Thanksgiving has passed and we are officially into the Christmas season, a time of sharing, joy, and love. An 1800’s Christmas carol states, “Love came down at Christmas…” Subaru features an annual “share the love” event. We can take these thoughts of love and sharing and apply the principles all around us, including to pets. Whether our own, an animal belonging to a family member or friend, or even (and especially) the homeless creatures in our community and beyond – each and every pet needs the love, joy, and security of human companionship.
Sadly, many pets don't experience those positive principles. Instead, they are cramped into tiny cages at the hands of puppy millers – backyard breeders who only want to make money from the litters of puppies and kittens derived from unspayed/unneutered animals. Similar to assembly production lines, these dogs and cats are bred time and again for years on end, and are often unsocialized and in great need of medical care. Organizations such as National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) in Colorado Springs, Colorado make their mission of saving dogs from such horrible conditions and providing them the love and care they need, desire, and deserve. Recently, NMDR sent out volunteers to rescue dogs confined in deplorable conditions in several Midwestern states – the compassionate volunteers returned to Colorado with more than 60 dogs of varying breeds, including Shih Tzu, Yorkshire terrier, and German shepherd. Some lacked teeth and most were matted to the hilt. Several were very shy from lack of loving human contact while others responded with great joy and dancing after being rescued, bathed, and loved.
The meaning of Christmas is love and sharing. We can all step up to the plate in this regard, showering our human and animal neighbors with the love and compassion each living creature needs. Lives are changed by acts of love and compassion, and the lives of pet rescue and shelter workers and volunteers are positively impacted by care shown to them by community members.
My husband and I recently visited Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Open for more than 30 years, this amazing organization takes in dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, parrots, and other animals in need of rest, rehabilitation, and re-homing. They serve more than 1,800 different animals each year. Best Friends staff and volunteers conducted a massive rescue during Hurricane Katrina, and the organization was instrumental in saving the dogs Michael Vick and his cadre used for fighting. I volunteered at Cat World, taking kitties on leashed-walks and baby/cat buggy strolls. I played with and petted the cats – several simply wanted a lap to curl up in and receive loving strokes along the back and behind the ears. Petting an animal not only comforts them, but also helps relieve stress in people. As I sat with these cats, either in shade or under a canopy of blue sky and autumn sunlight, relaxation ensured for me and them. I can’t wait to return again to do more volunteer work!
A person doesn't have to travel hundreds of miles to make a difference in the lives of animals – we can help those at our local rescues and shelters, in our own homes, and the homes and neighborhoods of our friends and families. Let’s take this holiday season to do something to make a positive impact, a “share the love event,” bestowing compassion, kindness, joy, and care upon our fellow living beings. Share your gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Donations of food, supplies, and funds go a long way to help the rescues and shelters. Gifts of volunteerism speak volumes to organizations reaching out to the hurting and homeless and to those whom they serve. Walking the neighbor’s or grandparents dog, playing with a friend’s cat, or spending extra time with your own pets also rains blessings upon animals and people.
How can you share the love with pets and people this season? The ways are endless! My hope is we come together as a community to end animal cruelty, including mills, and unite to help homeless pets until there are no more unwanted, unloved furry companions.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.