Homeless critters not forgotten on Christmas | SierraSun.com

Homeless critters not forgotten on Christmas

Jenny Goldsmith
Sierra Sun
Jenny Goldsmith/Sierra SunNanette Cronk gives a homeless cat a toy. On Christmas Eve, all the animals at the Truckee shelter were given treats.
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With tails wagging, mouths salivating and hearts racing, it almost seemed like the down-and-out dogs at a Truckee animal shelter knew it was Christmas.

While many Lake Tahoe families will tear through a pile of Christmas gifts this morning, homeless dogs and cats at the shelter run by the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe have already received their presents.

On Monday morning ” Christmas Eve ” shelter staff and volunteers brought the dogs out of their kennels one by one, and handed each toys, treats and new collars to give the neglected animals a “Happy Howliday.”

“No one likes to be forgotten on the holidays, even pets,” said Nanette Cronk, the shelter’s manager. “It shows that the community really cares about the homeless animals.”

At Monday’s gift distribution, two young pit bull mixes, Lynn and Loretta, were given a chance to snatch items from a box filled with chew toys and other gifts. The youthful dogs, possibly litter-mates, then shared a stuffed porcupine, vigorously chewing and shredding the squeaky gift in a holiday frenzy.

And thus it went Monday. One stray animal after another was given a holiday toy, treat and sometimes a collar.

From Thanksgiving until Christmas, Tails by the Lake ” a pet shop located in the Village at Squaw Valley ” hosts the Animal Gift Giving Tree, an annual toy drive benefiting homeless dogs and cats at the Truckee shelter.

This year, charitable residents donated more than 60 gifts ” nearly $800 worth of pet products, said shop owner Robert Burks. He said the gifts were not just from Tahoe-area residents, but also Squaw Valley second-home owners, who sent donations from as far away as Florida and New York.

“It can be a sad situation because the dogs and cats are left in the shelter over the holidays,” Burks said. “This really brightens up the animals’ spirit.”

The donor either chose one of the pets as a gift recipient, or donated money, food or other items to benefit all of the animals at the Truckee shelter.

“The local aspect is important because it keeps the money local and you know the donations go right to the dogs and cats,” said Burks, who started the project with his wife four years ago.

This year, the Animal Gift Giving Tree was a space-saving wooden post rather than a large conifer, decorated with photos and descriptions of the dogs and cats waiting for someone to single them out for a Christmas gift, or even to adopt them.

“This gives it more of a personal touch as opposed to an anonymous donation,” Burks said.

If an animal is adopted during the holidays, the gifts follow them to their new home. If not, the dogs and cats still get to keep the toys in the kennel for company during the somewhat-lonely holiday, Cronk said.

“This really gives the dogs a chance to relax, get away from the kennel for a bit, and take out their energy on stuffed animals,” she said. “It means a lot to us that people care so much and want to help.”