People often get so caught up in the logistical details of the holiday season — where to spend it, what gifts to buy, how much eggnog is acceptable to drink — that we sometimes forget the original intention of this time of year: spreading cheer. While there’s no shortage of humans who could use a little extra cheer this season, we here at Barkly would like to look at some inter-species ways of lifting the holiday sprit.
Ensure Your Own Pets are Well Cared For
For the almost 100 million Americans who travel during the holidays each year, pets can throw a wrench into plans. Often it’s impossible to fly or drive with pets, or the family members hosting a holiday get-together may not understand that your dog or cat is a member of their family too (duh). Be proactive in finding a safe and low-stress solution for your pet. If that means leaving your pet behind, do your homework to ensure the kennel or pet sitter you are entrusting your best friend to is reputable. If your pet is special needs, be sure to have medications refilled and clearly labeled, and emergency contact numbers at the ready. And always remember that Barkly walkers are available 365 days a year to help give you peace of mind!
Keep an Eye Out for Animals Left in the Cold
It seems like it should go without saying that if the temperature is uncomfortable for you to be outside all day, it likely is for your dog or cat too. Yet every year, thousands of reports flow into animal control and 911 about animals left outside without proper shelter, shivering in the sub-freezing temperatures. If you see a case of neglect such as this, it’s important to inform law enforcement or your local animal control as soon as possible. In some cases, a few hours can make the difference between life and death for that animal. Sometimes it’s difficult or borderline impossible to remove animals from a neglectful situation or encourage their owners to bring them inside. There are many animal rescue organizations who provide dog houses, straw, and other necessities for animals left outside. If you’d like to help keep animals warm this winter, consider donating your time, supplies, or money to their efforts.
Avoid Giving Animals as Gifts
Getting a sweater you hate for Christmas may feel uncomfortable, but getting an animal you weren’t ready for can be a disaster. While kittens, puppies, and hamsters may seem like the perfect furry vehicle to spread holiday cheer, giving pets as gifts is ill-advised for several reasons. First, many of these animals may have been acquired from questionable sources such as pet stores, where they likely care from and thus support animal mills. Treating animals like commodities is the opposite of holiday cheer.
Second, gifts are generally supposed to be a surprise, meaning the person being given the animal has likely not prepared for his or her arrival. Many shelters see an uptick in animals being abandoned after the holidays. This is likely due to people receiving animals they didn’t want, or weren’t prepared to take care of. If you are absolutely set on giving someone an animal as a gift, please forgo the surprise aspect. Sit down with that person and ensure they are ready for a pet and involve them in the process of selecting one. Liberating an animal from a cramped shelter could be a holiday miracle, but only if he or she doesn’t have to return once the Christmas tree comes down!
Consider Fostering in 2017
Many animal lovers include rescue organizations in their year-end donations, but far fewer think to provide one of the mostly desperately needed services to abandoned animals: fostering. Fostering an animal is the act of taking a homeless pet into your home to provide a “cage break” — a respite from the drudgery of shelter — or to socialize it to other people and animals. Fostering can be a game-changer for an unwanted animal. Dogs and cats that appear timid and unfriendly in cages may blossom into lovable companions in the home of a patient volunteer, drastically increasing their chances of adoption.
Fostering can be difficult. Foster pets may not get along with your pets, or if you foster special needs animals, their schedules can be demanding. But if you have the time and space, opening your home and heart to animals in need can be one of the most rewarding ways to give back in the new year.