It was like Toys for Tots, except the recipients never said thank you. They just woofed and meowed.
Christmas Is Going to the Dogs came to the Brookhaven Town animal shelter Friday with more than $5,000 in toys and treats for canines and cats, an annual giveaway started three years ago by a Schnectady County couple with a dog rescue nonprofit.
The gifts, funded or brought by donors, will help stimulate animals waiting, sometimes years, for homes.
“We just wanted to do something different on Christmas, something more meaningful,” said Ray Collar, who drove down Thursday afternoon with wife Kathleen, a former Oyster Bay resident, and a U-Haul trailer full of donations.
The couple, who live in Glenville, said they chose the town shelter this year because of its large population — often upward of 100 dogs and scores of cats. It touched their hearts that some of the animals spend years in indoor kennels and cages.
Shelter director Ashley Boyd said the dogs for the most part are stable but can go stir crazy with “kennel fever,” spinning and practically bouncing off the walls, while cats can become “introverted.” There aren’t enough volunteers and staffers to take every dog out for a walk daily and interact with every cat each day, she said.
Bu the plight of man’s best friend is especially worrisome because 98 percent of the canines there are pit bull mixes, which are harder to adopt out due to their fearsome stereotype, Boyd said.
The shelter is trying to set up an enrichment program for dogs, a challenge because not much money is left after basic expenses, such as health care and food, Boyd said. Recently, staffers started canine “playgroups,” grouping dogs by temperament so they can romp together in the yard.
“There have been some dogs that have been there over two years and enrichment is incredibly important because they live in a kennel 23 hours a day for the most part,” she said. “Stimulate them mentally so that they take their mind off the fact that they’re just sitting in a kennel with 100 hundred other dogs barking around them is huge.”
Barking was the constant soundtrack Friday afternoon as the Collars unleashed the toys that donors had brought, dumping box after box onto the floor of the shelter’s greeting room.
It all “amazed” Boyd because her long, doggy and kitty gift registry list was practically all checked off, along with Cheerios, cream cheese, peanut butter, honey and other ingredients used to stuff treat toys and keep the pawed ones occupied.
“It was completely overwhelming to me how generous people were,” Boyd said.
Elijah, a high-energy dog who has been at the shelter the longest at 2.5 years, nosed his way into the mound of balls, squeaky toys, ropes and chew delights. The dog, who’s about 4 years old, and the senior dogs will get comfy fleece pads for their beds.
One by one, other dogs came into the room too.
“They were over the moon,” Kathleen Collar said. “They would find something, take it and jump on the couch and roll on their backs.”
The Collars have run their nonprofit Dogs In Need Everywhere for 12 years. They’ve helped several small shelters, including one that operated in a renovated shipping container.
Part of the mission is to get publicity for the shelters so people can see adoptable animals desperate for homes, Kathleen Collar said.
She and her husband found out about the shelter through another rescue group, Desperate Dogs of Long Island, which features shelter dogs awaiting homes. Starting in the summer, the couple sent the shelter’s wishlist to their rescue networks and raised funds through events and online. Even the Residence Inn in Holtsville, which gave the Collars two free nights, started a collection.
Brookhaven has been the nonprofit’s largest undertaking, Kathleen Collar said: “It is a labor. But when you get to that shelter on Christmas Day, there’s a whole lot of love there.”