Just as children hold on to the idea of reindeers, sleigh bells and Santa Claus at this time of year, there are certain Christmas myths about rescue life that pop up as regularly as re-runs of The Wizard of Oz.
Here are the four we most frequently hear, in no particular order:
Myth 1: Rescue centres are full of unwanted puppies after Christmas
We believe this myth has come about thanks to the successful campaigning by some of our rescue colleagues. People assume centres like ours are swarming with puppies in January. On the contrary you'll find lots of older dogs here, so it's a perfect time to go and visit if you're not looking for a pup. We tend to see "Christmas puppies" when they hit adolescence later in the year. It is at that stage when the novelty has worn off, there has been no basic training to fall back on and the dogs have the attitude of 'Kevin the Teenager' that they tend to be handed over.
Myth 2: Rescues are looking for foster homes over Christmas
'Tis the season for giving and we always receive extremely kind offers to foster a dog at home at this time of year. Giving Patch that special piece of turkey and offering him a warm fireplace to snuggle in front of are probably the images running through your mind right now. We charity folk have used enough photos of lonely pets in kennels in TV ads over the years for people to assume they deserve a break.
First of course, we're happy to report that our dogs won't be lonely. Staff and volunteers work right through the Christmas and New Year period, with someone on hand 24/7. They're even given Christmas dinner. Second, just like that famous song, our canine friends don't know it's Christmas. It is just another day to them, and that is important. We try to keep our animal routines equitable and consistent. Dog or duck, kennel life needs to be simple. And finally, a new and unfamiliar environment at a busy and unusual time of the year in the human world can be overwhelming for nervous or stressed animals - especially when it's on a temporary basis.
So we really appreciate the Christmas foster offers, but can't take them up. But it's different if you're planning to permanently rehome a pet, as we explain in the next myth.
Myth 3: Rescues don't like rehoming pets at Christmas
Gone are the days when our centres closed the gates in mid-December and reopened early January. At the National Animal Welfare Trust, we will rehome animals up to Christmas Eve. This may sound like it goes against the grain of traditional thinking, but we treat every homing as an individual case, and for some who are having extended leave and a quiet Christmas at home armed with the Radio or TV Times, this is the perfect time to settle in a new pet. If it is in the best interests of the animal to go to a new home, then we're happy to make it over the holidays - with just a note of caution as our next myth explores.
Myth 4: Rescue animals deserve to be spoiled
So you've brought your new pet home. You've treated them to a new bed, some toys, accessories and tasty food, but what you most want to do is spoil this poor animal that's so clearly in need of some love.
While it's entirely understandable to liken a rescue pet's experiences to that of poor Tiny Tim in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the message from rescues is to resist the temptation to indulge him or her. They may have had a terrible time, but the minute they arrive in your home, he or she needs to be given boundaries and rules just as you would for a new kitten or puppy growing up in your home.
Wherever you and your pets are going to be this year, we wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas.