What could be more merry than shopping for holiday presents for the kids in our lives? While it’s super fun to make their holidays magical, don’t forget to balance out all that consumerism with some charitable giving—specifically, teaching children about the spirit of giving and helping those less fortunate during the holidays. With that in mind, here are five easy ways kids can help animals this holiday season:
1. Focus on their favorite animal. Does she love horses or dolphins? Does he love K-9 dogs? This is a perfect time of year to foster that love and show them how they can help the animals they love most in this world. Find a relevant sanctuary sure to interest them, then find ways to make it real and really bring the issue home. You can sponsor an animal in their name (which usually comes with photos and updates on the animal’s progress) and even plan a visit to a local rescue where they can see these animals being helped.
Living in Northern California, I can tell you the drought has been really difficult on everyone this year—not just the state’s 40 million residents, but California’s wildlife as well. It actually breaks my heart to think of all of the thirsty animals, and to read about their struggles in the news.
The drought has killed 12 million trees in California’s forests—just imagine all the animals who called these forests home. They now have to find a new place to live, and new places to hide from predators. A lot of them aren’t going to make it. The lack of water poses another challenge as well: As animals search far and wide for water sources, we’re more likely to see coyotes, mountain lions and even bears running through (and looking for food and water in) our neighborhoods. But it’s not just happening in forests: Even the iconic desert Joshua Trees are declining.
Marshes and wetlands and rivers are drying up, and the snow pack is a tiny percentage of what it should be, affecting not just fish populations but also the birds and other creatures who use those areas as a hunting source. This article details the historic drought’s severe impact on the state’s birds. Even hummingbirds, my favorites, are also at risk. They love nectar, but our dried-up hills are no longer blanketed with wildflowers. Mammals like squirrels and baby deer are starving.
More California sea lions and pups are stranding on beaches. Even the adorable giant kangaroo rat, so essential to the state’s ecosystem, is in danger. When grasslands dry up, and mice and other small mammals have nowhere to go, there are ripple effects: Barn owls and raptors also struggle to survive. The animals are in crisis. So what can we do?
On an individual scale, there’s not a whole lot we can do, but because I don’t like to feel helpless and do nothing, here are three small things I can do to make me feel a little bit better—and really, these are things we can all do, and the bonus is they’re both easy and affordable (and two of these tips don’t even require you to live in California!):
1. Dedicate your morning meditation to the animals. I’ve talked about this before. When my beloved dog Dakota died and I felt at a complete loss over how to recover from his passing, I began to dedicate my meditations to him, and it helped me immensely. You can always dedicate your meditations to your favorite animal, by your side or across the Rainbow Bridge—and even to the animals you care about that are threatened right now with the drought crisis in California. I have found that choosing a meaningful focus for your meditations can actually strengthen them.
2. Provide a food and water source for birds in your backyard. This is easy to do, but so helpful! Seeds can help to sustain birds that can’t find food elsewhere. A bird bath kept clean with fresh water helps them stay hydrated during these hot, dry months. Black oil sunflower seeds, which can be found at most grocery stores and pet stores, are best. (Squirrels and chipmunks like these seeds, too.) You can also landscape with native plants that attract bees, birds and insects and provide a much-needed habitat for them.
3. Donate to the organizations that are helping wildlife in California. Even a small donation in your eyes is a huge help to these organizations. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the following are great nonprofits working to help the state’s threatened animals: The Marine Mammal Center, WildCare, Earthwatch and Audubon California.
Do you have any additional tips to add? How can we continue to support the animals in California affected by the drought?
First, dear friends, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Are you staying close to home this year or traveling? I will be spending a cozy afternoon with my family at my parents’ house. My mom always cooks up an amazing feast.
With Thanksgiving just a day away, I got to thinking about the different ways we can give back and show our thanks this year …
1. Save a turkey. It costs just $30 to sponsor a turkey this Thanksgiving, thanks to Farm Sanctuary’s special Adopt-a-Turkey Project. The photos and bios of the turkeys available for adoption are guaranteed to warm your heart.
2. Visit an animal shelter with your kids, nieces and nephews, or grandchildren. The animals always appreciate visitors, and it’s a great way to encourage giving back at a young age.
3. Write a handwritten letter or card to a parent, friend or other loved one thanking them for something thoughtful and kind they’ve done for you.
4. Offer a free Reiki treatment to your vet or local shelter or sanctuary.
5. Donate to your favorite animal charity, shelter or sanctuary. It doesn’t have to be money (though they love cash!). Other helpful items include gift cards to a pet store, rope toys and chews, laundry detergent and bleach, paper towels, newspaper and hand sanitizer. If you’re not sure, most shelters offer wish lists of needed items.
What about you? I’d love to hear how you’re showing thanks or being thankful this holiday.