The greatest gift

The holidays are an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Whether celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza, or just enjoying a few days off work, bowl games on TV, and some good parties, we strive to give expression to the generosity and good cheer that sometimes get lost in the hustle and bustle and the routine of our lives.

Here at Best Friends’ Sanctuary, Santa and his helpers distribute the many treats and toys that you, our members and friends, send in each year to help celebrate the holidays. It is just as exciting for staff and volunteers to put on an elf hat and make the rounds as it is for the animals to be surprised with special treats and extra attention on Christmas morning.

Of course, the best gift we can give to a shelter or Sanctuary animal is a new, loving home. For many shelter pets, that would also mean the gift of saving their life. In fact, I can’t imagine a better way for a family to spread the joy of the holidays than to visit a shelter and bring home a pet. What better way to share that deep-down feeling of doing good at this special time of year than by saving the life of a homeless pet?

As I write this, our geriatric, chubby Chihuahua mix, Esther, is resting peacefully nearby. She came from the South Los Angeles shelter, and it pains me to imagine the stress and fear that this little creature experienced while at the shelter or the stress and fear that any pet who has known the safety and protection of a home feels when thrust into any shelter setting.

Not everyone is in the position to adopt a shelter pet this holiday season, but for those of us who can, it is the most straightforward and unequivocally sure way of saving a life. If you already have a pet or two, please think about making room in your family for just one more.

This holiday season, my wife, Julie, and I will be taking in another sweet dog who was on his last day before dying in the Los Angeles shelter system. This Friday, one of our many incredible volunteers from the Los Angeles area, Brandi Stone, will be delivering our newest family member to us while on her way to enjoy Christmas at the Sanctuary. Esther will soon be joined in our home by another senior Chihuahua — an as-yet-to-be-named male who seems to be mostly blind and would stand little chance of adoption in the normal course of events.

As happy as we are to be able to save this precious life in a very personal and rewarding way, we are happier still to know that many more people are choosing adoption when looking for a new family pet. It’s a trend that will continue to grow as more and more people rave about and show off their amazing shelter pet, who was just waiting in a cage, looking for someone to love unconditionally.

So, as the days begin to lengthen and the promise of a new year is at our doorstep, join with us in remembering the animals — lavish affection on those who share your life and remember those who are waiting in a shelter nearby for a second chance at life. If you can, adopt or foster a shelter pet. If you can’t do that, donate to your favorite shelter, rescue group or organization that is working to bring about a time when there will be no more homeless pets. Together, we have the power to make that vision a reality.

On behalf of all the animals and staff at Best Friends, I wish you very, very happy holidays.

Dog No-Kill 2025

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society