With our economy in turmoil and families, as well as pets, struggling financially, this is a good year to start traditions of true meaning in your family. Helping homeless and needy pets with traditions you enjoy and continue for years to come could be one of the most rewarding and memorable traditions you establish with your family.
When you ask adults or kids what they most like or remember about past holidays, they usually respond with fond memories of traditions or family activities rather than gifts they received.
Use the following ideas as a starting point to start traditions that help needy and homeless pets in your area.
If you give gifts to a fellow animal lover, this year start a tradition of donating to that person’s local shelter in his / her name.
We have family in New Orleans and started donating to an animal rescue group there after Hurricane Katrina. My in-laws are animal lovers and very appreciative of any efforts to help their city.
Buy food or other items from the shelter’s wish list, wrap those items, and place them under your Christmas tree with a name tag such as for the homeless pets of Santa Fe. Take your kids to the shelter to deliver the gifts.
Consider dividing the amount you spend on kids between traditional gifts and donations to your local animal shelter.
For example, print out a photo of a homeless dog from your local shelter on photo-sized paper and place that photo in a card or wrapped gift. Include a note with wording such as “Bobby, your Aunt Jenny sent a donation in your name that will feed me for three months. I’m an eight-year-old sweetheart of a black Lab still waiting for my forever home. This helps me so much. Thank you! Zack.”
Take advantage of kids’ computer skills. Publish flyers to post around your community on behalf of homeless pets.
Call the shelter first and ask about a specific food or other items needed. Kids can publish a flyer stating what’s needed and where to deliver the items. Also print photos of a cat and dog (downloaded from the shelter’s website) with wording such as “Help us, please! We’re running out of food.” Go with your kids to ask businesses to post these flyers in their windows. Also, they can be placed in church lobbies, library bulletin boards, school bulletin boards, etc.
Kids can take flyers to school and start a school-wide project.
Classes can help pets as a holiday project and bring shelter wish list items for pets to school. Include several classes and have a contest for the most items collected. Ask the local newspaper to write a story about this effort with photos of kids in the winning class and of course the youngster(s) who initiated the project.
Set a goal with your kids to buy pet food for needy and homeless pets every time you buy food for your own pet.
Define a time period, such as the next month or even the next year. Deliver the food to your shelter or a pet food bank in your area.
Contact your veterinarian to serve as a drop-off point for pet food your shelter needs.
A veterinarian is a good choice since he has a built-in clientele of animal lovers with lots of traffic. Make flyers to post at the vet’s office and in nearby businesses. Post specific food brands, sizes, etc. You can expand this idea by contacting many veterinarians, involving your friends and their kids, posting flyers around town in businesses, libraries, schools, churches, etc., plus advertising in your local newspaper, on radio, etc. Coordinate with your local shelter for the food needed and how it would be picked up. You can make this a very large and rewarding project each year with advanced planning.
Does your family draw names for holiday gifts? Ask for volunteers (probably adults) to withdraw their own names and substitute pets’ names from your local animal shelter.
The person who draws a pet’s name can buy pet food. Make sure the kids in the family understand that family members gave up gifts for themselves so homeless pets can be fed. Take the kids along when the items are delivered to the shelter
Extended family can connect with younger family members with a mutual love of pets.
Aunts and uncles, as well as grandparents, often struggle with gift ideas and activities for kids in the family. Start a tradition of helping homeless and needy pets with your younger family members.
For example, take your niece shopping for pet food and go together to the shelter to deliver it. To help her visualize this process better, take the shelter’s wish list when you shop as well as a photo of a shelter dog or cat. Call ahead and ask if you can also walk a shelter dog or help socialize a shelter cat while you’re there. This activity, together with lunch at a restaurant she enjoys, will create memories for both of you and help teach her about the needs of our homeless friends.
Volunteer to foster a pet in your home.
That would literally mean the gift of life for so many homeless animals. This is a serious commitment so be sure it would work for your family. If you have kids, you can use the experience to teach them that their contribution will help save a pet’s life.
Sponsor a Christmas party for kids at your home on behalf of your shelter’s pets.
Each child can bring pet food from your shelter’s wish list. Tell the kids you’ll match their contribution. For example, for every pound of food brought to the party, you’ll match that, or even double it (25 pounds from the kids and 50 pounds from you). Ask your friends to do the same with their kids and make it a competition between families, neighborhoods, etc.
Make plans as a family to contact at least one business owner you know or do business with and ask if they’d be willing to donate some of their revenue in December to your local animal shelter.
Your kids can help the business prepare flyers for their store window. Volunteer to run an ad in your local paper for this business to announce this promotion. Any business is a candidate for this, so think beyond pet-related businesses.
A plastic surgeon here in Santa Fe is running an ad called Vanity for Charity to promote “guilt-free pampering.” Proceeds of Botox and injectable fillers will benefit the animals of the Espanola Valley (New Mexico) Humane Society. A 20% discount is offered to encourage appointments. This surgeon is a philanthropist who donates to animals, youth at risk, the arts, and more. Consider businesses outside your immediate geographical area also. The Espanola Valley shelter is several miles north of Santa Fe but operates a thrift shop and conducts many fundraisers in Santa Fe. Their county is one of the poorest in the state but they wisely tap into the resources of a nearby area to help them reach their financial goals.
Once you’ve carried out a family project to help homeless and needy animals, you’ll learn how to make the tradition even better next year. Keep expanding on your ideas. Include the whole family to decide the best activity for you. You’ll no doubt create memories for your family to carry in your heart forever. And the homeless and needy pets in your area will be very grateful too!
More holiday ideas: