Christmas with the critters

November 2018

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!” The old tune is catchy and fun, but what if the request was for a puppy?

Despite the fact that puppies and kittens under the Christmas tree look adorable, a pet is probably one of the worst gifts you can give someone for Christmas.

I talked to Kati Kilgour, Controller of Operations for the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society, about some of the pitfalls of giving pets as Christmas presents, and what the holidays are like for the staff and residents at the local Shelter.

“Christmas here is fun, busy and naturally a little sad,” says Kilgour. “These animals would rather be with a family in a home than in a shelter, but the reality is that Christmas is a bad time to adopt a pet. We do try to make it as wonderful as possible for them here, with treats, presents and a little extra food on Christmas Day!”

If your loved one really has their heart set on a pet, consider a gift certificate to cover the adoption fee, or a promise note to take them for a shelter visit after the holiday rush is over. After all, while holiday cheer can be enjoyable for people, it is often stressful for even the most seasoned of pets. For a newcomer, it’s almost impossible to settle into a much-needed routine with family and presents, wrapping paper, tinsel and trees creating distraction and chaos.

“After all the busy-ness is over, why not consider an older pet?” asks Kilgour. “We don’t always have puppies and kittens, and I can tell you that quite often, an older pet really appreciates having a warm, loving home to call his/her own. It’s a very special person who can open their heart to an older pet.”

For those not looking at adopting, the holidays can still be the perfect time to give.

“From unopened bags or cans of food, blankets, beds, towels and litter, donating practical things makes such a difference,” says Kilgour. “Even things like laundry detergent, all natural cleaning products, garbage bags, etc. We run a full-time, full-care facility and everything that is donated means we have more to spend on the residents themselves.”

The 2019 Pet Calendar is also a great stocking stuffer. Organized by volunteer Laurie Clarke, they will be available for purchase around the third week of November at the TBDHS, Pet Valu stores & Bay Village Coffee Shop. Tickets for the Shelter’s upcoming fundraisers are always a lot of fun, including the grand opening gala for the new, on-site Spay & Neuter Clinic that will be taking place in January. The clinic has been something that residents of the city have been requesting for years.

“We take care of all the medical costs for each cat and dog that comes through here,” says Kilgour. “Adoption fees only cover a very small portion of that. Fortunately, we have a pet-loving community, and they are quick to help when the need arises.”

Time is perhaps the most priceless gift of all and volunteering is a great way to share the love of animals. The TBDHS has a full list of volunteer opportunities, from dog walking to kennel care to event planning and more.

“Not all people can have a pet,” says Kilgour. “But volunteering is a great way to get your ‘feline fix’ or ‘canine cuddles’, AND you’ll be making a difference to animal care and protection in the city.”

For a list of the Shelter’s practical needs and volunteer opportunities, check out their website at and on FaceBook at

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

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