As I ran up my Citibank bill on pine-scented candles this week, it occurred to me that we’re revving up for the holiday season once more. And, inevitably, this realization prompted me to remind my daughter how fortunate our family was to have a safe, warm, loving home, since a lot of people and animals can’t claim the same. Of course, this was Maria’s cue to beg me, “Oh, Mom, can we get one of those animals? Can we? Can we?”
Now, I don’t think of myself as the Grinch, but we’re all stocked up on craziness, fur, fins, and scales. One of my biggest accomplishments as a grownup is that I’ve learned to learn my limits. Unlike life during my college days, I can no longer handle a morning round of margarita bombers. Nor can I take on an endless array of pets without denying them the individual time and attention that every companion animal deserves.
That said, Maria’s kindhearted, innocent plea got the old gears turning. Maybe I’m not in a position to adopt a Great Dane this holiday season, but I did come up with a few other ideas that would allow us (and maybe you, too!) to extend a helping hand to animals in need in the months ahead…
1) Adopt without adopting: Call local shelters to see if you can’t arrange to donate a certain amount (even if it’s small) each month to pay for some of the expenses related to housing and caring for a homeless animal. If you really want to teach the kiddos a lesson, ask shelter staff if you can “adopt” a pet that is normally not all that adoptable—someone who’s been there for a while, is older, or is not a perfect match when it comes to the perfect standards of puppy- or kittenhood.
2) Instead of organizing a coat or toy collection with your local school or community organization, do something for your furry friends. Collect new or gently used pet toys, blankets, leashes, or crates. Corral your kids into coloring posters and/or fliers to publicize your unique drive.
3) Consider using that next boy- or girl-scout event to visit a shelter. Call ahead first, of course. And, though it might seem a tad nuts, ask staff if there’s any way your group can carol to the animals. Patrons of Brookfield Zoo do it, and don’t tell me that sad little pup in the corner needs holiday cheer less than Chicago’s polar bear population.
4) If you’re looking for a more subtle approach than #3, go easy and simply talk to scouts, club members, and/or playgroup members about topics such as aiding stray pets and keeping family animals warm and safe once the dangers of winter set in. Some people think that dogs love to run in the yard all day long (even if their paw pads are liable to freeze to the grass), and they need a good friend/seasoned guardian to give them a little guidance.
5) For those Tails fans who (like moi) don’t have the time or organizational skills to tackle the world in a super obvious way, rely on everyday decisions to make your point about celebrating the human-animal bond. For example, include Fido or Fluffy in the family holiday photo. Your cute pics just might remind others that pets are cherished members of the clan. Either they’ll take the reminder to heart and leave something special for their own dog or cat under the tree this year, or—if they currently don’t share a home with someone who walks on all fours—they might consider changing that situation.
So, what are your strategies for showing kids how to spread holiday cheer in a manner that ultimately benefits the fuzzy, furry, and feathered set? If you have any tips or inspired ideas, post them here. Spread the word, change the world, and break out in an early chorus “Jingle Bell Rock” as you get your give on.
Katie Marsico is a proud mommy of 3 human children— Maria, 5, C.J., 3, and Thomas, 18 months. She is also the happy guardian of several furry, finned, and scaled pets.
Marsico has happily written for Tails since its inception in 2000 and is the author of more than 60 children’s books. She works from home, which is located in Elmhurst, Illinois (though she hopes that address will one day be changed to a location in southwest Florida).