Our pets play a major role in our merry, end-of-the-year celebrations, even if we don't go overboard in the whole gift-giving department.
They're up with the kids on Christmas morning, and they're not grumbling about the early hour. They snooze before the hearth, giving a greeting-card-y glow to any den or living room. And they happily accept any pieces of turkey or ham we slide their way under the holiday buffet.
But many dogs and cats will not be found lurking by the buffet or sleeping in front of the fireside this holiday season. They're shelter animals, awaiting forever homes, and there's something all beastie buffs can do to spread some cheer their way ahead of the yuletide.
What to do, where to go and what to see
Volunteers are needed for Operation Santa Paws, the annual visit-a-shelter, deliver-blankets-and-toys drive that takes place in Long Beach and Orange County. Helmed by community philanthropist Justin Rudd -- he of the Long Beach beach clean-ups and the Haute Dog parades -- Operation Santa Paws always falls on the Saturday before Christmas.
This gives those who want to pitch-in a little time to meet up with "Santa" and his helpers and find out who is going where and what the day's plans are. Then you're in your car and making for a shelter, and in the trunk? Goods to give out, from soft chewy playthings to jerky snacks to other critter-pleasing delights.
You're also invited to show with some donations, if you plan on helping with deliveries. The list goes way beyond toys and food, to food bowls, cat carriers, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and Polaroid film, for snapping pics of animals needing homes.
If you've done your shopping this year, and the pre-Christmas Saturday is free, and you're looking for a way to get the whole family involved in a kind-hearted, cuddle-sweet enterprise, Operation Santa Paws could be your next mission. Start here, candidates.