The 145 furry residents of Almost Home Humane Society of North Central Iowa celebrated Christmas with gifts from the community.
Under the shelter's tree, festooned with ornaments and cards, were donations of treats, toys, food, litter and many other supplies.
"We let everybody see all their Christmas stuff," Tania Elliott, shelter director, said. "The dogs come up and see them. The kitties see them when they're up here. And then the ones that enjoy being out here and running around, we bring them up and have them open some Christmas presents, and they take them back to their kennels with them."
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Tania Elliott, Almost Home shelter director, spends time with Rory and her puppies Patches and Toby. Behind time, donations from the community of toys and food for Christmas, as well as holiday cards.
The shelter received its own gift five weeks ago from Rory, who gave birth five weeks ago to eight pit bull-mix puppies.
"We got their mom about five and a half weeks ago from another rescue," Elliott said, Monday. "When she came to us she was 46 pounds, extremely pregnant. That was on a Wednesday. She had her puppies that following Monday. And today, she still looks extremely skinny, but she weighs 45 pounds, so she's been putting on weight since we've had her, thank goodness."
Rory spends her time resting on a pillow in the shelter lobby while her puppies rest.
"Their mom has her time with them. She's in there at night, nursing and all of that, but we're trying to get them all weaned. They'll be ready to go home in probably three weeks," Elliott said. "She is an amazing dog. She goes outside, doesn't have to be on a leash. Stays right with you. She likes to snuggle up on a pillow. She's just wonderful."
While the puppies slept, some together and a few apart, they blinked and their paws kicked fussily.
"They like to dream. They run a lot in their dreams," Elliott said. "They're getting to the age now where they're starting to play with each other, and growl and bark at each other. And they're not very coordinated yet, so they'll pick up a toy to shake it and they'll fall over. They're a lot of fun to watch, a lot of fun to interact with it."
The puppies, which turned five weeks old Monday, are all available for adoption, Elliott said.
"You can fill out an application for them now," she said. "We won't send them home for about three weeks, but definitely if you're interested I would get your application in now."
Though closed to the public Christmas day, the shelter's animals were not left alone. Employees were on hand to provide care.
"They're here 365 days a year," Elliott said. "They come in, in the mornings, and make sure everybody's clean and cared for, and fed and walked, and loved. And then they'll go home for a couple of hours to spend time with their families. Then they'll come back in the afternoon and spend a couple more hours with them, giving them treats, giving them toys. Giving them love, letting them know that they're a part of our family."
The many gifts received by the shelter were all donations.
"People are very wonderful to all of these animals," Elliott said. "We get donations 365 days a year, but the Christmas donations start coming in about two and a half weeks before Christmas. And then people come in, see those, and they go get some presents and bring them in. Our tree is completely full. It's wonderful."
As shelter director, Elliott said it is fantastic to witness such an outpouring of care.
"There's no better feeling in the world than to see all these people come in to help out all of these homeless animals," she said. "Their situation is, it's not the right time to take an animal home right now, but they still make sure the animals here are well cared for, well taken care of, have the best Christmas they can have. It's extremely heartwarming."