To Adopt Now, or Not to Adopt, That is the Question?

In today’s Market News was a sidebar about the number of adoptions increasing during these difficult times.  And how do I feel about this? Ambivalent.

For readers who have purchased my book, “Zoodulcis, Our Fascination with Animals,” you know the benefits that time with pets or even time spent in nature viewing wildlife can bring, from mood improvement to amelioration of the symptoms of PTSD.  So why on earth would I be ambivalent about the current upwelling in adoptions…

Because animals are a responsibility!

Because eventually, you may go back to work and not have time for that pet!

And because I fear that when the tide swells, it must go back out again. I am concerned for all of those pets that will be relinquished in 4 to 8 months because the owners did not think the process through to its end.  For instance, a well cared for a bearded dragon can live 10 years or longer, even a humble green anole can live 5 years.  A dog lives for 15 to twenty years, a cat just a little less, and so forth.

For readers who have thought this over carefully and made an informed decision, then bravo, my hat is off to you, and I am more than happy to support your choice.  In fact, if you are a new rescue owner and are feeling a bit lost in the intricacies of animal care, email me at  I will contribute to the cause by walking new pet owners through their angst. But if you find that you are bored and your kids are bouncing off the wall, please craft at least a 5-year plan for animal care. And maybe even involve the kids as a biology lesson!  I’ve done it, and kids can really rock with a real-life problem to solve. But do think about acquiring a new pet right now carefully.

In this vein, I am going to share a heartbreaking parental lack of insight from my youth.  When I was about 11, my parents decided to purchase a baby goat.  Just one Nubian baby goat, barely weaned. We brought it home as a family, a wonderful family experience.  I cuddled the baby goat in the back of the family station wagon all the way home. And then, that night, my parents just stuck the baby goat out with the horses and expected it to be fine.  It cried piteously all night.  The next day, my mother insisted that we take it RIGHT BACK TO THAT FARM.  I was heartbroken. Even now at 64 and my parents are deceased, I have never forgiven them for that lapse in parental judgment.

Maybe that is why 30 years later, I fell in love with Nubian baby goats. Twenty years after that, I still have Nubians, but far fewer than in earlier days when I was younger. I still make plans and budgets for hired help, I still hoof trim myself, and I do without certain luxuries to make sure my remaining seven goats have everything they need. Same with my cats. Should I move this year?  Perhaps not because it would be traumatic for my animals. Should I go to a bar with friends for some laughs?  I made a decision not to over 6 weeks ago, because if I got sick, who would care for my animals?  And so forth.  I am planning how to grow old with my herd and therefore, as my oldsters have died, I have not replaced them with youngsters. A baby goat I have today will be 10 when I am 75. Will I be physically able to care for them? Financially?

I do mention this in my book, and now I am living it. I now have 7 goats, down from 16. I have a back-up plan and funds set aside so if I get sick and I am bed-ridden, I can hire someone to see to their welfare.  If you are going to adopt a dog or cat, do you have emergency plans in place? A five-year plan? Family buy-in as to who does what when you all go back to work?

I have included a link to the article that prompted me to write this.  If you have adopted an animal and wish for a bit of zookeeper advice, I will be accepting emails at the site above for the next 3 months.  If you try to sell me anything, I will hit delete and go out to take care of my goats. If you wish to know how my relationship with my pets and my diet and exercise routine have kept me healthy all these years (I take no prescription medications and I have never had a flu shot), then I will try to answer those too. But pet questions come first, and I will try to answer those within 48 hours.  Try.

In the meantime, stay safe, and if you have pets, appreciate that they keep you sane and even happy. If you don’t have pets, and you think that now is the time, just consider the long run, and if it resonates for you, then by all means….go for it!

Best, Dr. Hall Ruddell

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