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How You Can Help Dogs in Shelters This Holiday Season

Written by aslmad.yaz


For dogs in shelters and rescues, the holidays can be a lonely time. Among the chaos that ensues this time of year, it’s easy to forget there are thousands of pups who will be spending these weeks without loved ones or a home to call their own.

If your family isn’t quite ready to permanently welcome home a four-legged friend, there are still plenty of ways you can help a homeless dog during the holiday season. In so doing, you can also help animal shelters and local rescues. Many of them will likely be overburdened processing animal intakes with a skeleton crew as staff and volunteers are away for the season. This is especially true as some misguided gift givers bring home shiny new Christmas puppies and people, heartbreakingly, surrender their senior dogs.

Volunteer at an adoption event

There are tons of adoption events held around the holidays. Volunteering at such events event is not only extremely helpful but also very rewarding. You get to see dogs find forever homes and meet happy dog parents leaving with a new family member. Rescues also need help at events where they take many animals in their care to pet supply stores or other public venues offering the space. You could be responsible for playing with a puppy and walking them on a leash around the venue. You might even be asked to help keep potentially anxious dogs calm and collected as they meet potential adopters. Either way, you’re getting to love on pets who truly deserve — and appreciate — the attention for several hours. What’s not to love about that?

Assist shelters by cleaning kennels, walking dogs

Christmas presents for the holiday season for animals at the Bremen animal shelter. Man dressed as Santa with shelter dog.
(Photo by picture alliance / Karsten Klama | picture alliance via Getty Images)

Shelters can always use volunteers to clean kennels, walk dogs, and perform other day-to-day duties. Although this type of work isn’t glamorous, it’s necessary. Many shelters and rescues run on limited funding, so every hour you can put in frees up staff to take care of other important tasks. Moreover, the extra attention and socialization with more people will only serve to benefit the dogs and reduce the likelihood of depression, behavioral concerns, and socialization issues. Plus, you get to meet loads of adorable pups. In fact, you might even decide to take one home!

Donate money in an animal lover’s name

Have a coworker, friend, or family member who loves dogs? Maybe you lost someone and you’re looking to honor their memory this holiday season. Consider making a donation to a rescue or animal shelter in their name as a gift. In fact, The Humane Society provides an easy option for memorial contributions. Some employers will even match donations to verified nonprofit organizations.

Moreover, some pet owners are choosing to celebrate Christmas by making a donation in honor of their own dogs — whether they have a pet at home or recently lost one. Whatever the case, it’s a nice tradition to add to your yearly celebration of the season.

Foster a rescue or shelter dog

Fostering a dog is a much bigger commitment than cleaning kennels or working a few hours on a Saturday at an adoption fair. It means taking a dog home and treating them like they are your own. You’ll be their temporary family, which is something rescue and shelter dogs could use around the holidays. If you find yourself in need of some company but aren’t ready to commit to adoption, consider fostering this holiday season. You might end up “foster failing” and finding a forever friend.

The other note of caution here is, however, that bringing a dog into your home means accepting a certain degree of risk. In particular, if you have children, other dogs, or cats, it’s important to know how the foster animal will react and vice versa. Ensure you have a home environment that makes fostering possible. More importantly, be ready to commit adequate time to acclimating the dog to their new — albeit, temporary — surroundings. Above all, be patient and kind with this animal who has likely been through so much upheaval in such a short period of time. Given this, prepare for potential potty accidents, excessive barking or licking, and other anxiety-driven responses. In addition, be sure not to unintentionally expose the pup to any common holiday hazards.

Donate food or other items

Short on time? No worries. Donating essential items to shelters — like dog food, toys, beds, creates, leashes, and harnesses — is another great way to volunteer your resources. You can gather up blankets, unopened and unexpired treats, dog toys, and more to drop them off. Be sure to check your local shelter’s website or social media pages, as they often have lists of items needed. Some even have Amazon Wish Lists where you can purchase items that will be delivered directly to the organization. That said, contributing necessities is as easy as sitting on your couch and scrolling through a website. No matter your energy level, this is a simple and quick, but meaningful, way to help animals who need your assistance the most.

If you want to make an even bigger impact, consider organizing a pet donation drive at your place of business, school, church, or civic center. Undoubtedly, this approach requires a bit more time from you, but you could even get your neighborhood, coworkers, social organizations, and children involved. People often feel extra generous this time of year and helping shelter pets is a worthy cause to support.

Giving back is the ultimate gift

No matter your capacity, if you have some time, energy, or treasure to spare, consider showing shelter dogs some love this hap-happiest season of all. You truly have the power to make this the most wonderful time of the year for homeless animals. What’s more, your gift — whatever form it takes — will help the animal lovers who work tirelessly year-round to run rescues and shelters continue to do their incredibly important work.

If you’ve ever had a dog, you know the joy and merriment they bring with them. Now, just imagine how a little effort on your part this holiday season might help even one shelter pup bring that level of cheer to their new forever family. And it’ll be possible because you were a part of their journey to being adopted. So, if you let your heart be light, maybe next year, all these sweet dogs’ troubles will be out of sight.


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