Pet dog will likely make a great gift for elderly parent

Q: Christmas is just around the corner and I wanted this year to do something special for my dad. Last year was his first Christmas without Mom — she died earlier in the year — and that was a tough one. But he is pulling through this thing really well.

It is time to do something special for him. My hope is that we can find a small dog somewhere around the neighborhood to give to him for a Christmas present.

My husband thinks that I am crazy.

He says the last thing my dad needs is another mouth to feed, let alone looking after the mutt. But I can think of all kinds of reasons to get a pet for my dad and I am pretty determined to do it.

After all, he is my dad. I think that a pet dog would be great.

What do you think?

A: When you look at all the advantages your dad might pick up for having a pet dog it is difficult to think of reasons for him not to have one.

For openers, dogs are great for stress relief. Chances are that your dad’s blood pressure will go down once he gets a pet dog. Pets have some kind of a calming influence on us. And while his blood pressure is going down, he is exercising more. Don’t forget, pets have to be walked each day and that means your dad will have to walk each and every day with it. It is a great way to get him off the couch and away from a dormant television set.

Then you have the whole companionship thing: your dad will be taking those daily walks with his good buddy, his pet dog, and who knows, the two of them might well bump into other pet owners and have a bit of a conversation with them.

We can never overestimate the value of companionship to your dad.

Finally, the dog could give your dad a purpose for making it through the day.

All of us derive a sense of meaning from the contributions that we make to the well-being of others. The more that your dad looks after his new dog, scrubbing him, feeding him, walking him, playing with him and just generally being with him, the better your dad is going to feel about himself. It is all good.

There are a couple of caveats. The first is that your dad has to agree to take on a pet. I think that it would be unfair to plop some unsuspecting pup under the Christmas tree and expect your dad to suddenly bond with it.

Give him a warning him of his new-found responsibilities. You can always give him a new tie and a pair of socks for Christmas if he strongly objects to having a pet.

The second caveat is that your dad likely needs a few lessons to help him manage his pet. Don’t let your dad’s age fool you.

Despite what happened between him and his pet dogs on the farm, he and the new dog are going to do a lot better when he learns to properly manage his dog. We can always learn, and yes, you can teach an old dog (your dad) new tricks. Your dad will be surprised at what he can learn.

Good luck. It sounds like all of you are going to have a terrific Christmas.

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