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Off Leash: Reclaiming the Christmas Puppy

Forget the pet store: Ottawa Humane is doing it right

  • In the early hours of Christmas Day in 2009, Josh Silverman made one of Ottawa Humane’s first Christmas puppy deliveries to then 10-year-old Darien Oldford. John Major/The Ottawa Citizen. Reprinted with permission

Every kid, at one point or another, probably had dreams of finding a new puppy in a big, beribboned box under the Christmas tree.

Every kid, of course, except Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and the millions of other children in the world for whom the 25th of December is just another day.

For years, the idea of a puppy for Christmas made shelters shudder—the myth being that the holidays were far too hectic to even think of bringing a new pet into the home, and that holiday puppies were bound to be headed to the shelter soon after they popped adorably out of their beautifully wrapped boxes. But the Ottawa Humane Society has rediscovered the joys of the Santa-delivered pet. And as it happens, it’s often folks of other faiths who are playing elf.

“I’ll tell you, the humane movement, if there’s one message we got out there, it’s ‘Don’t adopt an animal at Christmas,’” says Bruce Roney, executive director of Ottawa Humane, located in the Canadian province of Ontario. “And you know, given people’s lifestyles now, with smaller families and such, for some people Christmas is one of the only times of the year when they can take some time off and handle a new puppy. And if you’re not having a hundred people coming and going from your house, it may be a perfectly good time to adopt. So it’s a little bit about overcoming that, and it’s a little bit about the good will in the community, and it’s always nice to place more animals.”

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