Christmas has always brought out the best in Cheryl Lynn Hansen.
“Every year I try to do something, maybe for a family, a toy drive, a food drive,” Hansen said. “Animals have always been dear to my heart.”
At 60, Hansen has three dogs and a boyfriend roaming her Ruston home. She can’t recall a time in her life when she didn’t have a dog.
“Growing up in Nebraska, we always had animals,” she said. “As a child, the family always had a Pekingese. We had a rat terrier, we had mutts — and I loved them all.”
Hansen also loved cats, although the only time she had one — when she was 17 — it turned out she was allergic.
With all that history, Hansen decided Christmas 2015 should be all about dogs and cats. She went on her Facebook page and made a plea and a pledge.
“I asked for donations to buy food, treats and gifts for the dogs and cats at the Humane Society (for Pierce County-Tacoma),” Hansen said. “And I promised to match each dollar that was donated.”
She figured it would total no more than $50, which was within her budget. She’s a nursing assistant who is out of work following back surgery.
Her estimate was wrong.
“I didn’t think I’d get as much as I did,” Hansen said, and laughed. “I had 41 friends donate, and they donated $250. With my match, that’s $500 for the dogs and cats.”
Hansen is at her limit, and her Facebook page will no longer take donations.
“If people still want to contribute, I’d ask them to send it to the Humane Society. I don’t have the budget to match more.”
She plans to go shopping for the animals on Monday.
“I went by the Humane Society and this woman printed out a list of things they need for their animals — cat food, dog food, blankets, toys ….” Hansen said. “I’m going to get as much as I can, plus a couple of beds.”
This time of year, the Humane Society finds donors who want to help the animals. Some are individuals like Hansen, others are corporations.
“Petco and PetSmart donate dog and cat food, and we send them home with our animals,” said Kathleen Olson, executive director. “We have a pet food bank that serves 500 families a month.”
Of course, some people are in a receiving mood when it comes to animals. This year, the Humane Society has a program called Santa Paws that invites people to drop by, pay $100 and select a kitten with all its first shots. The kitty comes with a litter pan, litter, a toy and enough food for a couple of days.
And here’s the kicker: On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, Santa Claus will personally deliver the kitten to your home, unless you’d rather have an elf do the job.
Olson can promise Santa will get the job done.
“Santa is my husband, Rick,” she said. “He’s been the Santa for the Old Town tree lighting for years.”
He should probably get together with Hansen’s boyfriend, Glen Andrews, and share Santa tips.
“I have a Santa hat and Glen has a great Santa suit, but when I asked him to put it on when we deliver the gifts to the Humane Society, he said he’d retired,” Hansen said.
Andrews, who rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, is a sucker for animals. The couple’s three chihuahuas, Nemo, Dori and Toby, rule the roost — and Hansen’s five grandchildren love them, too.
After some negotiation, Andrews broke down. The Santa suit will come out of retirement next week for the Humane Society.
“If it’s for the critters, I’m in,” he said.
Hansen, meanwhile, will to try to be completely fair with the division of funds.
“I’m going to split it evenly between dogs and cats,” she said. “I raised more money than I ever thought I would, and I matched it all. Now comes the fun part — getting the gifts and delivering them.”