Operation Silent Night (OSN) is Richmond Animal League’s biggest adoption initiative of the year. The annual event runs from December 1 through December 20, adoption fees are lowered to just $10, and adoption hours are extended with one mission in mind – to clear the shelter and find every pet a home for the holidays.
Operation Silent Night ends with a luminary ceremony on December 21 to honor and remember special pets and people. If you are not ready to adopt a pet, there are other ways to support RAL and Operation Silent Night. You can make a monetary donation (get that free pup scoop on Giving Tuesday) or buy a cool t-shirt at the RAL website.
Why Rural Dogs Have a Tough Transition
When Honeycomb first arrived, he was a pitiful sight – thin, scared, and unaccustomed to the strange sights and sounds of shelter life. Before being transferred to Richmond Animal League, Honeycomb was at one of RAL’s rural animal control partners. Many dogs in rural shelters are under-socialized hounds who have been left outdoors to roam free, tied up in a backyard, or left in the woods during hunting season when they failed to find their way back. Because these dogs haven’t experienced anything close to shelter life – many haven’t even been indoors before – they often have a tough time in shelters.
Going from life outdoors to life in a kennel with weird smells, the racket of other dogs barking when you can’t see or get to them, and strange humans constantly walking by can be scary and disorienting. Try to put yourself in the dogs’ shoes (or paws, as it were), and perhaps you can begin to imagine how difficult that transition must be.
Honeycomb was no exception. Terrified in the shelter, he just shut down. Recognizing Honeycomb’s need for a quieter environment, a member of the shelter team took him into her home for foster care. While he did show some improvement, Honeycomb remained timid and reserved. He clearly needed something more to help him overcome his fear and build trust.
This is where other dogs came to the rescue. Honeycomb was returned to the shelter to try out dog playgroups. And that’s when the magic started!
Honeycomb had to be carried out to the play yard by a volunteer on his first day in playgroups because he was too scared to walk on the leash. However, as the volunteer approached the fence, something remarkable happened. His curiosity was piqued, his tail began to untuck, and his body started to relax. As soon as his paws hit the ground inside the fenced area, his tail was almost wagging and he began to sniff around. The other dogs slowly approached him, and finally, Honeycomb began to run and play with the other dogs.
Honeycomb was carried into the playgroup setting that day in the arms of a volunteer and walked out on his own four paws with his head held high. It was a dramatic transformation in the span of one playgroup session at RAL.
Playgroups are an excellent way to help shelter dogs not only expend their pent-up energy, but also receive the socialization they need to thrive. Dogs are pack animals, and because of that, being with other dogs can help shy, scared dogs like Honeycomb come out of their shells, shake off that fear, and learn that humans aren’t quite so scary.
While volunteers do not handle the dogs during playgroups, just having a human present while something fun is happening can show a dog that humans aren’t out to hurt them. We step in if needed, but for the most part, the dogs are just enjoying the socialization of the playgroup sessions.
Once we saw how much Honeycomb liked other dogs, we found him a friend to bunk with at the shelter until he was adopted into a home with another dog who will help him to continue building his confidence and become an awesome dog.
Honeycomb’s story is a testament to the resilience of shelter dogs and the importance of providing them with opportunities for socialization and interaction. It also highlights the incredible role that dogs can play in helping other dogs overcome their fears and evolve into loving and confident pets.
Help empty the shelter this holiday season!
As we reflect on Honeycomb’s journey, we are reminded of the power of compassion and the benefits of opening our hearts and homes to shelter pets. Many families consider welcoming a new pet into their homes during the holiday season, a time of giving and sharing.
Richmond Animal League’s Operation Silent Night runs from December 1 through December 20. In an effort to clear the shelter and find loving homes for pets before the holidays arrive, adoption fees are reduced to $10. Any pets not adopted during this period will be placed in foster homes, ensuring they can also experience the warmth of a loving family and home during this festive season.
When all the kennels in the shelter are empty, RAL will hold a luminary ceremony on December 21. The shelter will glow with luminaries placed in the empty kennels as we take a moment to remember special pets and people no longer with us on earth, but held dear in our hearts.
Consider making room in your heart and home for a shelter pet this holiday season, as a permanent addition to your family or as a temporary foster. The gift of a loving home is one of the most precious presents you can offer a shelter pet, and in return, you’ll receive boundless love, loyalty, and companionship.
To learn more about Operation Silent Night or fostering opportunities, visit RAL.org and discover how you can make a difference in the lives of animals like Honeycomb.