Get a professional holiday photo of your dog when you help animals

Each year around the holidays you can find organizations that host holiday photo events.  Your dog can have a photo taken with Santa, or get a photo with a beautiful holiday or wintery backdrop.  The photos are usually taken by professional photographers who donate their time and studio for a donation to an animal welfare organization.  The donation can be as small as a bag of pet food, or as much as $50. 

A photo session with a professional photographer normally runs anywhere from $75 on the low end to hundreds of dollars or more.   These are not the same photos you shoot of your pets in front of the Christmas tree at home!  These are photos taken with all the fancy equipment and a great studio scene or backdrop.  Usually the photographer will give you one free copy of the photo taken.  You can then order additional prints, holiday cards, etc. if you want.  Most photographers will offer them at a discounted price for those who participate in the event. 

To find holiday photo events in your area, start by searching online for holiday pet events being held in the area.  Scroll through listings to find pet photo events.  You can also check out the events section on the web sites of nearby animal shelters, animal rescues, and other organizations that serve the pet industry.  For example, in Long Island New York there are several; the Bideawee Home hosts photos with Santa, the ASPCA is also hosting photos with Santa, and the Long Island Dog Owners Association hosted a photo event with a top professional photographer.  It featured a gorgeous wintery scene designed by an upscale local floral designer.

Once you locate some events, find out the details.  Find out what type of donation and how much of a donation is required.   Ask who is taking the photos and where; is it a professional photographer and studio, a photography student taking the photos in a park, or a staff member of the organization taking photos right in their office?   Find out exactly what is being promised.  Will they provide a hard copy 5x7 photo, or a digital copy of the photo?  Make sure there won’t be a watermark on the photo or anything that prevents you from sharing it on your social media networks.  If there are any other expectations, such as requiring you to order additional prints you will have to pay for, make sure you know that beforehand.  Match the required donation to what it being provided and decide whether or not you want to participate.

 If you can’t find a holiday photo event you like, try creating your own photo shoot.  Brush up on your pet photography by checking out sites that offer tips on how to take great pet photos.   I found several sites by searching on “how to take professional looking photos of your pets”   Make it extra special by including some of your friends’ dogs or family members’ dogs.  Invite them all over for a group photo session by the Christmas tree, or outside with a pretty Wintery scene.  Serve cookies and some doggie treats and make it a party.  You’ll capture a beautiful holiday memory!       

How You Can Help Shelter Animals This Holiday Season

Tis the season of giving!  Many people do the majority of their charitable giving during the holidays.  In addition to helping people, animal shelters and other animal welfare organizations are also in great need of both money and donation items.  They are hopeful that animal lovers like us will incorporate their organizations into our charitable giving budget.  Here are some things you can do to help animals this holiday season:

 Organize a fund raiser, donation drive or volunteer event at work to benefit a local animal shelter or rescue organization.  Collect money, much needed items such as food, blankets or towels, or organize a volunteer event at the shelter.   Volunteers can get the dogs out of their kennels to walk and play with them.  This helps the dogs get exercise and stay well socialized, which helps them remain healthy and adoptable.  Ask the shelter for their Wish List of donation items most needed.  Check with your boss or Human Resources department beforehand to ensure you follow whatever guidelines or policies they have for organizing charitable giving and volunteer events in the workplace.   You may even be able to get your employer to agree to match all or a portion of money you collect!   

Round up the kids to organize a shelter or rescue donation drive or special project through their school, girl or boy scout troup, or religious organization.  We have had kids collect food, blankets, towels, and other much needed items for the shelter.  We once had a group of Eagle scouts build whelping boxes for expectant shelter dog mothers at the shelter.    Get a Wish List of items they need most from the shelter.  Ask if there are any simple projects the kids can do for them.  You may even be able to get a shelter employee to come and speak to the class or group about how to treat animals, what an animal shelter does and how it works, etc.  Just ask!  Activities like this help educate kids and teach them responsibility and empathy.

Organize an event to raise funds such as a doggie fashion show, lunch and silent auction, outdoor event such as a walk, run, golf or other sports outing.  Anything that gets people together for a cause they want to support!  You may be able to request that your donation be earmarked for a specific dedication in honor or in memory of a dog or cat lover.   Partner with a local pet store or other business to gain sponsorship.

Foster a dog or cat in your home.  Some shelters host Home for the Holidays events where families offer to host an animal in their home during the holidays.   If you can do it, becoming a permanent foster would be a wonderful gift to a shelter or rescue.  They are always in need of fosters.  I foster animals in my home, and I know that it saves lives.

Offer to take photos of adoptable animals for a shelter.  Shelters usually have a high intake rate, and they are not always able to get a good photo of every animal that comes in.  If you’re good with a camera and with animals, ask a local shelter if they need some help.  Provide a few props such as a holiday blanket, toy, or santa hat and take some great shots for the shelter to post online.  Bring along a friend who can help.  If the dog or cat doesn’t have a name, give them one!  This helps people identify with the dog – he isn’t just a number. 
Use your social media network to help get the word out about animals that are available for adoption.  Work with a shelter or rescue organization to post photos of their adoptable dogs or cats with compelling details about the animal and links to their site.   “Goldielocks is a lovable Golden Retriever mix.  She loves walks and playing fetch!”   Then Share it and ask all your friends to do the same.


You think it won’t happen to your dog, but it happens every day.  Barely a day went by at the animal shelter where a devastated pet owner wasn’t walking up and down every aisle in tears, looking for their lost dog.  Invariably, they are shocked that it happened.  But shih tzu happens and dogs get lost. Short of keeping your dog locked in a bubble, how can you keep your dog safe?  If the unthinkable happens and your dog gets lost, you need to act quickly!

Dogs get lost, Lost dog, how to find a lost dog, rescue dogs, finding my lost dog
Shih Tzu Happens and Dogs Get Lost!


Always have your pet wear a collar with updated tags.  It amazes me how many people remove a dog’s collar for one reason or another; they don’t like the noise it makes when the dog shakes or they bathed the dog and forgot to put the collar back on.  Collars can get lost or damaged.  If a collar gets snagged on something, it can break off.  

A microchip is tiny and takes only seconds to put in.  Any vet can do it and most shelters offer it, usually for about half the price, which can range from approximately $20 – $75.  Do you love your dog twenty bucks worth?   Micro-chipping plus tags together can make the difference between your pet being linked back to you and getting home safe … or not.  You can also consider tattooing your dog, or using a GPS product that allows you to monitor your dog’s activity and location.

Lost Dog, Keep Dogs Safe, How to find a lost dog, Dog safety tips
Dogs Get Lost, These Tips Help Keep Dogs Safe



When something unsettling is happening within the home it can cause a dog to become stressed, possibly wander off trying to get away from the stress, and end up getting lost.  Dogs can become frightened if workmen are in the home, if furniture and moving boxes are being packed up, or if strangers visit the home.  

Workers and movers often leave the front door open to make it easier to cart items in and out of the house. An anxious dog may use that opportunity to run out the door and escape the chaos.   

When kids go back to school after a long break, it can cause anxiety for the family dog.  The dog may miss the kids and worry that they won’t come back, or they may just get bored without them.  This could cause a dog to escape the confines of the house or yard to go looking for the kids! 

To avoid these potentially dangerous escapes from happening, give your dog a new toy or something else to keep him occupied. Confine him to his crate or a separate room as the kids leave the house in the morning or as workers are going in and out of the home.   When unexpected or unusual activity is happening in the house, keep your dog secured and keep your eye on him!


I know people often love to let their dogs off leash so they can be “free to run”, but be smart about it.  If signs tell you to keep your dog leashed, then do it.  Your dog can get enticed by any number of small animals, people running or biking, and other distractions and take off after them. In addition, off leash dogs can be picked up by Animal Control in public places where they are supposed to be leashed.  There’s often some mean biddy  with animal control on speed dial!

Sadly, dogs have even been shot by authorities in park or camp grounds where unleashed dogs are prohibited.   It’s unfortunate, but an unleashed dog can be scary to many people, even the authorities. They don’t know that your dog is loving and friendly and is only bounding towards them at warp speed to say hello!  Their reaction might be to defend themselves against your sweet pooch, especially if the dog is large or perceived to be an aggressive breed.  

Dogs get lost, Lost dog, how to find a lost dog, rescue dogs, finding my lost dog, Tips to keep dogs safe
Dogs Can Get Lost. These Tips Help Them Stay Safe


I love taking my dogs to the dog park and I enjoy chatting with the other dog moms and dog dads there.  My girl Icy loves to greet new dogs as they enter the park, so I’m always on guard when she gets close to the gate.  

Once a mother and her two kids came into the park, just to see all the dogs.  They didn’t know to ensure both gates remain locked at all times, and one of the kids left the interior gate open.  A Beagle made his way over and slipped through.  Several folks tried to coax him back into the dog run, but the dog snarled when a guy tried to grab him.  We yelled out trying to locate the owner but no one responded.   I finally clipped my own dog’s leash on the Beagle, and walked him around the dog park shouting “who owns this little guy?!”  The owner finally came forth.  She was in the back of the park yackin’ it up with friends, not paying attention to her dog!


In addition to a reliable come when called, also teach the “wait” command and have an “emergency recall” command.   These simple commands can save your dog’s life.  

If your dog spots a bird, squirrel, or other moving object he may dart across a street, hop a fence, or jump out of the car and lay chase for many blocks.  He can be hit by a car or lose his sense of direction.   

Make sure your dog reliably comes to you when called.  One of the keys to this is not always calling your dog when it’s time to leave the park, have a bath, or go to the vet.  That can reduce their positive reaction to your call, so when it’s bath or vet time, rather than calling your dog to you, go and get him instead.  

Teach your dog to always wait at the door or inside the car until you give the go ahead for them to exit.  

In the event that something is just too enticing and your dog takes off, tuning you out, have an emergency recall command.  This is a one or two word command that immediately snaps them to attention and makes them run right to you because the reward for coming to you is irresistible.  My dogs know that whenever they hear "Danger! Danger!" they will receive delicious bacon.  It is the only time they get bacon, which is what makes it different from the “Come!” command I use on a daily basis. 


If you throw a party, keep your pet in mind as you plan the party.  Holidays, graduations, birthday celebrations, engagement parties or showers, Super bowl parties, etc. are wonderful occasions that enrich our lives.  However we can easily get distracted while hosting our event.  

Dogs can find it unsettling to see their home fill up with people, some of whom they don’t know.   Loud noises or people wearing costumes can be scary to your dog.  Be sure to include a plan to keep your dog secure during parties.  This is a good time to consider pet boarding, a pet sitter, or doggie day camp.  If you want to include your pet in family festivities, designate one person to keep an eye on the dog at all times during the party.     

Tips to keep dogs safe, Dogs get lost, Lost dog, how to find a lost dog, rescue dogs, finding my lost dog
Tips To Prevent Your Dog From Getting Lost


If gardeners, housekeepers, or workers of any kind are in your home or yard be sure to double check that all doors and fences have been secured after they leave.  Every single time.  Don’t expect them to reliably remember to close & latch gates or doors – ultimately it’s your responsibility, not theirs.    

Never leave your dog unattended in the yard, in a car, or tied up outside a store.   It’s a sad fact that not only do dogs get lost every day, but they get stolen every day as well.  According to, as many as 2 million animals are stolen each year.   What kind of person would steal a dog from an animal shelter, break into your car to steal your dog, steal your dog right out of your yard, or reach over to pet your secured dog outside a store, unclip her leash and make off with her?  You'd be surprised.

Your dog doesn’t need to be an expensive purebred to tempt unscrupulous people to snatch her.  “My girlfriend always wanted a French Bulldog”.  “I got it for my Mom, she’s lonely”.  “They left that poor dog tied up in the yard all day, or in a hot/cold car, or outside a store while they shopped.  They’re cruel and don’t deserve him!”   Don’t give unscrupulous, misguided people any opportunity to steal your precious dog!


As everyone knows, spaying and neutering prevents the enormous number of unwanted puppies that end up in shelters. This is especially bad every Spring and Summer which is unfortunately puppy and kitten season at shelters.  Neutering can reduce your dog’s desire to get out and roam the neighborhood, and can reduce unwarranted aggression.  It could also curtail some theft, since a dog that is spayed or neutered cannot be bred for profit, which is often a dog snatchers goal.

Always practice these safety tips to help prevent your dog getting lost or stolen.   Don’t make it easy for a thief to snatch your dog and don’t give someone an excuse to keep your dog because they’ve convinced themselves she must have been abandoned, or that you must be an irresponsible owner.  People can make all kinds of assumptions about your poor lost dog…. and you!


If the unthinkable happens and your dog goes missing, time is of the essence so act immediately.  Spend an hour or two searching the area, but if you can’t find her, here are some steps you should take:

·    If your dog is micro-chipped contact the recovery service right away to alert them that she is missing.  They may be able to assist in recovery by alerting area shelters and vets. Alert your dog's Veterinarian as well.

·    Keep good quality updated photos of your pet handy, especially when travelling.  Photos should clearly show the dog’s face and body and should be in color, a black and white photo isn’t very effective.   Place color photos on a lost dog poster with details of your dog and your phone number. Make copies and pass them out to all the neighbors within several blocks.  That way neighbors will have the photo to refer to if they see your dog.  Post your lost dog flyer in nearby grocery stores, area veterinary offices, and other central places near where your dog went missing. 
Contact animal shelters in your county. Don't just check the one closest to you, animal control officers will bring dogs and cats to whichever animal shelter has room for them at that moment. You also don't know how far your dog may have traveled, she could easily end up in the next town or even further! Many animal shelters also have a bulletin board you can post lost pet posters on or an online lost pet web page.

·    Go online and post quality photos and details about your lost dog.  You can post on Craigslist, in your local newspaper's web site, on and other sites.  Do a “lost and found dogs in (your city/state)” search online to locate other sites you can post photos and details on.  Many fabulous shelter staff comb through Lost Dog sites online in an attempt to find a dog’s owner if there are no updated tags or microchip.  This works well if your dog has unique physical attributes or is an uncommon breed.  A post for a lost Golden Retriever might be overlooked, but a Komondor won’t be!  For more tips on finding a lost dog check out this page

·    Post signs throughout the area, especially near stop signs and traffic lights.  Don’t use white 8.5” by 11” paper, most of us can’t see them from a car!  Buy large pieces of oak tag in bright or neon colors, post a large color photo of your dog, and write details and contact info in black magic marker in large print.  Don’t cheap out, have large color photos printed!

 Three life saving dog training commands

I hope you find these dog safety and lost dog tips helpful.  Please keep your eyes open and keep your dog safe at all times! Leave us a comment and share your thoughts on how you keep your dog safe. 
Sharing is Caring 💜 If you enjoyed this post, we'd appreciate a share on social media!