By Denise LeBeau
The weeks leading up to the big day are bustling with activities as Best Friends staff sort through all the wonderful in-kind donations and gifts sent to the Sanctuary for the animals during this special time of year.
Almost all the animal care areas have their own celebration that culminates on Christmas. Let’s get in Santa’s sled and get a glimpse into the joyous morning.
Decking the halls at Dogtown
From the looks of it, the dogs of Dogtown have been really good this year. It takes a truck and trailer (filled to the brim) to deliver all the presents to the various areas. At each stop, Santa Paws assists the volunteers and staff in picking out what they want for each dog.
“Every day is special at Dogtown, but on Christmas everyone goes all out,” says Michelle Logan, co-manager. “Our donors send so many treats, toys and blankets, and some of our staff bring in homemade dog goodies, and, of course, our volunteers just make the whole day more joyous.”
Tazmarie Christensen, caregiver at the Puppy Care Center, is especially excited: “I can hardly wait to spoil our babies with all the gifts people sent from all over the world. We’ll sing along to Christmas music all day as we play one of the puppies’ favorite games, ‘What’s in the box?’ Christmas edition, where we’ll fill the box full of treats and let the puppies destroy it. And if the weather permits, we’ll take golf cart rides and wave at the visitors. Who doesn’t like to greet a puppy on Christmas?”
Another caregiver who really embodies the holiday spirit is Lupie Sandoval. Christmas morning will begin with a reading of the poem she wrote, “The 12 Dogs of Christmas.” She says, “This is the dogs' home, it’s their day, and we do everything we can to make it special.” She also bakes special treats for her charges. She explains, though, that “our volunteers, visitors and donors are really the Santas here.”
Is that a partridge in a pear tree?
We must be at the Parrot Garden! Manager Jacqueline Johnson gets positively giddy at Christmastime, and for good reason. She knows it’s going to be extra exciting for all 104 of her feathered friends. The staff started stockpiling gifts on November 1, carefully arranging items off their wish list to be wrapped and ready first thing on December 25.
As holiday music fills room after room with good cheer, the volunteers act as Santa stand-ins and deliver the bounty to the avian masses. It’s a cavalcade of wrapping paper and twine. The gifts are specially wrapped by the staff’s children so the birds have as much fun as possible unwrapping their treasures.
“All of our residents look forward to Christmas morning. We make sure they have a good holiday. They love getting the cornbread stuffing and the pseudo fruit cake, and, of course, they love unwrapping their gifts. Each bird gets a present, and this year, we may have enough gifts so that each bird gets two,” shares Jacqueline.
Bunny “Ho Ho Ho” House
Chop, chop, chop, whirl, whirl, whirl. Can you hear it? It’s not a traditional Christmas carol, but it is music to the rabbits’ ears. It’s the sound of Best Friends volunteers readying the fruits and vegetables that they’ll be distributing on this celebratory morning to the Bunny House.
“There’s so much holiday spirit in the air. Our rabbits have new warm bedding and toys they’re thrilled about, but I think they would all be extra nice year-round just for the treats!” exclaims Heather Moore, manager of the Bunny House. “We just want to thank all the generous people that donate to the bunnies during the holiday season. It means so much to the bunnies and to us.”
From the looks of it, Jack and Jessica are topping Santa’s list as the best bunnies, and according to them, it’s an “America’s Got Talent” dance-off for who should get the most treats. Their Christmastime jig, comprised of getting on their hind legs and dancing for the really good goodies, does stack the tasty morsels in their favor. But, of course, all the rabbits get their fair share of the holiday feast on this festive morning.
Winter wonderland (with more worms) at Wild Friends
From the permanent residents, to the animals in rehabilitation, to the fauna that call the environs around the Sanctuary their home, everyone gets in on the festivities on Christmas morning at Wild Friends. Extra chicken scratch and bird seed are spread out for the wild songbirds and turkeys while the Christmas chef mixes up a feast fit for a kingfisher.
“I make specially prepared stuffing for the birds that eat it, leaving out the dangerous ingredients like onions,” says Carmen Smith, manager at Wild Friends, in preparation for the holiday. “Many of our residents get stuffing, cranberries and squash, which they love. Except our water birds, the ducks and geese get more of what they love, extra servings of mealworms.”
And then there are the toys. Ravens and crows are sophisticated creatures who crave creative problem-solving puzzles, and, a little known fact, holiday rubber chickens. As Carmen explains, “Alfred the crow can get over-stimulated and redirect a destructive energy on others or himself, but he can’t wait to get his talons on a charming (rubber) Henrietta chicken. We love to give him his extra-special gift on Christmas morning. It’s his favorite present.” You can check out the fun from Wild Friends on their Facebook page.
Christmas at Cat World
Head elf Michelle Warfle, manager of Cat World, has found her aerospace engineering background comes in handy this time of year. She’s been assembling cat trees, scratching posts and Kuranda beds sent in by generous donors for weeks, making sure all the gifts are ready to roll come December 25. Thankfully, there are two “quality control” office cats, Sonia and Little Callie, helping with the testing and making sure everything’s cat-tastic.
“We start getting ready for Christmas here at Thanksgiving. That’s when we convert the meeting room into a Santa’s workshop, filled with donations,” says Michelle. “The caregivers come in on Christmas morning, and it’s a mad dash. Everyone grabs the special toys, treats and catnip that they want for their area. The volunteers share in this special day, helping to distribute the gifts and then playing with them. Everyone has a blast.”
From the treats, to the toys, to the overall merrymaking, one thing’s for sure – there’s no place like home on Christmas morning, especially if your home is Best Friends.
Photos by Best Friends staff