For years, I, and as many of you reading this, have heard or sung many songs during the Christmas holidays. “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” just to name a few. These songs, as beautiful as they are, took on a new life and new meaning after I took a new job in 2011. Now, the same beautiful words haunt me this time of year.
Last year, I became the new director of Saint Frances Animal Center in Georgetown, our local animal shelter. This past December was my first holiday season with the center and we did what all businesses do during that time of year; we decorated a very meager tree, streamed the hallways with garland and played Christmas music over the sound system. Yet this new job was very different during the holidays. I wanted to take my work home with me! And by work I mean the many, many furry faces that I had to leave all alone on Christmas Eve.
I turned off the lights, unplugged the tree and locked the front door behind me. As I pulled out of the drive of Saint Frances on Dec. 24, 2011, my heart was very heavy thinking about the little furry ones I was leaving behind on this “silent night.” As I began to leave, I turned on my car radio to try and bring my spirits up. Big mistake! Song after song came over the radio. “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose” and the worst song I could have heard, “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
While this song seeped into my psyche as I was pulling away, I saw our sweet 10-year-old office dog named Princess standing in the doorway, nose pressed to the glass, watching me as I drove away. “Did she know its Christmastime, at all?” I wondered. It upset me so to think that Princess would not be home for Christmas, nor would any of her 200-plus unadopted roommates who remained at the center. Heartbroken, I drove away.
This memory and the holiday songs that I heard that night will always haunt me. That night was Princess’ last Christmas Eve. She never made it “home for Christmas.” Princess died in February of this year in our shelter, not in a home.
Many shelter dogs and cats live their entire lives in a cell. No Mom. No Dad. No special treats or toys. No fluffy bed. The staff, volunteers and I do our best to make every animal at Saint Frances feel loved and wanted, but as always, we need your help. During this holiday season and throughout the year, please remember the ones who are still looking for a place to call home.
Millions of homeless animals will spend this holiday season without sparkling lights, holiday treats and most disturbingly, without a family. If you have an empty space at the foot of your bed or a blanket that needs to be curled up upon, please consider fostering or adopting a dog or cat from Saint Frances Animal Center. “Wouldn’t it be great if they all were home for Christmas?”
If you would like to help in our fight against abandonment, overpopulation, cruelty and neglect of the innocent, homeless cats and dogs in Georgetown County, please call us at 843-546-0780, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, send a gift to 125 Ridge St., Georgetown SC 29440 and/or give a cat or dog a loving home, please visit our website www.sfanimals.org .
The writer is executive director of Saint Frances Animal Center.