This is the season intended to engage the whole world in a conspiracy of love, the true spirit of Christmas. We are blessed, and are reminded that “to whom much is given, much is required.” What better time of year is there to pay it forward to make a difference in the lives of others? Both two-legged and four legged! There are many creative options to choose to make a positive impact, realizing that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is wasted.

  • It doesn’t matter where you live, there are dogs in your own neighborhood who are not enjoying the good life. Some caregivers don’t even realize that a chained or penned up dog needs human interaction. Without being judgmental, perhaps you could suggest ways to make life more comfortable for him…or even better, you could offer to walk him, or spend some time with him. Sometimes the elderly or ill have trouble providing essential pet care, and an offer to walk the dog, help with feeding or grooming, pick up supplies or pet food, or drive her to the vet would be appreciated.
  • Behavioral problems are common excuses for a lack of adequate care. Dogs are like two legged kids …they don’t automatically know what is expected of them. Training is essential, and can be fun for both the canine and human, and reinforces the bond between the two. There are many “how to” books and videos offering training advice (be selective in your choices!) , and check with your veterinarian and recreation departments for classes if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself..
  • Most rescue groups or shelters are underfunded, understaffed, and overworked, and appreciate volunteers ….from dog walking to kennel cleaning to fund raising…there are endless possibilities as to what you can do. Ask what their needs are….writing newsletters, taking photos, and a friendly face for visitors or resident dogs are always appreciated. Homemade treats or just a brief play time would brighten the day of just about any shelter dog.
  • Adopting a dog would be great, but if your lifestyle or current situation does not make that advisable, perhaps you could foster a dog. Rescue groups have space constraints, and are often limited in the number of dogs they can save, so by offering to temporarily care for an animal in your home, you are giving the shelter extra time to find a permanent home.
  • If you own a business or are active in a civic organization, your friends or office co-workers might be willing to give up a latte or a donut to contribute the amount to a collection jar for dogs. Every dollar helps.
  • Donations are always needed…be it money, food, towels, blankets, or equipment, all shelters have needs. Call to see what’s on the group’s wish list.
  • Involve your entire family. Motivate them to volunteer a few hours at the shelter, interacting with the dogs. Ask your daughter’s art club, or your son’s soccer team, to help organize a fundraiser to donate proceeds to the shelter.
  • If you see a dog being neglected or abused, report it to the authorities. Don’t expect “someone else” to get involved. YOU need to report it, and then follow up to be sure appropriate action is taken. It might mean the difference of life or death for the animal!

At this wonderful time of caring and sharing, compassion and kindness, generosity and love, don’t be too busy to pay it forward. Paying it forward adds a tremendous sense of meaning and dignity to our lives and it makes us feel good to give to others, whether we get back or not, but I promise that you get back more than what you give, so give abundantly.