Kaylee relaxes in front of the fire on a cold winter day. Photo by Julian Fong via Flickr.It’s that time of year again. Colorful Christmas lights twinkle from lampposts and adorn trees and houses, Christmas tree lots have sprung up overnight like mushrooms, and our homes are filled with the aromas of cinnamon and pine boughs. It’s a busy time, filled with decorating, baking, and shopping for just the right gift for those we love. It’s a time of joy and sharing.

The holidays are an excellent time to remember abandoned and neglected animals and the organizations that are devoted to helping them. Here are some of DogWatch’s suggestions on how to share with the countless dogs around us who are in need of a helping hand.

The Gift that Gives Back

There is no greater gift you can give to a dog than that of a loving home. In return, your dog will give you affection, loyalty, and laughter. If you’re looking for a pet, consider adopting a dog from a local shelter or rescue organization rather than buying one. Even if you have your heart set on a particular breed, it is likely you’ll be able find a rescue organization that specializes in that breed, and through them you’ll soon find the dog that is right for you. If you don’t find the pet you are looking for from a local organization, cast a wider net. The Petfinder website has an extensive database where you can search for adoptable dogs by location and by breed. Petfinder lists animals from more than 13,500 animal welfare organizations nationwide.


Shelters and animal welfare organizations are always in need of some extra help. Dogs and cats all need affection and attention. Take a dog for a walk, play with a cat, and give some love to animals who may have spent a good portion of their lives without it. Canine companions exercise dogs, feed them, and keep their cages clean. Clean, healthy-looking animals are often more adoptable, so volunteers who bathe and groom dogs play a huge part in helping them find a loving, forever home. Or, if you’re not looking for a hands-on opportunity, volunteer in the office, or help with a fundraising drive.

One of the most rewarding ways to volunteer is to provide a foster home for a rescued dog that is waiting to be adopted. There are myriad groups that rescue animals from a variety of circumstances and provide them with needed medical care, including vaccinations and spaying and neutering. Look for a rescue organization near you at www.adoptapet.com/dog-rescue.


Contact a local shelter or rescue organization to find out what they need. Of course, money is always in short supply, but towels, dog beds, leashes and other supplies are often needed as well.

Maisie the black cocker spaniel next to the Christmas Tree, with a bell and tinsel on her collar. Photo by _dbr via Flickr.If you’re able to make a financial contribution to the welfare of animals, there are many worthwhile organizations to consider in addition to those close to home. One popular and well-respected organization is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The ASPCA’s mission is threefold: caring for pets and their owners, helping to provide positive endings for animals who are at-risk, and serving animals who have been victims of cruelty and neglect. To learn more, visit the ASPCA’s site. Need more incentive? Right now, all donations to the ASPCA are being matched, up to $150,000 in matching donations.

An organization that many people might not know about is the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which provides dogs with meaningful work, finding people who are buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. Another organization that train dogs for assistance is the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). ARF was created in 1991 by Tony and Elaine La Russa. Its mission, in part, is “to address the needs of companion animals. ARF saves dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters and brings people and animals together to enrich each others’ lives. ARF strives to create a world where every loving dog and cat has a home, where every lonely person has a companion animal, and where children learn to care.”

For more highly-rated animal welfare charities visit Charity Navigator.

Are there any ways to give back or organizations to donate to that we missed? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section!


Photo credits

Top:  Julian Fong via Flickr.

Bottom: _dbr via Flickr.