Hounds for the Holidays

Adorable dogs, cats and even iguanas are among the many animals in need of loving homes at the Pasadena Humane Society. The shelter is a great place to consider shopping for the holidays. Photos by Henk Friezer

EMILY Wood remembers the couple she discovered, in the fall of 2018, standing in front of a kennel at the Pasadena Humane Society.

They were rubbing each other’s shoulders and crying. The little dog they were looking at reminded them of their recently departed 20-year-old poodle.

And the sight of this little poodle mix pulled at their hearts.

Wood said the couple wondered if — at their age — they could take care of a younger dog. After thinking about it overnight, they took the dog home.

By Christmas, the dog — named Riley — was on the cover of their holiday card, and Wood had a note to cherish.

“We wanted to thank you again for bringing Riley into our lives,’’ the couple wrote her. “Riley brings us a lot of love and his energy is keeping us on our feet.

“The best thing we did to heal our broken hearts over the loss of our precious rescue dog was to adopt a shelter dog in need of a good home.’’

Wood was showing me holiday cards she has gotten over the years she has spent working with animals and getting them adopted. She personally got about 10 cards last year, and 10 more went to the shelter.

The holiday season is a good time to shop the shelter. Wood said that there were 435 adoptions last December of cats, dogs, rabbits, turtles, guinea pigs and iguanas. Last year, the shelter had a total of 5,200 adoptions. Between 12,000 and 13,000 animals come through the shelter — a lot of which are wildlife.

Jack Hagerman, vice president of communications, said that it takes $13 million to run all of the operations of the Pasadena Humane Society, which serves 11 locations throughout the San Gabriel Valley, including South Pasadena.

It is animals like Sally that really “animalize’’ — rather than humanize — the place.

Sally was an older pit bull mix dog that spent nearly a year at the shelter until she was adopted last September.

“She was not everyone’s idea of a family dog,’’ Wood said.

“She barked a lot and it seemed there was always someone who seemed more desirable in the next kennel. But she was such a sweetheart.

“When animals get rescued, there is usually an announcement in the kennels and people who work there go, ‘Yoo-hoo!’ When people heard about Sally’s adoption, they really said, ‘Yoo-hoo!’ ’’

Sally doesn’t hold the record for the longest stay. That goes to an alligator that was in the facility for 18 years before going to the L.A. Zoo in 2016.

This time of year, children put pets on their Christmas lists. The shelter animals are sometimes decked out in holiday sweaters to make them even more adorable.

And when mom or dad finds an animal that fits the bill on a holiday shopping list, they want it “now.’’ Wood suggests perhaps coming up with a gift certificate so that the whole family can spend time with an animal before adopting.

“Last year, we had parents who wanted to have a kitten under the tree for Christmas,’’ Wood said. “They found one, but it hadn’t been spayed yet. They called every day and said, “Is it ready yet?’’

One man told Wood, when she was working in San Francisco, that he knew exactly what he wanted — rats that he could carry around in his pocket as pocket rats.

“He was low-income, but he wanted a companion,’’ she said. “We worked to make it happen. We were able to find a cage, but I think he still carried them around from time to time.’’

Some people want a photo of their pet on their holiday cards. That’s why the Pasadena Humane Society is hosting an event Dec. 7 to provide holiday pet photos complete with holiday props, pet costumes and Santa.

“For a lot of people, adopting a pet is the biggest thing that happened to them all year,’’ Wood said. “It’s like they got a new member of the family.’’

The Pasadena Humane Society is holding a “Whisker Wonderland’’ on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the society at 361 S. Raymond Ave. You can take home two framed prints and a link to your digital photos for $25 per group. Reserve a time slot at phsholidaypetphotos.eventbrite.com. There are also $5 adoptions. For further information, call (626) 792-7151.

My email is ALippman@gavilanmedia.com. Please write if you have any story ideas about people, places or things of interest to South Pasadena residents.