“I hope any extra little bit of love just sustains them until they find their forever home.”
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As holiday music echoed in the background, pajama-clad kids and adults read books about Santa, little blue trucks and hero pets saving the day.
Their audience: Furry friends.
The Denver Animal Shelter held its Bedtime Stories event over the weekend where human friends and families read stories to the dogs and cats living at the shelter.
Lindsay Wells, DAS’ philanthropy administrator, said DAS will typically host the story times around Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. There’s a $25 donation fee and specific time slots families can sign up for. The shelter will usually provide snacks, drinks and arts and crafts that can be taped to the animals’ kennels.
“It’s great because people are helping in multiple ways,” Wells said. “They’re raising money for the shelter but they’re also coming in and helping the animals relax and unwind by reading to them.”
Wells said at first she wasn’t sure how the event would go for the animals, with them barking or generally not paying attention but the company is very beneficial.
“It was truly a relaxing experience for them,” Wells said. “The shelter can be a really stressful environment with all the barking, different people walking by. [The animals] are somewhere they’ve never been before. A lot of them are away from their families for the first time, if they were surrendered. So, having somebody come in and just sit with them and give them that one-on-one attention with the soothing reading really helps to reduce their anxiety.”
Wells added that this year has been an overwhelming time for the shelter. The shelter is consistently full and there have been more surrenders than usual. Wells believes it may be due to the high cost of living in the city.
But there’ve also been plenty of adoptions.
Besides being there for the animals, Wells said the event brings awareness to the shelter’s need for donations and volunteers.
Tess Kendrick started volunteering at the shelter about a year ago and agreed that events like these are a great way to introduce folks to the option of working at the shelter.
“One of the challenges of the shelter environment is that there aren’t enough people per animal… That’s the point of the volunteer program, is to be able to have more people interacting with the dogs,” Kendrick said. “If you have an extra two hours in your week that you would be willing to spend some time with the animals, then definitely do it.”
The next story time event will be on Dec. 27 and 28th from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and again from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Folks can sign up for a time slot through DAS’ website. Wells said besides the $25 donation, there’s also the opportunity to donate more if folks are interested.
They don’t do adoptions during the event but Wells said if someone is interested, they can set up an appointment for an adoption or a closer meet-and-greet with the animals. The shelter is also having an adoption sale. For $25, you can adopt a dog or a cat over the age of one. There is also a suggested additional $25 donation.
Emily Wessley and her daughter Jacey learned about the event through Wessley’s co-workers. The duo were a bit nervous reading to the animals mainly because the urge to adopt all of the dogs was really strong but they currently have two dogs.
Jacey brought along “Twas the Night before Christmas” and ended up reading to Bowser first, a pit bull mix. Bowser paid some attention to Jacey but mainly lounged around giving the family big puppy-dog eyes.
“I want to cuddle with her,” Jacey said.
Wessley said giving the animals extra love is the reason they came out and she hopes others are able to do the same.
“I hope any extra little bit of love just sustains them until they find their forever home,” Wessley said. “I can imagine it would get a little lonely even in a great place like this, where they’re well taken care of, but just reading to them I think helps them wait a little bit longer until that family comes for them.”