2009-12-17 / Sam Bari

What we don’t want for Christmas

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

When people purchase gifts for those they love during the holiday season, thought and time generally goes into the selection, because the gift-giver’s greatest reward is a happy recipient.

Sometimes, however, I believe gift-givers, in their undying efforts to do the world good, actually believe that what makes them happy will delight the remainder of the population of our wonderful planet.

Consequently, I am writing this column to gently suggest to these narcissistic, egomaniacal, manipulative candidates for an untimely demise that when buying certain presents, they must ask themselves: “Am I buying this for someone I love, or am I trying to force them to think like me?”

For instance, the person who sits on the board of a favorite charity and gives a gift that pledges the recipient to donate $25 a month for life to help restore the orangutan population in Sumatra. Not that I would begrudge Sumatran orangutans so much as a dime if it were I, but if I were already supporting an orangutan in Java that was named after me, I would be less than pleased. Now I can’t send the gift back, and I don’t know why I feel guilty, but I do.

Another gift that should be carefully considered before a purchase is made is a pet. My policy is: Never give anything that poops without consulting the person who is receiving it first.

A retired couple that lived down the street from me in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. had an English bulldog named Daisy. Without a doubt, this dog was one of the sweetest animals I have ever met. I also had a bulldog and we would occasionally meet while walking our respective pets, who became great friends and enjoyed playing together.

As much as I loved my bulldog, I will say this – and it applies to many animals — bulldogs are demanding. They require a lot of time and care. They are fundamentally one owner or family animals, and do not like to be put in the care of anyone else, even for a weekend.

My friends, Marge and Stan, had Daisy for eight years. One day, Stan asked me if he could tell me something in confidence. I said, “Of course.” He went on to say, “As much as we love this dog, Marge and I look forward to L-A-D.” I thought about that for a few seconds and asked: “What – you look forward to life after death?”

Stan chuckled and said, “Close, but that’s not exactly what I meant. We mean, ‘Life After Daisy.’ When Daisy passes, we’ll get our lives back and won’t have to dog sit 24/7. We can stop worrying about leaving her in a kennel if we want to go on a cruise.”

For the previous eight years, Daisy went on vacation with them, and that put severe limitations on where they could go. A year later, Daisy passed and though they were grief stricken, they were also relieved.

Well, the inevitable happened. Their offspring knew how much Stan and Marge “loved that dog,” and they decided to go to a breeder and purchase the finest bulldog puppy money could buy. “They’ll be thrilled,” they said.

I think not.

Even if they wanted one, Stan and Marge were in their late seventies, and they hardly had the stamina required to raise a bulldog pup. In a year, bulldogs are close to full grown, and they are unbelievably strong — not exactly the best pet for people in their twilight years.

Since we’re discussing animals, another pet that should be avoided, especially if purchased for mature people, are parrots. A man I know whose wife passed away was given a baby Amazon parrot; again, a gift from his children who thought it would be good company for him. The bird was hand-fed for the first three months of its life by the breeder, so it was socialized with humans and became an affectionate, talkative pet.

The problem with Amazons, as well as most parrots, is that they are one-person animals. They often do not do well when their original owner is gone. They also live to be centenarians — again, not exactly the best pet for people in the final stages of their lives.

The point is: Think before buying a gift. A little consideration can go a long way. Life is difficult enough when we live in a system we can’t understand.

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