Adoption success and what new pet parents should consider.
Giving pets as presents can make for memorable holiday moments. Whether it’s a puppy dog, kitty cat, or some other four-legged friend, new pet owners are sure to beam with happiness when they realize they’re adding a cutie to their family. When new owners are prepared for the realities of pet ownership, dog dads and cat moms alike enjoy the elation of pet ownership years after the gifts are unwrapped and the decorations are packed away.
“Gifting a pet should be well thought out, and gift-givers must have an honest conversation with the potential owner,” says Debbie Hammon, president and manager of FIV Felines, Transports, and More.
Potential pet owners should be realistic about their level of commitment and assess several important aspects of pet ownership, such as their ability to train an animal, the amount of playtime or exercise they can accommodate, and whether their home meets the needs of the pet.
Debbie also recommends adopting a pet from a rescue organization because staff, fosters, and volunteers take the time to learn about each animal and can match potential owners with the perfect pet.
“Rescues know if a cat [or pet] is good with others — whether they’re mischievous, good with kids or dogs, chatty or mellow,” she adds.
Hunter & the Copelands
One such fit is Peggy and Jamey Copeland, who first met their dog Hunter at the Jefferson City Correctional Center in 2018.
Looking at pictures on Facebook, the Copelands were surprised when they first met him. Hunter’s previous owners had relinquished him because of his large size. For the Copelands, size ultimately didn’t matter.
“At first we thought he was too big, but after meeting him, we couldn’t say no,” Peggy Copeland says.
Since adopting, the Copelands have loved learning about Hunter — how he’s scared of the leaf blower, loves frozen bone marrow from Premium Pets, and enjoys leaning on people’s legs and snuggling at night
“He is a very good boy and part of the family,” Peggy says.
Despite his grand stature, Hunter was once afraid of small dogs. But after time spent at Kitty’s Critter Care, he’s now excited to meet friends of all sizes every Wednesday.
“We’ll wake up at 5 a.m., and about 30 minutes later, Hunter slaps his paw on my arm because he’s ready to go,” Peggy laughs.
But what Hunter is not as cognizant of, however, is the strength of his tail. Whenever Kitty’s Critter Care is mentioned, Hunter’s wagging is a heavy force capable of knocking over anything in its reach. Peggy says that after losing a lamp, she’s careful about what she places on her coffee table, but they find humor and joy in his lovable quirks.
Gertrude, Clarence & Kara
Kara Holt adopted her cat, Clarence, from FIV Felines, Transports, and More in 2020. Adopting him on Christmas Eve, Kara named him after Clarence Odbody, the guardian angel in the classic holiday film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
For years, Kara was a dog mom to her other rescue, Gertrude, who she adopted a day before the bulldog mix was scheduled to be euthanized. Eventually, Kara began searching for a good companion for Gertrude. She needed a cat who got along with dogs, would be willing to share their space, and not become jealous over Kara’s love and attention.
What grabbed Kara’s attention immediately about Clarence was his droopy left eye. Gertrude also has a droopy
eft eye that causes partial blindness. The connection was a sign.
“I didn’t realize how much I would fall for Clarence as well,” Kara says. “It felt like the right thing to do — to make our little family.”
Clarence was very timid and skittish, and he needed time to warm up to people. He refused to come out from under the bed and would only show himself around Gertrude. His shyness lasted for about a month until he finally let Kara pet him. Since then, Clarence’s affection has grown exponentially. He moves her hand to the spots where he wants to be scratched and loves being pet vigorously on his face. He also gives Kara “love bites,” which are nibbles he uses to express affection.
“I can’t get him off of me now,” Kara says. “He’s so lovable.”
If searching for canine companions who have already gone through training, a great option is the Missouri Department of Corrections’ Puppies for Parole program. The program operates through partnerships with animal shelters and advocate groups across Missouri. Selected offenders teach dogs basic obedience skills and socialize them, making dogs more desirable when up for adoption.
“Our guys really try to make a dog come out of their shell,” says Rebecca Woods, Puppies for Parole coordinator for the Northeast Correctional Center. “They see the little things that might not be good for certain families and make sure the dogs and the families are a good fit.”
“It felt like the right thing to do-to make our little family.”
Petunia & the McFerrons
Like many pet parents, Abbie McFerron knew her beloved pet, a pig named Petunia, would be hers forever from the instant they met. Abbie wanted a pet pig since she was 16, after she held a piglet at a family farm.
“Petunia is so sweet,” Abbie says. “There’s always been something about pigs that’s drawn me to them.”
In May, she was scrolling on Facebook and saw a picture of a black-and-white pig in St. Louis who needed a home. Two days later, Abbie made the two-hour drive to pick up Petunia. She was ecstatic to finally fulfill her dream and find a pig to call her own.
Though she was bred and raised to be a pet pig, Petunia spent most of her days locked inside a garage. Her original owners didn’t care for her properly. At one point, they allowed her to run the streets and planned to slaughter her until another family fostered her and saved her life. Now, Petunia is living her best life as a loving member of the McFerron household.
The friendly pig enjoys the constant love and attention she receives from the McFerrons and loves playing with her dog brother and best pal, Brady, who was adopted through the Puppies for Parole program.
Petunia has deservingly been provided with the finer things in a pig’s life. On summer days, she relaxes in her kiddie pool, and as a vegetable lover, she eats salads filled with carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers every day for lunch. Abbie also delights Petunia with treats hidden in her rooting blanket. Her little, spotted snout wiggles around the blanket, sniffing and searching for her treats.
Looking back, Abbie says stumbling on Petunia’s listing online was a coincidence. But judging from their love for one another, it was surely fate that brought them together.
“Her tail wags all the time,” Abbie says. “You can just tell she’s happy that she’s got a home.”