Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas shelter dogs get a home for the holidays

Gene Sanita poses with Dancer, a 2-year-old pit bull mix, that he is fostering for the holiday.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times

Gene Sanita poses with Dancer, a 2-year-old pit bull mix, that he is fostering for the holiday.

LARGO — Karen Altieri's Christmas cheer has four legs and a penchant for carrying her shoes around her Largo back yard. That's Christmas, a 1-year-old female pit bull mix with a short, dark brown coat. She doesn't know it yet, but there's a beef marrow bone from Santa that has her name on it.

Altieri and her husband, Jan Majewski, both volunteers at Pinellas County Animal Services, took in the dog for two days as part of the shelter's Operation: Home for the Holidays.

Throughout December, Altieri and other Animal Services volunteers worked alongside the staff to empty out the adoption kennel so all of the dogs would have homes on Christmas Eve.

At the start of this week, seven adoptable dogs remained at the shelter. The operation came down to the wire Monday afternoon, but Animal Services director Maureen Freaney and her team were able to send all of the dogs home with families before closing time. Some dogs have permanent homes, while the rest will return Thursday after a temporary reprieve from shelter life with a foster family.

"That wagging tail makes me feel really good," Altieri said. "It's giving back, but I think she's the one giving us the joy."

Each year, the shelter takes in as many as 15,000 rescued dogs and cats. Besides all of the dogs at the shelter, at any given time there are 100 to 120 dogs living in foster homes, awaiting adoption.

"To set a goal like this and to get these dogs out right down to the last one to have a place for Christmas, it was kind of unexplainable," Freaney said. "Everyone was just so pumped up."

Freaney attributed the success to a combined effort of staff, volunteers and the shelter's partner organizations, which also put up pets for adoption. But the most critical piece, she said, is generous families.

"The best shelter is a caring community," she said.

Shelter staff will use the empty adoption kennel, a rare sight, as a chance to give it a thorough cleaning before the dogs return.

Christmas was one of the last dogs to leave Tuesday. Altieri and Majewski don't have children to visit, so they make a point of keeping animals company at the shelter and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They first met Christmas on Thanksgiving Day, when they took her for a walk at the shelter.

Fellow volunteer and Largo resident Gene Sanita and his partner, John Genest, hung up an extra stocking this year filled with toys and treats for the dog they're fostering during program. Dancer, almost 2, is a pit bull mix who has been playing nice with their dogs, Molly and Sadie.

Sanita, a volunteer at Animal Services, said that Dancer's quality of life improves just by leaving the kennel for a couple of days. She has room to run, and other dogs and humans to play with. At the kennel, if he's the only volunteer on duty during a weekday morning, Dancer only gets outside once.

"So many times I go back in those kennels, and you look in their eyes and they just want to be loved," he said. "For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they've got a place to be loved."

On Thursday, when Altieri and Sanita part with the dogs they are fostering, they hope that Christmas and Prancer will be adopted into "forever homes."

"My hope for Christmas — the dog and the day — my one wish is that she'll be adopted by a loving family who will keep the Christmas spirit alive for the rest of her life," Altieri said.

Julie Kliegman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.

Pinellas shelter dogs get a home for the holidays 12/24/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Recall petition targets two Madeira Beach commissioners

    Local Government

    MADEIRA BEACH — A petition to recall two commissioners who won their seats in a highly contested election in March began circulating in the city last week.

    John Douthirt
  2. Trigaux: Amid wealth inequality, is middle class losing habit of giving to charities?

    Business

    In the slow economic recovery since the nasty recession a decade ago, researchers are wondering if the hard times back then broke middle class America's habit of charitable giving.

    Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife and fellow doctor Pallavi Patel rank among the most generous philanthropists in the Tampa Bay area in recent decades. Their most recent giving: a $200 million pledge, consisting of a $50 million gift to Nova Southeastern University, plus $150 million to buy and build a Nova-affiliated medical education complex in Clearwater. The Patels also have given considerable sums to the University of South Florida and area hospitals. In this 2014 photo, the couple pose for pictures on the green carpet prior to a 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards event in Tampa. [Times file photo]
  3. The celebrities who have said #MeToo about sexual assault and harassment

    Perspective

    #YouToo have seen #MeToo.

    Stories of sexual harassment and assault have dominated the cultural conversation for the past week. Hundreds of thousands of women have taken to social media to share that they have been harassed or assaulted by men. Celebrities have used their platforms to hold men accountable for …

    CHUCK GONZALES   |   Special to the Times
  4. Bahá'i faith celebrates 200th anniversary of birth of divine messenger Bahá'u'lláh

    Religion

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — Farah Khorsandian-Sanchez was born to Iranian parents in India, in a Bahá'í home. Her husband was born in Spain, grew up in Venezuela and is Catholic.

    Patrick Norado (left), Thomas Alexander and Sepideh Eskandari talk after praying at the St. Petersburg Baha'i Center in St. Petersburg on Saturday. A group on Saturday gathered to study the teachings of the Baha'i faith.EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times

  5. Rick and Tom podcast: Who will be the Bucs' QB on Sunday?

    Blogs

    Who the Bucs' quarterback will be Sunday against the Bills became clear as mud as Jameis Winston hasn't thrown all week but will take all the practice reps today.

    Will Ryan Fitzpatrick start for the Bucs Sunday in Buffalo?