It's the holiday season and thoughts often turn toward home and family. And toward pets, too.
For a lonely, frightened animal in the Blue Mountain Humane Society shelter, ears perk up, noses twitch and hope fills broken hearts when potential new owners pass by.
The annual Home for the Holidays adoption event at the shelter Dec. 17 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. provides an opportunity for these animals to find a forever home.
"It's a deeply discounted adoption," said Sara Archer, the society's executive director. "Cats or kittens are $20 with a buddy free. And dogs, regardless of size, are $50 with adopt-a-buddy free."
It could be nice for a dog or a cat to have another dog or cat to play with, if a home can accommodate both. But if only one pet can be provided for, that's fine, too.
"We measure our success one animal at a time," Archer said.
The adoption event is in tune with the season, with Dec. 17 a high point. "We will have elves handing out additional discount coupons that day," Archer said. The prices will run until Dec. 23. The shelter is closed Christmas eve and Christmas day.
The shelter's goal for 2011 is to facilitate 1,000 pets adopted. Archer said that things are on track to meet that objective, with 894 completed adoptions as of early December.
People who have as many animals as they can handle or might be allergic to some pets can still get involved by sponsoring an animal they would like to see adopted. This can mean prepaying an animal's adoption costs. That costs have been prepaid is unknown to pet shoppers.
"You don't want the choice of a new best friend based on price," Archer said.
Sometimes when the people adopting the animal discover that it's adoption fees have been paid, they simply apply that money toward the adoption of another animal.
"Pay it forward," Archer said. "They were already prepared to make an investment."
She also advises people to be sure they want and can provide for a pet for life. A bond of love with a companion animal and a commitment to care for it is deeply personal, not an impulse gift.
She recommends giving a family member a gift certificate and then he or she can choose the pet
"It's caring and responsible for them to choose," Archer said. "You don't give another living creature as a gift; it's critical they choose their own pet."
An exception might be when the pet is for a child in one's own household and parents have put some thought into what type of animal would be the most compatible.
"The goal is for the long term results to be successful," Archer said. "It's the joy of getting to choose an animal to be your companion rather than the joy of putting a puppy with a bow on it under the Christmas tree."
Toward that end, the shelter lets people try out the animal before making a commitment.
"We really encourage home trials with dogs," Archer said. "Take the animal home three to five days then finalize the adoption - everyone wins."
Home for the Holidays applies to every animal at the shelter.
"Everybody here. Nobody's exempt," Archer said. "It is the most hopeful place ... There are moments that break your heart. But there is more joy than pain."
Karlene Ponti can be reached at 509-526-8324 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Blue Mountain Humane Society has a new cat play area, called "Kitty Heaven."
Built by Keith Noel, the enclosure is accessed through a kitty door. From there they can climb onto cut tree limbs and generally romp around. It's partially covered but they have plenty of fresh air.
This ability for outdoor play has decreased the number of respiratory complications for the cats, said Sara Archer, the society's executive director.
"Fresh air is good for you," she said.