Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield has a great holiday gift program with all proceeds benefiting animals. Use the "donate" option on their web site to order ornaments, a 2013 calendar, and more. http://www.secondchanceanimals.org/
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Worcester Animal Rescue League in Worcester has many dogs and cats available for adoption. Check them out here, or visit the league in person: http://www.worcester-arl.org/adopt.asp
Broken Tail Rescue in Worcester is hosting photos with Santa at two locations this weekend and next, at PetSmart in Cambridge and PetSmart in Framingham. Also, Broken Tail has lots of cats and dogs ready for forever homes. http://www.brokentailrescue.org/adopt/
Great Dog Rescue in Andover is also hosting a Santa photo op today, Decmeber 8th, at The Urban Hound in Boston. The organization is also promoting a virtual 2012 Holiday Tree Lighting via PayPal with donations to help Great Dog's dogs in need find a home for the holidays. http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=bkugp5bab&v=001xPdLKy4-WIwpQ1MUcJBDHT6IU-pKfBuhoEUoZFUjaULIqo2_EkawRv4oHMKC9wUBAh3ugqKnYVK7WKl6pGY2swEhNiwe3zDX7YLkePkYo-I%3D
Sterling Animal Shelter in Sterling describes their 2012 holiday donation program as "A gift that is NEVER the wrong size, NEVER goes out of style AND a gift that saves lives". Donate to their Shelter's Pets-n-Programs in memory or honor of a beloved pet or human, or just make a donation in the spirit of the holidays: http://www.sterlingshelter.org/
Remember, all of these organizations have pets available for adoption.
While adopting a pet is a fun idea for the holidays, don't jump in too quickly. Adopting a dog or a cat is a lifetime commitment, for the lifetime of the animal. A living animal is not a "Christmas present" that one person should give another as a surprise. Adopting a pet is a great thing to do at any time of year, but the eventual end caregiver should be the person choosing the animal, and should do it not only in the spirit of the season, but because they've wanted to do it anyway, regardless of the holiday buzz.
There are plenty of wonderful, loving pets available for adoption in the Worcester area, and throughout Massachusetts and New England. Shop around, and make sure the animal is a good fit for the family adopting. Humans should always have equal or higher energy than a dog, for instance. An active family who likes running, bike riding, hiking, and day trips that include lots of physical activity would do great with a Border Collie, but an English Bulldog might have trouble keeping up. Conversely, the folks who want to watch football on TV, and not actually play the sport, might fare better adopting a senior pet, a cat (or two!) or that English Bulldog who can't keep up with aforementioned active family.
Not ready to make that 15-year commitment? (because that's what it is!) Shelters and rescues are always looking for foster homes. It's a great way to have a pet, help out a shelter or rescue, and get to know how an animal would fit into a home and lifestyle. Many times foster families "fail", which is a good thing (a foster-fail means the foster family ends up keeping the pet).
There are a lot of senior pets looking for homes, which is a great way to make a shorter commitment, and help a pet in need (and a shelter or rescue in need). Senior pets are almost always more uncomfortable in a shelter setting than their younger counterparts in neighboring crates. Senior dogs or cats make wonderful companions, and are almost always fully-trained. They may have special medical needs, but the rewards outweigh the negatives.
If interest lies with a puppy or kitten, be prepared for months of house-training and other training, as well as chewing, digging, scratching, knocking things over, staining and soiling! That's not to say that having a puppy or kitten from the beginning isn't a wise choice (think how great they will be when they're a senior!), but "know what you're getting into" is a good thing to keep in mind.
The majority of pets surrendered to shelters are between one and three years of age -- experienced pet parents can adopt one of these energetic dogs and cats who are often surrendered for no other reason than the original adopters ignorance of the extent of the commitment required when raising a young cat or dog.
Check out the various adoption specials offered by the shelters and rescues listed in this article, or go to petfinder.com for more.
Still not ready to welcome a pet into your own home? Check out the great holiday shopping offers from Second Chance Animal Shelter, and Worcester Animal Rescue League and the Santa photo ops from Broken Tail and Great Dog Rescue. Some offers are listed on the group's Facebook pages, and not on their web sites. From clickable discounts online, to store discounts at various local stores who donate part of purchases to one of the shelters, to special holiday ornaments, decorations, 2013 calendars and gifts with shelter or rescue logos, the possibilities are endless to give back while doing your holiday shopping. Or, take the easiest way out and make a simple donation to any local shelter. No amount is too big, or too small. It's all in the holiday spirit.