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Adopting a dog is an exciting time for any dog lover.
You get to meet a total stranger for a pup and call them yours forever.
And prepare to fall in love over and over again throughout the years.
Sure, there’ll be challenging times but for the most part, the new member will be a wonderful addition to the family.
For this reason, wouldn’t it be nice to have a day just to celebrate your animal friend?
A day dedicated to focusing all the attention on him much like birthdays all for your human family.
Well, there is such a day in the canine adoption community as well. It is called Gotcha day.
Like many pet parents with adoptive dogs, you probably don’t know when your pet was born.
That means you cannot celebrate their birthday. I feel you.
My shelter dog was picked from the roadside. The shelter had no idea when he was brought into this world.
Gotcha Day has pretty much acted as his special day. We as a family have set it aside to celebrate our four–legged buddy.
The topic of Gotcha Day can be a little confusing in pet ownership.
It is crystal clear when referring to humans. It technically refers to the day when an adoptive child was brought into the family.
What about the case of dogs?
Does the term only apply to adopted dogs or just any other dog?
Walk with me as we put this question to rest once and for all.
What is Gotcha Day?
According to Wikipedia, Gotcha Day means the anniversary of the day a person or pet is introduced to a family via adoption.
The term came into light through a 2001 book by the name Primary Care Pediatrics.
The author noted that since the adoptive family rarely attends the birth of their adopted child, they should dedicate a special day to celebrate the kid (in addition to the birthday).
The word “Gotcha” is an informal way of saying “Got you”.
In her book, The Pumpkin Patch, Margaret Schwartz declared 15th September 2005 as International Gotcha Day.
Gotcha Day is also quite a big deal among pet owners.
They dedicate one day a year to celebrate the day or the anniversary they brought home their new pet.
Personally, I go all out to spoil my beloved pet during this special day.
After the lengthy and stressful process of adopting my dog was finalized, my family and I celebrate the very day our dog finally joined us for good.
We bake a special cake for our boy, take him out to the dog park, get a special costume for him, spend extra quality time with him, and just pour our all to him.
Is Gotcha Day Only Meant For Adopted Dogs?
From the definition of Gotcha Day, it is obvious that the term only applies to adopted dogs.
This oftentimes means rescue dogs whose birthdays are unknown to the shelter and the adoptive parents as well.
Our pitbull was dumped outside a hospital when he was about two years old.
He had become a little too much for the previous family.
His behavior was out of whack and it took us a long time to get him to where he is now.
Now, he’s sweet-tempered, good around kids, and has deep affection.
Since the staff at the hospital he was dropped in received no papers for the dog, no one virtually knows when he was born.
There’s no way we can celebrate his actual birthday like other dogs whose birth dates are known. Instead, we go big on the Gotcha Day.
When getting a dog through other means (say buying from a breeder or getting one from a family member), knowing his birthday is almost likely.
There are a few exceptions, though, but most of them have known birth dates.
In such a case, a Gotcha Day is not applicable as you will have a day to celebrate the pup’s birthday.
You can make it a monthly event depending on what you please.
In my case, we celebrate Gotcha Day every year. We also know people who do it on a monthly basis. Whatever tickles your fancy, go for it.
Dogs bought from the breeder or those gifted by family members are special just like adoptive dogs.
The fact that Gotcha Day is only reserved for adoptive pups doesn’t underscore the way pet parents feel toward their other pets.
It is just a way of honoring the adoptees whose birthdates aren’t known.
That way both pets, regardless of how they joined the family, get to feel special.
Some people actually take things to another level by celebrating both the birthday and Gotcha Day.
This applies to dogs whose birthdates are known or parents who just like going the extra mile to show love to their dogs.
There are several things you can do during Gotcha Day.
I love throwing a party when I can. Looks like too much for an animal but when I imagine what my dog means to me, nothing is off limits.
Besides getting our dog’s favorite cake and decorating the place with dog-friendly stuff, we also buy a range of gifts for him.
These include getting him yummy treats and toys. Oh, and bringing his friends to grace the occasion as well.
When we are not throwing a bash, we take our pooch to the dog park for a special playdate with other doggies.
We let him run free and enjoy the wide space to his satisfaction.
Other Gotcha Day activities include doing what the dog loves (an example is going swimming, going to the beach, or just chilling on the sofa), taking the dog for a road trip, dressing the doggie, and taking photos, the list is endless. Just get creative.
The Bottom Line
For their awesomeness, dogs deserve all the good things that the world can give.
Setting apart a day (or a few) in a year to celebrate your Fido is the least you can do for him.
Gotcha Day is such a special day for adopted dogs.
These special canines get to enjoy a whole day of undivided attention.
Related: 30 Happy Gotcha Day Dog Quotes
Nicole Ratliff is positive reinforcement dog training expert based in Oswego, New York. A CATCH Canine Trainer’s Academy alumni, Nicole has extensive practical dog reinforcement training experience and has worked with hundreds of private clients and dog shelter organizations. She is also an outstanding dog behavior author, having written for several online publications. Her goal is to educate pet lovers about the significance of living in harmony with their canine companions in a positive way.