The last candle on the menorah has beenlit. The dreidels have been packed away. Oy vey, what’s a Jewish dog to do? What about a mitzvah? Doing good deeds has become a way to connect the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, with the Christmas message of bringing joy to the world. It’s sort of like giving a treat to someone in need. Plus, it gives us something positive to bark about. Every little bit helps, especially when it comes to homeless pets. I’ve sniffed out some ways you can spread the cheer this year and get a few tail wags while you’re at it.

Donate a Place in Your Home: Open your home and heart to a pet. Foster homes provide pets with attention, socialization, and a stress-free place to wait for a forever home. The Jacksonville Humane Society invites people to participate in Silent Night, held through Dec. 31. It’s a program for homeless pets to spend time with a family instead of in a kennel. “Silent Night is something we look forward to every year. It not only gives our dogs and cats a break from the shelter environment, it allows families the opportunity to spoil a homeless pet for Christmas and even help find them a new home!” says Denise Deisler, JHS executive director.

Donate Items: Most shelters operate within a lean budget, which leaves little for extra creature comforts. If you’re cleaning out the closets, donate items you no longer need. Clean towels, blankets, and sheets can be used to comfort cats and dogs – the fluffier the better. These shelters also need cleaning supplies, like bleach and detergent, to keep the kennels spick-and-span.

Donate Food: It’s especially important for food banks to be able to provide pet food and supplies to less-fortunate families. Access to pet food can be the deciding factor in whether a family is able to keep their beloved pet or has to surrender him to a shelter. Shelters also need pet food, so grab something extra at the grocery store and drop it off in exchange for a loving paw of gratitude.

Donate Toys: A bored, kenneled animal lives an unhappy existence. Having toys for dogs and fuzzy mice for cats helps make their stay at the shelter a little more tolerable.

Give Your Time: Many shelters need help with cleaning and caring for pets and keeping the facility in tip-top condition. You can volunteer to walk a dog, cuddle a kitten, or even take photos and write descriptions for their website.

Make a Donation: Any amount of monetary donations are always on a shelter’s wish list. Shelters rely on these donations to remain open, help treat ill or injured animals, and cover the costs of health care for adoptable pets.

Families are needed to temporarily house pets from now through the end of 2015. For more information, call Jacksonville Humane Society at 493-4567 or go to