Finding room for furry ones during the holidays

Tis the season we raise our champagne flutes and toast to peace on earth, good will towards men! ‘Tis also the season one of my beagles makes a go for the turkey platter, ultimately reminding me of the life-sustaining importance of good will towards dogs. When peace is finally restored, I typically find myself curled up with those same devilishly charming elves of destruction to watch a holiday classic like Miracle on 34th Street. And that, my friends, is how the idea for my last article of the year popped in my head. It’s about miracles! They can happen anywhere, at any time – not just at Christmas and not just at one of the biggest department stores in New York!

Of course, the Macys and Gimbels of the world have much to offer and certainly deserve your patronage. But deep down, I believe most of us have a soft spot for the underdog. We’re rooting for the man on the street corner, dressed like Santa and ringing a bell for just a moment of our attention before we head inside.

pet-jakey-1In the animal welfare community, this is the time of year we ring those bells the loudest. The fundraising departments of our humane societies and SPCA shelters are hard at work sending out their holiday appeals through the mail and on TV. ‘Tis the season of giving and one inspirational rescue story alone can melt hearts and raise more support than any other time of year.

Still, the competition is tough with so many charities ringing so many bells all at once. Can you imagine the challenge for small, privately-run, volunteer-based animal rescue groups? For them, it’s like getting us to hear the faint jingle of a bell on a cat collar over the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing The Hallelujah Chorus. Sometimes it takes nothing short of a miracle to be heard, but it’s not impossible! After all, the Grinch managed to hear the Whos of Whoville singing in celebration after he thought he stole Christmas!

In this age of abundance and mind-boggling technology, I’m guessing we appreciate more than ever the simple quiet acts of giving from the heart. A kind donation made in the name of someone you love could very well be the perfect gift. It’s thoughtful and meaningful with no wrapping required!

It’s easy too, when it comes to the dog lovers on your list! By visiting and clicking on ‘Rescue Directory’, you’ll find an extensive list of rescue groups representing practically every dog breed you can imagine. For that special someone who loves ALL dogs, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes…we’ve got a rescue group for that. A gift donation to an All Breed Rescue like Speaking of Dogs itself or the folks at T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue is sure to please the non-breedists on your list. For the feline fan in your family, T.E.A.M. Dog is launching a cat rescue division! Perhaps your local Animal Services branch came to the rescue of a lost pet in your neighbourhood. The on-line directory includes our provincial shelters and even a wildlife sanctuary equally appreciative of your support.

Finally, there’s my favourite listing, aside from my own beagle/turkey thief rescue. It’s a beautiful spot outside the city where the bucket-listers go. If you’ve been following my column, you know the place. I’ve written about it many times before, fondly comparing it to the Land of Misfit Toys. Cast aside for getting too old or too sick, terminally and chronically ill dogs find heaven on earth here. It’s none other than Sheba’s Haven. There’s one Havenite in particular who wears a festive cowbell on his collar year round so his caregivers can keep track of his shenanigans. Jerry Maguire has “Seek adventure no matter the consequences” at the top of his bucket list. For Jerry, the grass is always more sniff-able on the other side of the fence. If you listen hard enough, you can hear his cowbell from here.

The bells are ringing at Big On Beagles (BOB) too, which brings me to our own inspirational tale. Emily came to us after being rescued near the 401 by the Investigations Unit of the OSPCA in Napanee back in the fall. Emily was yet another old beagle with an unknown past. Judging from a tail that appeared permanently wedged between two quivering hind legs, that past did one howl of a number on our mystery girl.

A week ago, I visited Emily at her foster home. It was a special visit. This was the night Emily’s foster daddy adopted her. This was also the night I saw that tail for the first time because it was now standing as tall and proud as the Empire State Building! At that moment, I could have sworn I heard a bell ring.

Take it from the new Emily – it’s a wonderful life.

This article is written in loving memory of Jake (pictured above), one of our rescued beagles with the good fortune to fulfill his bucket list at Sheba’s Haven. To make a special holiday donation to Sheba’s Haven or another deserving rescue group of your choice, visit  to view its Province of Ontario Breed Specific and All Breed Rescue Contacts list for 2012. T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue is new on the scene (email:! Jake’s sign sums it up best – THANK YOU for hearing the jingle of these bells!

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