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A groundhog makes a weather forecast. File photo

groundhog-wSmithtown has its own groundhog, and his big annual prediction is approaching fast.

Sweetbriar Sam will make an appearance on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 1 p.m. at Smithtown’s Sweetbriar Nature Center at 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown, and choose between another six weeks of winter or an early spring. The event, which runs through 3 p.m., will also feature a scavenger hunt to learn facts about groundhogs, playing with shadows and events with other animal hibernators and weather predictors.

The event is open to all, and admission is $10 per child and $5 for adults and Scouts. For more information, residents can call 631-979-6344 or visit

‘Coffee Pot Sunset,’ Orient Point Lighthouse. Photo by Jerry McGrath

By Rita J. Egan

Photographer Jerry McGrath has a keen eye when it comes to capturing the beauty of wildlife and landscapes, and through the end of February, nature lovers can enjoy his work at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham. The exhibit will include approximately 20 images — the majority taken right here on Long Island with a couple from his trips to Alaska — printed on canvas from the Wading River resident’s collection.

‘All in the Family,’ a mother fox with her kits on Fire Island. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘All in the Family,’ a mother fox with her kits on Fire Island. Photo by Jerry McGrath

The library’s art coordinator Hildegard Kroeger said a few years ago when the library displayed McGrath’s photos, they were well received. She said library patrons will enjoy the new exhibit with stunning photos that capture the impressive wingspans of birds or the eye color of the creatures. “He captures them in a very artistic way, and it may open up the eyes of people to look at things differently,” Kroeger said.

McGrath said becoming involved in photography opened up a whole new world for him. A former fifth-grade teacher at Wading River Elementary School for 30 years, the educator’s love of the art form developed slowly over the decades. He said he bought his first 35mm camera in 1968 while stationed in Vietnam. At the time, it was to simply record his experiences there. He never imagined the purchase would one day lead to the passion it has become for him the past five or six years as well as a small source of income.

McGrath said when he prepares for an exhibit he sees the images coming out of the printer, and he becomes energized knowing that he was part of creating the work and just wants to share it with others, and it can be difficult to choose his favorites to display.

“I just love when the picture comes out of the printer, and I see how that final product looks. And when it looks really sharp and crisp, just the right subject, it’s just something that I get a charge out of. I don’t know what it is,” he said.

‘Metropolis,’ winter town of Elfin Cove, Alaska. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Metropolis,’ winter town of Elfin Cove, Alaska. Photo by Jerry McGrath

An avid fisherman, McGrath was inspired to become more involved in photography after a fishing trip to Alaska that led to winning a photo contest. The photographer, who is also a former licensed charter boat captain and conducts a fishing course through the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, has been visiting Alaska for fishing trips annually for over 15 years.

A few years ago during one trip, he caught a halibut that weighed over 200 pounds. McGrath asked his friend Mike to take a photo of him with his catch, while he held the tail of the fish and sat down with his feet stretched out next to the head of the halibut to give perspective of just how big it was. When he returned home, he entered the picture in a fishing photo contest sponsored by Alaska Airlines and won. With this win, he thought about how he coordinated the photo and started thinking that he may have a knack for capturing a moment.

Winning two round-trip tickets to wherever the airline traveled, he and his wife Cathie decided to take a trip to Hawaii. McGrath said he felt that not any camera would do for such a scenic vacation so he purchased his first DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. The photographer said he found it easier to use than previous manual exposure cameras that he owned, as well as an inexpensive way to take photos, and he began taking more.

‘Wings,’ a great egret in Baiting Hollow. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Wings,’ a great egret in Baiting Hollow. Photo by Jerry McGrath

He said places such as Hawaii and Alaska are beautiful spots to take stunning photos. “You can’t take a bad picture of the sun creeping behind the mountains at sunset at 11 o’clock at night up in Elfin Cove, Alaska. It’s just spectacular,” McGrath said.

However, while he has taken gorgeous photos on vacations, the Long Islander said his favorite spots to take photos are close to home. He said he loves going to the Wading River Marsh Preserve where he easily finds birds by the water or even deer in the woods to photograph.

He added that his own backyard is a great place to take photos, especially of birds such as cardinals, blue jays and mourning doves. McGrath said he never paid much attention to birds, but once he started photographing them he started reading up on the different types and now can identify many of them.

“It opened a whole new world for me,” McGrath said.

A tender photo of a mother fox and her cubs that will be on display at the library was taken on Fire Island. According to McGrath, many of his wildlife photos are possible not only due to a good deal of patience while waiting for the perfect shot, but also by using a 300mm lens and 2x extender, which enables him to get great shots even when he is relatively far away from the subject. He now has a collection of three DSLR cameras, and from time to time, he will use a monopod to remain steady.

‘Fishing Duck,’ a female hooded merganser at the Wading River Duck Pond. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Fishing Duck,’ a female hooded merganser at the Wading River Duck Pond. Photo by Jerry McGrath

Visitors to the library exhibit who are interested in purchasing prints will be able to do so directly from McGrath. The photographer said after his first exhibit at the North Shore Public Library a few years ago, he displayed his work at the former Grind Cafe in Wading River and realized people wanted to buy his photos. He said he was amazed when during the two months of the café exhibit he sold 14 or 15 pieces that started at $150 or more. While the sales encouraged him to try to sell more of his photos, he said, “I just love taking the pictures. I would take the pictures whether I was getting paid or not.”

The North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham, will present McGrath’s exhibit through Feb. 27. An artist reception, hosted by the Friends of the Library, will be held to meet the photographer on Feb. 7 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. For more information, visit or call 631-929-4488. To view McGrath’s work, visit

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Not sure how many families received a puppy as a gift this holiday season but I love to see appointments that say “New Puppy” on them. One of the most common topics discussed is how to potty train the newest member of the family.  Crate training is a wonderful way to give the puppy the guidance it needs.

The idea of using a crate to train a puppy comes from a “den theory” in dogs.  Although wild dogs are nomadic by nature, they do settle down for part of the season to mate and raise pups. The males will hunt and the females will search out a den. This den is a safe haven away from other predators and the elements, and  residents instinctively go to the bathroom outside the den. 

If the crate is treated the same way, it can be a nice, safe area for the puppy. They will usually sleep and allow you to sleep. You can go out to run errands knowing that the puppy will not go to the bathroom, destroy things, or get into anything dangerous. The primary goal of the crate is to always, ALWAYS, make it a “safe area” for the puppy. Do not isolate the crate away from the rest of the family and never use the crate as a form of punishment.

When you (or other family members) are home, the door to the crate should be left open to allow your puppy to go in and out as they please. Give your puppy a favorite toy or a treat when you put her in the crate before you leave the house.  Although a crate is most effective, a crate does not always have to be a crate. You can baby gate off a portion of the kitchen, give a room, etc.

Be careful how long you leave your puppy in the crate so that they do not become used to soiling in the crate (they will if left no choice).  Most pet owners purchase or adopt a puppy between 8 and 12 weeks of age. This is good because it is a very impressionable age and allows you (as the puppy’s “parents”) to help them make good choices.

Remember that puppies can only physically “hold it” for so long at that age. A good rule of thumb is count the number of months old the puppy is and add one to come up with the number of hours the puppy can hold it. So an 8- week (2-month) old puppy can hold it for 2 + 1 = 3 hours. Some puppies can hold it longer at night. However, when you first get a puppy, it would be a good idea to get out of bed to let them out (or even set an alarm clock) to take them outside, SUPERVISED, to go to the bathroom and praise them when they do.

Also remember that eating and drinking will stimulate the puppy to go to the bathroom. Therefore, allow extra time to bring them back outside after they eat and drink to give them the opportunity to go again. If for some reason you get there too late or an unexpected accident occurred, just clean it up. Remember, the crate must be a safe area away from punishment if it is to be effective. 

Some puppies that have been in a pet store or shelter situation for too long can be negatively conditioned as well. If a puppy is left in a crate from five or six at night (when the shop or shelter closes) to eight or nine the next morning, they will get used to eliminating in the crate (cage) and come to believe that is normal. Those are exceptional cases and will require the guidance of a veterinarian that specializes in behavior or a Certified Animal Behaviorist to re-train.

Do not try to automatically force older dogs into a crate. I can’t tell you how many broken teeth and nails I’ve seen in my career because a dog owner decides they are going to put a young adult dog in a crate at 8 months to a year old because the dog has become destructive when the owner is not home. That is going to be like jail, and if it were me I would freak out also. That is not to say that you cannot crate train an adult dog, but it takes time, patience and the guidance of a behaviorist (that means extra moolah as well). It is much easier (and less expensive) to start at a younger age, remain patient and consistent.

Congratulations on your new puppy and good luck!!!!!

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 17 years and is pictured with his son Matthew and their dog Jasmine.

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

With the first deer-hunting season in Eaton’s Neck coming to a close, Huntington residents and town board officials are evaluating if the new bow hunting rules are a success.

Huntington Town spokesperson A.J. Carter said in a phone interview that the board plans to gather different viewpoints and “assess what to do going forward,” to see if the town achieved its stated goal of cutting down the deer population.

The board voted to allow bow hunting of deer in early September, amending the town code to allow it in Eaton’s Neck under the direction of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation during the state’s deer hunting season, between Oct. 1 to Jan. 31.

Joe DeRosa, an Eaton’s Neck resident and president of the civic group Eaton’s Neck Corporation, said he thinks this season has gone well.

A petition on calls for an end to deer hunting in Eaton's Neck. Screen capture
A petition on calls for an end to deer hunting in Eaton’s Neck. Screen capture

According to DeRosa, the community has hunted and removed more than 60 deer — and residents have noticed a difference.

“During the day, you don’t see too many deer at all,” DeRosa said in a phone interview. “The number of sightings has drastically declined since this time last year.”

DeRosa said his expectations for the town measure have been met.

Some residents do not share that sentiment.

A petition on activism website, created in November, now has more than 500 supporters who want the Huntington Town Board to stop allowing hunting in residential areas. The petition expressed safety concerns from neighbors who have hunters on adjacent lots acting close to their own properties.

“These deer slayers now roam freely in the Town of Huntington with no enforced restrictions, regulations or policing of any kind,” the petition states. “They come and go, killing and wounding at will.”

When the law passed in September, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said measures would be taken so “it’s not just ‘Joe the hunter’ coming in.”

According to the resolution, anyone with a DEC permit can hunt on their own Eaton’s Neck property or on such a property where they have the owner’s consent.

DeRosa said residents were advised to call the Suffolk County Police Department with any complaints or concerns they had after the law was enacted, but neither a police spokesperson nor a DEC spokesperson could immediately confirm whether their departments received any complaints.

Many of the people who signed the petition are not actually from the Huntington area, with some living as far as Delaware and Pennsylvania.

DeRosa said the petition does not reflect the overall consensus of the community.

The Eaton’s Neck Corporation conducted a resident survey earlier this year, before the town took action, and more than 85 percent wanted something done about the perceived overpopulation of deer in their area, according to DeRosa.

“The community asked for help and they got what they wanted,” he said. “This is a community effort.”

The issue was a hot debate in the summer and fall, with many people concerned about the traffic danger deer posed as well as the threat of spreading Lyme disease.

In addition to the bow hunting law, the town board created a deer management program to research alternative methods of lowering the deer population, such as contraceptives or herding programs. Carter said that program is still in the early stages of development.

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A rabbit is held during a previous year’s blessing of the animals service at the Setauket Presbyterian Church, where the third annual event is slated for Christmas Eve. Photo from Mary Speers

The Setauket Presbyterian Church will hold its third annual family-friendly Christmas Eve manger service, with carols and blessing of animals, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24.

On the first Christmas Eve, it was the animals that made room in their stable for Mary and Joseph, the church said, in explanation of the manger service. According to the old carol, it was the donkey that carried a very pregnant Mary all the way to Bethlehem. It was the cow who gave the baby her manger, full of hay, for his bed; the sheep who gave wool to keep him warm; the doves who sang him to sleep. The world wasn’t that different then from the way it is now. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, as the day gives way to night, this will be a time to gather and give thanks for the hospitality of the friendly beasts, the first to welcome the unknown baby to the world, and for the friendly beasts who warm our homes and our hearts today. In our uncertain world, they teach us everything we need to know about steadfast hope, unflagging patience and unconditional love.

Children from the Setauket Presbyterian Children’s Choir will sing “The Friendly Beasts,” in costume. Children of all ages, as well as animals of (almost) all sizes, are invited to come with their adult humans to the Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave. on the Village Green in Setauket, Thursday, Dec. 24, at 4:30 p.m.

Harborfields students Kaylee Perkowski, Alissa Barber, Allison Walkley, Ariella Walker and Emma Riley pose with donations they collected for local animal shelters. Photo from Daniel Barrett

Students at Harborfields High School believe ’tis the season to show your furry friends some extra love.

Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter
Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter

Members of the Global Justice Club and the Forensics Club are working together to raise money and collect donations for Little Shelter, Huntington Animal Shelter and Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, as well as spread the word on why adopting is better than shopping for a new pet.

Students collected pet supplies including food, treats, toys, litter, blankets and more. They have also raised about $200 by selling “opt to adopt” bracelets and pens, and plan to use the money to sponsor animals at the shelters, including Pascal from Little Shelter, a 12-year-old Pointer mix who needs a home.

“There are so many pets bought this time of year for the holidays, and while it’s true that a dog or cat make a great gift and provide so much joy to a family, there are lots of homeless pets waiting in our local shelters that would love to become part of a forever home,” Daniel Barrett, advisor of the Forensics Club, said in an email.

Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter
Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter

Students Allison Walkley and Ariella Walker said it’s necessary for kids within the community to educate themselves about the importance of supporting their local shelters.

“Animals play a huge part in so many of our lives,” the girls said in a shared email statement on Monday morning. “They’re our companions and our family, but some animals out there don’t have a loving home. They’ve been thrown out on streets or they’ve been abused and neglected. The shelters are the orphanages for these animals, but so many don’t have enough funding or supplies to take in all the helpless dogs and cats.”

The Harborfields students will be collecting donations until Saturday, Dec. 19, when they will bring all the donations and money collected to the shelters.

Little Shelter is a no-kill, nonprofit animal shelter located on Warner Road in Huntington. It was established in 1927.

According to its website, it is Long Island’s oldest humane organization.

Huntington Animal Shelter and Grateful Paw Cat Shelter share a location on Deposit Road in East Northport, and both work with the Town of Huntington and the League for Animal Protection, Inc. LAP is a nonprofit organization established in 1973. Grateful Paw focuses on cat and kitten adoptions and has a spaying/neutering program.

Long Island Bulldog Rescue founder Laurette Richin sits with Josie, the group’s mascot. Photo by Giselle Barkley

By Rita J. Egan

This past Monday, Beth Stern & Friends hosted the Bash for the Bulldogs at the Rosenthal Pavilion at New York University’s Kimmel Center. The event filled with food, music and raffles benefited the Long Island Bulldog Rescue located in Stony Brook.

The LIBR is the result of the love that Executive Director Laurette Richin has for the English bulldogs known for their stocky builds and wrinkled faces. Richin always wanted to learn more about the breed and, after divorcing her husband in the 90s, she decided to work with the dogs. She joined the Long Island Bulldog Club, but she said she soon realized she didn’t have what it takes to breed them. She explained that sometimes puppies could be lost during birth due to being delivered through C-sections.

Laurette Richin is all smiles with Josie, an American Bulldog. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Laurette Richin is all smiles with Josie, an American Bulldog. Photo by Giselle Barkley

When a member of the club asked her to stop by the Little Shelter Animal Rescue to check on a bulldog, it was the beginning of a new venture for Richin. She was told the dog that was brought in was very old, but as she looked at his teeth, she realized it was a puppy that was atrophied due to being in a crate all the time.

Richin said after she called the club representative to confirm that the dog was indeed a bulldog, she pulled out of the Little Shelter parking lot and couldn’t stop thinking of the puppy. She pulled back in and went right back into the shelter and took the dog home and nursed him back to health.

“I got hooked. It’s interesting, because you get to see something that is broken and needs you, and you fix them up, and they respond so beautifully. Then you find them a decent home,” Richin said.

That first rescue occurred 16 years ago in 1999, and while the group originally helped about 13 bulldogs in the local area during the first year, during the last decade and a half Richin along with LIBR volunteers have saved thousands of bulldogs and now serve nine states in the Northeast. Most of the dogs tend to be from Long Island and the five boroughs and almost 400 were saved in the last year alone. 

The increase need of rescues is due to the growth of the bulldogs’ popularity over the years. The executive director said when she started in 1999, they ranked 46 nationwide in American Kennel Club registrations and now rank number 5 nationwide and 4 in large cities.

Richin said the dogs, which can cost upward to $3,000, are mild mannered and love attention. She said many apartment dwellers buy the dogs because they don’t need to run around regularly. However, because they require a good amount of attention, bulldogs aren’t ideal for those who are away from home for long hours. Richin added that the dogs also need special food to help avoid skin issues that can develop due to the way they have been bred.

The bulldogs that are rescued stay in foster homes before being adopted. Richin, who has two bulldogs of her own and one foster at any given time, which now is Josie the group’s mascot, said currently they have 32 dogs in foster homes waiting to be adopted. The executive director said the homes are a better setting than shelters to prepare dogs for their future families.

“It’s a much better way to get the dog into an environment where you actually know what their issues are, and you get to know them. If you have a dog in a shelter situation, you’re never going to know that the doorbell makes them crazy or that they like to eat couches. That’s stuff we find out in foster homes,” the executive director said.

One-year-old Mia is waiting to be adopted. This little girl was rescued from a home in Queens where she was neglected and rarely went outside, even going to the bathroom solely on bathroom pads. Mia had an ingrown tail, which caused a horrible infection. While doctors have surgically corrected the tail, she remains in the hospital due to a torn cruciate ligament.

Wrinkles recently had a bit of a scare when he ate corn on the cob. His snack caused an obstruction, which his family could not afford to pay for; however, LIBR was contacted, and Wrinkles was brought to a local vet to remove the blockage. He is now in a foster home waiting for his forever home, preferably one with no young children since he has the potential to swallow small toys. 

When it comes to placing the dogs, Richin said there isn’t a problem finding potential owners. For almost 400 dogs in the Northeast in a year, she can receive approximately 12,000 applications. She pointed out that not every home is suitable for the dogs, however. Before placing a dog, things to consider are if the particular bulldog is well suited for a home that may have children, especially young ones, or other dogs or cats, as each dog is different. 

Richin said the group’s website and Facebook page have been valuable tools when it comes to finding new families, foster homes and volunteers, and the Facebook page especially has been helpful in sharing the dogs’ stories with the public.

A post that stands out for Richin is one where members driving in Lancaster, Pa., saw a bulldog tied to a pole along the highway with a big pink cardboard sign that said: “Free to a good home. Blind in one eye, can’t have puppies.” In an hour and a half, the executive director said a volunteer was there to rescue the dog. “Social media is extremely useful with this kind of organization,” she said.

The group has also used its Facebook page to educate bulldog lovers about the risks of buying a dog from a pet store or puppy mill. Recently, when a store-bought puppy developed pneumonia from a bug she caught at the establishment, LIBR shared the story on social media. The post encouraged others who had problems with pet stores, including the one the puppy came from, to share their experiences. The pet store paid for the veterinarian bill, which included the dog spending 18 days in oxygen. Unfortunately, the puppy died, leaving her owners heartbroken.

After another post, reporting how much veterinarian care would cost for one bulldog, a member commented he would match all donations. Richin was overwhelmed by the $4,000 check the man sent saying he was happy to do it because LIBR had helped him a few months earlier.

The organization also conducts programs at schools, fairs and shelter adoption events to help potential owners make informed decisions when it comes to buying or adopting a bulldog. The executive director said volunteers are also available to help bulldog owners with information regarding veterinarians, the proper food and care. For every bulldog they rescue there are three owners who need help caring for their pets, according to Richin. She said when volunteers help owners it’s primarily for the dog’s well-being, and they are nonjudgmental of the people.

Richin said she and volunteers understand that owners may encounter challenges and said they shouldn’t be hesitant to ask for help. “People feel lost. They have this initial loving feeling for the puppy, and then they’re like, well, what do I do now.”

LIBR is always looking for foster homes as well as volunteers not only to help with rescues but also with office work and publicity. For more information on how you can adopt or assist with rescues, fostering or even sponsoring a bulldog, visit or visit its Facebook page at

Suffolk County police car. File photo

A Commack woman and her dogs Marlo and Bo were saved from their burning home Friday morning, with the help of two firefighters and a police officer.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 45-year-old Elyssa Roth dropped Marlo out of her bedroom window into the responders’ arms, then jumped out herself. Bo was later saved from inside the house.

It all started shortly before 9:30 a.m., when someone called 911 to report the fire on Suttonwood Drive, police said. Officer David Mascarella from the 4th Precinct and Commack Fire Department volunteers Bernie Simoes and Paul Carnevale responded to find heavy smoke and limited visibility at the burning home. The heavy flames and intense heat prevented Mascarella and Simoes from going inside, police said.

The responders convinced Roth to drop Marlo the dog from her second-floor bedroom window, then followed and the men caught her. Bo was found inside the house and treated at an animal hospital.

That second dog was not the only one who needed medical attention. Police said Roth and Mascarella were treated for smoke inhalation at Stony Brook University Hospital and at Smithtown’s St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, respectively. The pair of firefighters were treated for respiratory distress at the scene of the blaze.

According to police, arson detectives have determined the fire had a non-criminal cause.

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From left, Valerie Sanks and Linda Scalcione with the many blankets donated this year. Photo from Scalcione

By Ernestine Franco

Everyone likes to curl up with a warm blanket as temperatures drop. So do the dogs and cats that live at the various animal shelters around Long Island. One Rocky Point woman is helping shelter animals keep warm one blanket at a time.

A few years ago Valerie Sanks and her son Matt decided to collect blankets that would be donated to the shelters for the animals.  During the holiday season in 2013 they collected 150 blankets.

In 2014 Sanks placed a post on her Facebook page requesting donations of blankets. By Dec. 17 of that year, her house was overtaken by 610 blankets, 600 cat-nip toys, and many boxes of dog biscuits and cat treats.

This year her goal is to collect 1,080 blankets and 2,000 cat toys as well as treats for all the animals that will be spending this holiday in one of the many shelters across Long Island. Throughout the year Sanks volunteers at the Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southhold shelters. The blankets and toys that she collects will be distributed to these shelters.

Linda Scalcione, a friend of Sanks and a Rocky Point resident, said that Valerie and her son “visit, help train and walk the dogs at the different shelters. Valerie goes above and beyond your average volunteer. She wants the dogs and cats that spend time at the shelters to be comfortable and for them to feel loved.”

If you would like to help Sanks reach her goal of helping shelter animals spend a warm holiday, friend her on Facebook or send donations to P.O. Box 262, Rocky Point, NY 11778. You can also send any blankets or donations to any of the three shelters: Brookhaven at 631-451-6950, Riverhead at 631-369-6189 and Southold at 631-765-1811. They all know Valerie Sanks.

Of course, if instead of donating a blanket, you want to provide a home for one of the animals, that would be great with Sanks. After all, all she wants is “for all the animals to one day have their fur-ever homes!”

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By Dr. Matthew Kearns

Nothing makes a better gift for the family than a little bundle of barking fur. The expectation is that this is not only the perfect surprise, but also a relationship and responsibility builder for your children. How do we choose a puppy that is friendly and safe?

As with human development, a puppy’s temperament (personality) is determined by both genetics and environment. Purebred dogs will generally have different temperaments: retrieving, herding, hunting/guarding, etc, and come in different sizes. The type of dog chosen should match with your family’s activity levels, number and age of children, etc.

If you have younger children it is good to choose a breed that is big enough to not be injured by your child, but not too big as to knock your child into next Tuesday as the puppy develops into an adult dog. Also take into account that certain breeds may be very good with you and your children but may see your children’s friends as unwanted intruders. This not only becomes dangerous to guests, but also a potential financial liability for you.

Good breeders will match their dogs to appropriate families but poor breeding (puppy mills) can be dangerous. When purchasing a puppy from a breeder, the puppy is usually somewhere between 8-10 weeks old. This is a key time for the puppy to bond with your family (including younger family members) and quickly consider everyone part of their new “pack.”

Adopting from a shelter or rescue group is a noble but uncertain endeavor. The actual genetics is somewhat of a guessing game, and many of these puppies have traveled great distances with other dogs under stressful circumstances. When first introduced these puppies may appear calm (even timid) but it can take many days to weeks for their true personality to emerge. That does not mean that every dog from a shelter has a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality. However, make sure that the shelter or rescue has a clear (and timely) return policy if things aren’t working out.

Your own family dynamic plays a role. Children younger than school age can pose a problem. Toddlers are curious, but also are grabby and impulsive. What seems harmless (pulling at hair, stealing toys/food) could become a potentially dangerous point of conflict. This is very true as the puppy matures into a young adult dog.

What was once tolerable a few months ago as a puppy is now taken as an act of aggression or challenge. Therefore, many experts that recommend only adopting adult dogs with a proven temperament from a shelter if you have children or children under school age (6-7 years). An added benefit of an adult dog is that many times they are already housebroken (especially if spayed or neutered) and far less destructive than a puppy.

I hope this information is helpful in choosing the right dog for your home this holiday season. I want to wish all of the readers of this column both a safe and joyous holiday season and happy 2016. I also want to thank both Heidi Sutton, editor of the Arts and Lifestyles section, as well as all the staff of the Times Beacon Record and affiliates for another great year.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years.