Christmas donations for homeless animals

Donated toys from Best Friends members and supporters make Christmas special for the dogs, cats, birds and other animals at the Sanctuary.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Dog playing with the donated Christmas toysWhen a trailer piled high with toys, blankets and treats stopped in front of one of the octagon buildings in Dogtown, Sidney the dog rushed out to greet it. She was so excited when her caregiver lifted her into it that she bounced around for several minutes, kissing everyone in sight before turning her attention to the goodies.

It was Christmas day at the Sanctuary. Excitement filled the air, and a dusting of newly fallen snow covered the ground. Sidney’s sheer exuberance captured the mood perfectly. She and the other animals who call the Sanctuary home were about to experience a few extra moments of joy and abundance.

Dog and her toy for Christmas

While caregivers selected presents for the other dogs in her building, Sidney chose one of the thousands of donated toys, treats and wish list items that Best Friends members and supporters sent to the Sanctuary just in time for the holidays. She found the perfect thing — a bright yellow, stuffed chick that she carried proudly back into her yard.

The trailer rolled on to Dogtown headquarters, where Sparkles, a special survivor, took a turn being queen. The young dog was born with a heart defect that threatened to cut her life short. But two weeks before Christmas, she went to California where a team of specialists performed a lifesaving procedure. With her shaved fur covered smartly with a sparkly pastel sweater, it was impossible to tell she’d been so sick. She nosed energetically through the trailer, unearthing the big, soft, plush toys she loves.

Armfuls of goodies for the cats

Cooper and Mimi the cats check out the pile of donated giftsMeanwhile, in Cat World, everyone was gearing up for the annual Christmas grab. A large meeting room in Cat World Headquarters was piled high with donated food, treats, toys, cat trees and beds. Caregivers from each of the buildings grabbed armfuls of goodies for the cats, then raced back to distribute the gifts. There was a heated bed for Eva, a pretty grey-and-white cat who has feline leukemia (FeLV), a virus that affects her immune system. And there was also one for Desiree, a 15-year-old tortoiseshell cat who lost her home when her family moved into an assisted living facility.

Besides beds, there was an abundance of feather toys, scratching boards and even a few cat trees. But the biggest hit, caregivers agreed, was catnip. That’s what interested Cooper. His caregivers sprinkled a generous amount on a rug for him, but he decided he wanted more. So he tipped over the bottle and rolled around in it. “Cooper is quality-of-life,” his caregiver explained (meaning that he is receiving end-of-life care), “so anything that is special for him, and makes him happy, is just wonderful.”

A veritable feast for the birds

Elsewhere at the Sanctuary, festivities were also in full swing. Each of the birds in the Parrot Garden got a new toy and some holiday birdie bread, a healthy cornbread mixture containing sweet potatoes, pomegranate seeds, cranberries and walnuts. And at Wild Friends, there was a veritable feast. Pigeons and doves enjoyed tree-shaped treats with green peppers and halved cherry tomatoes. Tortoises munched on fresh chopped salads with parsley, cilantro, collard greens, bite-size fruits and dethorned cactus paddles. Other menu items included roasted sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, apples, dates, pumpkin pie and whole-grain wheat rolls with millet, pumpkin and apricots.

Beyond all of the sweet treats and playthings, what the animals seemed to appreciate the most this Christmas was simply the chance to spend plenty of time with people. Caregivers and volunteers across the Sanctuary pushed aside non-critical chores for the day to cuddle, play, relax and enjoy the day with the animals — the very best gift of all.

Be a part of the magic by becoming a Best Friends member.

Photos by Molly Wald and Barbara Bornemann