While we haven’t had a cold spell to scare us out of our warm-weather lull yet, it is coming. Prepare now for it by purchasing needed supplies for outside dogs.

Use hay or straw for dog houses to insulate them against the cold. Have a house or covered shelter for them to retreat into out of the wind and weather. Stock up on extra food if needed.

Have feral cats in your area? Create safe places for them as well, just as you would if they were pets. There are lots of great housing ideas for feral cats on Pinterest or Google.

The dog rescuer in me wants to let y’all know it’s OK to bring all the dogs into your home to keep them warm. I know it’s not a reality for most people, so I will refrain from drawing y’all into my world.

December is one of the busiest times for rescue. I don’t know if it’s the combination of families wanting puppies, tired of older dogs who were once puppies at Christmas, or just the way the cookie crumbles, but foster homes are overflowing during the holidays.

I can’t recall a time in the last four years that I’ve had fewer than 10 Mastiffs in my home at Christmas. It gets expensive, yes but it’s the best feeling in the world to know that you’ve saved a life — 10 lives that would’ve been euthanized if you hadn’t stepped up.

Want to do something different for Christmas? Adopt a shelter or rescue. Not an animal, unless you are looking for one, but choose a rescue or shelter in your area and purchase items they need to save lives.

Not sure what to get? Everyone I know always needs towels, blankets, blue Dawn dish soap, food, treats, toys, collars, leashes, money and time. Shelters need volunteers to help clean litter boxes, walk dogs and socialize the animals so they will be ready to go into a home.

If adopting a rescue, they might need special food, so ask first. At School of Wags, we feed one of three brands, so if others are donated, we donate them to another local rescue or shelter. Saving animals is a team effort, and if you want to make the team, all you need to do it step forward and participate.

Stepping forward to participate sounds easy but it’s not. I get that.

School of Wags just celebrated its four-year anniversary as a federal not-for-profit charity, and in those four years, we’ve seen volunteers come and go.

It’s a tough commitment to see dogs in the shape we see them, especially the giant breeds, to fall in love with them then watch them move on to a family. It’s a wonderful feeling and cracks — not breaks, your heart at the same time.

The work required to keep School of Wags going consumes me sometimes and for that reason, this will be my last column. I love writing for the Herald and receiving the emails y’all send me; however, my passion is Mastiff Rescue. That passion is taking me on a much busier path in 2017.

Stay safe, y’all. I wish I could give each of you a big hug!

Kathryn Leisinger is dean of the School of Wags and a Herald correspondent.

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