption fee, just in case they don’t find exactly what they want at our shelter.  Then you are free to go to another to continue the search.  The best part of doing it this way is just in case the reaction is not what you expect and they say “What?!  A living being?!  I don’t want that responsibility/expense/commitment right now,” at least you haven’t actually brought an animal into that situation and you can go get them a stuffed animal instead!

We think we know our friends pretty well but every so often they can surprise you.  Don’t surprise them with an unplanned pet.  It’s not fair to either of them!