SIKESTON - A warm home. Caring family. Food to eat. Someone to play with. It's not visions of sugar plums that are dancing in the heads of homeless, abused and abandoned animals.
What they are wishing for this Christmas is someone to love them.
The Sikeston Bootheel Humane Society's "Here Comes Santa Paws" project not only gives individuals a chance to help make Christmas a little brighter for homeless animals, but it's also a way of honoring or memorializing a loved one or cherished pet.
Throughout the Christmas season individuals can choose to donate $5 to become an elf, $10 for comet, $25 for the Cupid category, $50 for Donner, $100 for Blitzen and those who make a larger donation will move up to Rudolph status.
Those who would like to contribute to "Here Comes Santa Paws" are asked to fill out and send in the form that is periodically running in the Standard Democrat. If preferred, include your name, address, donation amount and the name of the pet or person to appear on the Christmas ornament. Send it to "Here Comes Santa Paws" Sikeston Bootheel Humane Society P.O. Box 1428 Sikeston, Mo. 63801.
The hand-designed ornaments will be placed on the Humane Society Christmas tree at Feeders Supply, 1014 Linn St. The tree, donated by Garden Lane Nursery, will remain up through December and members will place the ornaments on it as they receive the coupons or information.
It's a way to help those who can't help themselves, says Mary Ann McSpadden, president of the organization.
"These little creatures haven't done anything to be treated the way they've been treated. Imagine having to spend the holidays alone, scared, unable to speak and having no any idea where you are or why you're there. We have an excellent shelter staff, the best we've ever had, and they give the animals lots of love and attention, but it's not like having a home and a real family.
"Here Comes Santa Paws" is one of the Sikeston Bootheel Humane Society's two major fundraisers, the other being the annual summer gala. Therefore, its success is crucial to the organization. The money raised from the Christmas project is used to help feed the shelter animals, buy food supplements for newborns, purchase medication and vaccines and cover other daily operational costs necessary to house the animals.
Running the shelter is more expensive that most people realize, said Gabby Evans, executive director of the Humane Society's animal shelter. As an example, the shelter goes through 200 pounds of cat and dog food a day and veterinarian bills run thousands of dollars a month, she said.
"Our expenses are extreme," said Evans. "During this time of year the donations are always slow to come in and we nearly always struggle. We have some great supporters who are always there for us but we still must depend on the rest of the community to help us help the animals."
The animals at the Humane Society are counting on the community to make their wish come true. "Humane Societies in general are often thought of as somewhere you would not want to adopt a pet but I don't think a lot of people really know anything about what we have in here," Evans said with concern.
"These are not animals who are sick, injured, vicious or look like the last rose of summer. These are animals who are perfectly wonderful but were tossed out because they were not wanted, plain and simple. Some are mixed breeds and some come in with papers. Some get along great with kids and others would make great companions for older individuals. We have a little of everything and any one of our animals would make a perfect pet if someone would just come along and give them a chance, that's all they need. So, when you're giving from your heart to those in need this Christmas, remember that the animals at our shelter are depending on your generosity."
Pointing out that the shelter is currently housing 71 animals, McSpadden said the Humane Society realizes it is last on the charitable giving list because its cause is animals. Yet she urged the community to think about the countless services animals provide such as companionship and rehabilitation.
"Animals do so much for us," McSpadden said. "They respond to your feelings, whether you're sad or happy. They have a sixth sense and sometimes know if someone needs assistance. There are even animals who've gotten help for someone who's been hurt or like in the case of the World Trade Center tragedy, the dogs have been trained to go in and find victims. Studies show that animals are so beneficial to people like the elderly, the sick, people with alzheimer's, they hunt for drugs and bad people, they lower people's blood pressure, the list goes on and on.
"Animals are so much more deserving than what they will ever receive. So what we're asking is when you're tallying up your charitable giving, please remember what all animals do for our hearts and our souls. Society at large leaves animals out and we know we're last on the totem pole, but if you could just make an exception this year."