Looking for ways to help out your community, give back to dogs and people in need, plus have fun at the same time? Check out these year-round festive actions that you (and even your dog) can take.
1. Get a photo with Santa
Take your dog for a cute festive picture with Santa. These photo opportunities are usually available at pet shops and humane societies with money raised going to a dog-focused rescue or charity organization. Check out your local calendar of events for opportunities.
2. Volunteer to walk shelter dogs
Boredom and isolation are challenges for shelter dogs year-round. Commit to becoming a volunteer with your local shelter to walk, exercise and play with homeless dogs. Don’t have a lot of time? Volunteer once a month, a couple of hours every other week or at adoption events.
3. Organize a blanket, towel and/or toy drive
Rescue groups and shelters regularly need donations of new or gently used blankets, towels and toys for their dogs. Coordinate a dog toy drive in your neighborhood, training center, doggie daycare or vet clinic to help brighten the season for dogs in need this holiday.
4. Increase literacy
Is your dog a certified therapy dog? You both can help kids build literacy skills by volunteering with the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program. R.E.A.D. teams operate throughout the country in schools and libraries.
The program offers “a powerful way to inspire children to love reading and books as they polish up not only their fluency and comprehension, but also their confidence and communication skills — all while reading to dogs, who are incomparably engaging companions. R.E.A.D. could use thousands more volunteers in every community!” explains Kathy Klotz, Executive Director Intermountain Therapy Animals/R.E.A.D.
5. Choose a fundraising calendar
Plan ahead for the new year by purchasing a calendar that benefits your favorite breed rescue or community shelter for yourself or to gift to friends and family. Many organizations create calendars as an annual fundraiser.
6. Buy some extra pet food
When you are at the pet shop buying holiday food or treats for your dog, purchase an extra bag or can and donate it to a local rescue organization. Local food pantries also accept food for dogs along with human food. If you want to go big, organize a pet food drive in your neighborhood for a local organization.
Give a dog the forever home he’s been dreaming about! Dogster.com is filled with articles to help you prepare for another furry addition to your home. And, of course, never give a dog as a surprise gift. All dogs deserve a loving, warm home that not only wants them but has prepared for them.
8. Spread the word
Get holiday cards that send a message about adoption, your favorite breed club, shelter or therapy programs. You’ll be sending a festive message to your friends and family and supporting a good cause.
9. Raise a puppy
Support a service dog training program by signing up to get more information about becoming a puppy raiser. As a puppy raiser, you will help the next generation of service dogs prepare for their jobs assisting people with disabilities.
10. Start a Dog Scout Troop
Make an ongoing commitment to improve your community by joining or starting a dog scouting troop! The mission of the Dog Scouts of America is to improve the lives of dogs, their owners and society through humane education, positive training and community involvement.
For the holidays Dog Scouts “volunteer with the Salvation Army red kettle campaign by ringing bells and collecting donations. Many dogs actually take dollars and put them in a basket. This is a huge draw with the public, and we know the Salvation Army really benefits by the presence of the dogs,” says Brenda Katz, Troop Coordinator as well as Troop Leader 130. More details at dogscouts.org.
11. Bring your child to read books to shelter dogs
Your child can help give back to shelter dogs by volunteering to read to shelter dogs. The Shelter Buddies Reading Program started at the Humane Society of Missouri and is spreading to other shelters.
12. Lend a paw to canine research
Help researchers learn more about dogs by supporting or contributing to behavior- or health-based research. The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation maintain ongoing lists of various clinical trials your dog might be eligible to participate in or you can contribute to.
13. Help the homeless
Bring dog food and coats to people experiencing homelessness with their dogs. Visit petsofthehomeless.org to learn how to support your local community. You can also keep supplies in your car to hand to people you see on the streets with their dogs.
14. Volunteer or throw a 4-H benefit
Connect with a local 4-H club in your area and throw a benefit for the dog club of your local 4-H organization to support its ongoing training or an upcoming fun match or dog show. 4-H encourages positive relationships and training for kids and dogs together.
15. Become a foster parent
Not able to commit to adopting another dog? Become a foster parent to dogs waiting for their forever homes!
Thumbnail: Photography ©Sadeugra | Getty Images.
About the author
Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author. Her novels have been honored by organizations ranging from the Lambda Literary Foundation to the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and assists with dog agility classes. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix and a Newfoundland puppy, along with two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at sassafraslowrey.com