This past weekend was the Red Cross' National Day of Giving, and while I didn't give them a donation (don't worry, S-Money, one's forthcoming), we had an altruistic Saturday. One thing we did was drop off some supplies at Alice's shelter.
Getting there requires both going on the Beltway and Route 66 (which I'm pretty sure will take you to Mos Eisley's-- it too is a wretched hive of scum and villany, with the added bonus of bumper-to-bumper traffic), so we haven't been there since we got Alice. Plus it's taken me about a month to get mentally prepared. The three times I went there are a little fuzzy as I jumped into dog ownerdom, and I do still get a little emotional when I think about how we got her and how close we were to not getting her (both stories I'm not particularly ready to write about), not to mention how much she's enhanced my life since she came home. I remembered that they had a lot of donations, and allowed new owners to pick out items from the piles so their new pets could have treats, toys, or a bed at their new home. So I knew they were doing okay overall, but needed certain things.
One item that we were dropping off were towels. Their website pleads for towels, and-- as weird as this sounds-- I feel it's my duty to donate them. I don't know all of their purposes, but most notably for me, they get used in the dog's kennels for them to snuggle. One of the memories most vivid in my mind about the first time we saw Alice is that she was laying in a purple towel nest she'd made at the back of her cage when we got there, and she got up and walked over to the bars to see us. Even now, she prefers blankets, towels, and rugs to a nice pet bed (excluding the papasan chairs). I have to drop off towels. So we loaded up some extras (for some reason, I'm practically a towel baron, I have so many) along with a few more items.
When we got there, the piles were even bigger than I remembered. Not so many towels, but beds, toys, treats, bags of food, you name it. Who knows why there were so many-- people giving up pets, cleaning house, or just feeling philanthropic-- but it was heartwarming to see people give. At the same time, their lobby seemed unusually full of birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, and even some turtles, so I decided to check out who else they had. As of Saturday, it was 67 animals-- 29 dogs, 29 cats, and 9 companion animals. It's a good-sized shelter, but for crying out loud! That's a lot of pets that need homes.
For the past couple of months I've been hearing more and more reports on how worried non-profits have been because of the economy and number of foreclosures. Money's tight this year for everyone, but this doesn't need to be a bad thing, per se. Beyond the money issues, I think it gives us a unique opportunity to readjust our priorities and focus our attention on the things we truly believe in, in all the ways that we can.
As I see it, there are a number of ways to give to animals this season, including in manners that don't cost money. Below I'm listing a number of suggestions under three headings: giving material wealth you already have, giving of your time and talents, and monetary items that do double-duty.
Give your stuff
- I don't know about every shelter, but as I mentioned earlier, Alice's is desperate for towels, so I assume it's universal. If you've just gotten new ones, too many to know what to do with, or have some that are getting rasty, drop them off at a shelter.
- Have extra batteries laying around? Shelters can use those, too. Even AAAs.
- If you bought a bag of food or treats for your pet and you decide to switch, many will take them, even if opened. It's best to check with the shelter, though. Also, drop boxes may not take open goods.
- If you got your pet a toy and they'd rather play with the packaging, give that. Less clutter for you, and it may end up being someone else's prized possession.
- Got the itchies from your detergent? Give it to the shelter. Again, just make sure they'll take it if it's opened.
- Remember that pet lizard/hamster/mouse/fish/creepy and/or fuzzy thing you had when you were growing up, and how it died and you took the cage and supplies down to storage? Dig it off and give it away. If you haven't gotten a replacement yet, you probably won't before another inch of dust settles on it.
- Something I didn't see much of at Alice's shelter were leashes and collars. If the pet's already fixed, you can take them home that day. Had we taken her home the day we got her, we would've been totally up the creek. If your dog has outgrown a collar, you wanted a longer/shorter/stronger leash and it's still in good shape, you could completely make a new owner's day.
- Pet-training books work well for coasters, but there's a chance that someone else might find it useful for, oh, I don't know-- training a dog. Give it up. If you do just happen to meet Cesar Milan and he asks if you own any of his books, he'll probably understand if you said you donated it.
- I'm sure any shelter would tell you that they'd love someone to come in and help-- walk the dogs, do paperwork, clean cages, whatever.
- If a shelter's not your thing or you're worried about getting attached to animals and starting a zoo, contact other organizations in your area (particularly those serving the elderly or chronic conditions) to see if they have pet-relate programs. For example, in Albany, NY, there's an organization called Pets are Wonderful Support (PAWS). I LOVE this group. It's a program through the Albany Damien Center, an organization focusing on people with HIV/AIDS. PAWS provides people with HIV/AIDS assistance in taking care of their pets when they are physically or financially unable to do it all alone. People are needed to walk dogs, take pets to appointments, drop off food, you name it. Non-profits in your area may have similar programs-- it's definitely worth asking around. I couldn't imagine having a serious illness and having to worry about losing your best friend on top of it.
- Last month there was a clean-up event at our dog park. We took Alice and spent a couple of hours over there. Besides an unfortunate Frenchie meet-up spot happening right where we were raking and sweeping (Alice's mortal enemy are young Frenchies), it was great-- Alice got to run around for a while, and the park still looks great, even six weeks later. Even taking the time to pick up the crap that lazy, high-and-mighty owners feel too big and important to clean up is a good deed. Besides it being a public health hazard, no one wants to see it. Just bag it up when you're doing your own.
Give your money's worth
- I'm a firm believer in giving donations as gifts if the people won't go nuts that you didn't give them something. Even in some instances, it can be fun to give it to someone who would. And I'm not just talking as a Christmas/Hanukkah/Christmukwanzukkah gifts here. Have to attend the blessed Winter Wonderland nuptials of Bride- and Groomzilla? Make a donation to a great group in honor of their magical fairytale wedding day. They don't need to know how much you give, just tell them it was a charitable donation. Even if one or the other is suffering from a bad case of tulle poisoning, at the very least, they're bound to like the idea of someone outside of the 500 people who attended the event knowing that they got married. Some good organizations include the Humane Society (though don't donate to the Mohawk & Hudson River HSUS-- they're bastards), Baghdad Pups, and of course a local rescue or shelter program. A google search or Charity Navigator can help you track one down if you don't already have one in mind. Also keep in mind groups that do sensible animal advocacy, like Compassion over Killing. Their recipes alone deserve a few dollars, and they have a campaign going on this month that every dollar donated will be doubled.
- Along the same vein, if you're betrothed, how about making a donation instead of giving out favors? Your guests may appreciate that you're not making them go home with a plastic glass slipper full of crap mints (trust me-- I know from experience) or a CD with your faces on it and the song that was playing when you met (Grandma may not care for the lyrics to "99 Problems"). This is super classy, even Martha Stewart-approved. The organization might even print up little table tents for you (I only know of one off-hand, but others likely do the same). If all else, make a nice little note in the program, print your own table tents, or write a little note to each of your guests letting them know. Asking for non-profit donations instead of gifts is also a nice way to go (and again, Martha says yay to it).
- If it's an occasion/person that you must get a gift for, check to see if an organization has a store or products. Off the top of my head, if someone's really into cats, dogs, or animal rights, the Humane Society's Humane Domain has a ton of stuff. If they're into girls, the Pinups for Pit Bulls 2009 calendar is now out, and the girls are cute. Lots of them also sell pet toys, so you can get your furry friend in on the act, too.
- Likewise check out if your favorite stores donate money to charities (Planet Dog does, for one, and they have the CUTEST peppermint candy toys right now). That's a great way to get precisely what you're looking for while still doing good.