Finding the perfect gift for the dog enthusiast or cat person in your life is no easy feat.
Likewise, making a four-legged addition to your family is no small decision. The time, the effort and the money involved in pet ownership is matched only by the pure love a new companion will bring.
It's worth underlining that a pet isn't a spur of the moment Christmas gift: That, sadly, is how a lot of animals end up in shelters. But for those who are ready to make the commitment, The Globe's sixth annual Pet Gift Guide, full of terrific dog and cat gift ideas, is here.
(Photographing these sweet souls is truly my favourite day of the year – the volunteers who care so deeply, the hilarious outtakes and the most wonderful pets you'll ever meet, just waiting to bring a world of joy to the right family this Christmas, and beyond.)
These models, along with many more, are available for adoption at the Toronto Humane Society.
This two-year-old cur mix came bursting into the room, searching for a cheek to plant a big, wet kiss on. (He found my face – and my camera – very quickly.) When he realized treats were involved, he became somehow more affectionate. An energetic expat, Ryker came to Toronto from a shelter in the U.S. and is looking for a home that will let him burn off some of his steam – and welcome his love.
He models a festive collar from PetSmart ($5.47) and was super excited (and delightfully patient) to receive his treats in this handmade double bowl set from Howl and Home ($200). The Sunshine Coast company uses only sustainable wood and ecofriendly, handmade ceramic.
Beautiful Benny is a kind-hearted, shepherd mix filled with a healthy energy and a boyish curiosity. A big pup with a big heart, Benny has spent the last six months at the Humane Society – but you'd never know it. His tail did not stop wagging during our time together. At just one year old, Benny was surrendered to the shelter by his family who could no longer care for him – and he's ready to find his human who will teach him manners and have patience.
He was excited for us to say the "t-word," which happened to be the name of the book he modelled alongside – a great coffee table addition for any dog lover who likes a goofy pooch expression. ( Treat! by Christian Vieler, $23.49, Indigo.ca)
This energetic guy could be called first name Mister, last name anything that squeaks. The two-year-old coonhound mix immediately made a bee-line for the squeaky toys in the room. He came to the shelter from the U.S. and has been waiting for his forever family – one that will take him on long walks, return his buckets of love and never tire of throwing a squeaky ball.
Mister felt extra special in his charcoal scarf from Canada Pooch ($15).
No dog deserves to be discarded – that's true. But when I met Mist, who came to the shelter from a remote community in Northern Ontario, I couldn't fathom any reason why someone would leave her. "She is the perfect dog," I must have said one hundred times. Sweet, smart, gentle and curious, Mist is a special one-and-a-half-year-old who is mild mannered and looking for a home as loving as she is.
Mist loved modelling the Pooch Selfie, a smartphone attachment that clips onto your phone and holds a tennis ball – and creates the perfect dog selfie. (amazon.com, $12.99)
Lele, Case and Bello
The ultimate # girlgang, this trio of six-year-old sisters came to the Humane Society from an extremely sheltered existence. The Maltese-mix babes had little exposure to the outside world for the first years of their lives, but things are looking up. They are now so curious to explore and sniff everything they can – and love each other with all they've got. These three are the definition of bonded and should be adopted as a trio.
Lele, Case and Bello quickly made themselves comfortable on their bed ($15 to $65)from Piper's Pillows, a family business in Waterloo, Ont., that specialize in extra durable, washable fleece beds. Bonus: They donate 10 per cent of all sales to pet rescues and shelters.
A wiggly bum, full-of-kisses French bulldog, Cory has come a long way in a matter of months: She was left on the shelter's doorstep in the summer, in need of serious medical attention. As a result of some of her medical conditions, Cory lost her hearing – but it didn't faze her one bit. Update: Cory received her one Christmas wish, and has recently found her family.
This sweetheart can weather any weather in her Canada Pooch Summit Stretch Vest, $41.
This beauty can turn even the most non-cat person (I confess, I'm far more dog inclined) into a feline fan. Bohemian is a chatty five-year-old domestic shorthair and is so friendly and gentle – which is unbelievable, considering he was found wandering downtown Toronto in June and has been at the shelter ever since.
Bohemian was intrigued by his organic catnip baguettes, handmade in Kentville, N.S. (available through Etsy, $13.99).
This seven-year-old sweetheart came to the shelter in August as a transfer after surviving a terrible hoarding situation. You'd never know she's never been anything other than completely content – she is a purring machine who wants all the human attention she can find.
Mother Hen went into pure sublime mode with her Cat Scratch Laptop from Suck UK ($35 U.S.). Complete with a fluffy toy mouse for a computer mouse and fish bone decals, the cardboard scratch pad will bring joy to cats and humans alike.
True to his name, this little three-year-old guy has been in and out of shelter life: He was surrendered by a cat sitter, after his owner never returned. He has since been adopted and then returned, because he had trouble settling in and didn't always use his litter box. (He's using it just fine at the Humane Society.) This sweet, curious, affectionate feline is just looking for some love – and permanence – this holiday season.
Trooper rocks his bandana, designed by Ellen DeGeneres, and embossed with the thing he wants most: love. ($22.99, PetSmart.ca)
As soon as Leviva saw her cozy cat bed, she hopped right in, curled up and looked up at us as if to say, "What are you still doing here" The domestic shorthair mix is a frisky lady who loves any toy that is put in front of her.
She was surrendered to the Humane Society by her previous family in October, and she'd love to get to her forever home just in time for Santa.
Give another cat the luxurious bed Leviva can't live without: the woven bed, designed by Ellen DeGeneres, is available at PetSmart ($39.00).
Much like the gem she is named after, Lolite is beautiful inside and out. She's been through a lot: She came to the Toronto shelter because she had a fractured pelvis and needed specialized care. She is recovering well (in the best of spirits, as far as I could tell) and looking for a foster-to-adopt home.
Lolite loves this delightful coffee table book – albeit as a face scratcher – almost as much as I do: stunning photos of cats decked out in the most stylish couture fashions. (Indigo.ca, Cat Couture by Jason McGroarty, $19.95)
Piglet, Oink, Okja, Babe
Ultimate # squadgoals if ever there were ones, these Abyssinian guinea pigs adore each other's company. They show love to shelter volunteers and approach them for treats or just some strokes of love. The four are quite bonded and would ideally be homed together.
These four golden girls get into the festive spirit with four holiday collars from PetSmart (prices vary).
If you're ready to add a four-legged family member this Christmas, visit the Toronto Humane Society.