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Best Friends Animal Society’s Santa Sleigh Tradition Brings Toys and Joy to Sanctuary Dogs Christmas Morning

By: Best Friends Animal Society

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What’s squeaky, fuzzy, fun and festive and brings pure joy to darling dogs and kind caregivers on Christmas morning? It’s the Santa Sleigh, a flatbed trailer overflowing with donated dog toys at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Cutest Charm even went viral with more than 10M views on TikTok with her joyous selection of a huge purple stuffed raccoon from Christmas morning last year. Watch the adorable video here!

The Santa Sleigh has been a tradition at Best Friends’ Dogtown for as long as anyone can remember. Each year around three dozen dogs participate in the live event, and then the rest of the toys are distributed to all the other dogs in Dogtown. Toys come from kind donors all over the country and even Canada.  

“The toy delivery on Christmas day at Best Friends has been taking place at our Sanctuary since our very beginning 38 years ago,” said Judah Battista, chief sanctuary officer for Best Friends Animal Society. “It was started by our animal caregiver staff and has become one of our favorite traditions at Best Friends.” 

Best Friends’ caregivers choose to spend their Christmas mornings sharing that time with the dogs at our sanctuary. “And to me, that is a pure expression of kindness and care, and it is what Best Friends is all about,” Battista said. “Saving animals is work that comes from the heart. Our goal is always to help the animals at our sanctuary find homes of their own. But while they are here, we are always going to go above and beyond for the animals and provide them with the very best care.” 

The population of dogs who live at Dogtown varies greatly. There are dogs with extensive medical needs, dogs with behavior needs, and highly adoptable dogs and puppies who just need a soft place to land on their way to their adoptive homes. 

And it’s not just Best Friends’ staff and volunteers who get involved and love the Santa Sleigh tradition. Our supporters from all around the country send the gifts so that the dogs at the Sanctuary can have a special fun-filled day. 

“This tradition at Best Friends is so much fun. Seeing the dogs jump around and getting excited over their gifts is like seeing little kids on Christmas morning. And what we all get in return is a feeling of joy. Which is really what this time of year is all about,” Battista added. 

Not all dogs react the same way to their opportunity to choose a toy.  Some dogs get overwhelmed and are more hesitant, while other dogs dive right in and try to take multiple toys. Some dogs want to investigate each toy and then pick a favorite, others jump in and grab the first toy they see. Other dogs are more excited to see the staff and volunteers, and don’t even try for the toys. One of the most fun parts for the humans is seeing each dog getting to be a dog and having so much fun. 

A few dogs’ participation on the Santa Sleigh has been especially memorable: Kit and Caboodle are a pair of dogs who came to Best Friends when they were puppies and have lived there ever since. They have significant neurological issues that impair their movement. With the help of an entourage, they were able to be lifted into the sleigh last year and make their way through the mountain of toys. Caboodle spent his time going from toy to toy before selecting the perfect one, while Kit spent the time basking in the attention from all of Santa’s helpers. 

Dingo came to Best Friends from a dogfighting past and got to participate last year. When he got into the sleigh, he started by inspecting each toy and then proceeded to try to put as many into his mouth as he could. He and his caretaker tested each toy for durability too. Seeing Dingo this joyful was wonderful for all involved. 

And just for the record, while only dogs and puppies are invited out to choose toys from the Santa Sleigh, we don’t forget to make the day festive for the felines as well. Our cats and kittens also receive piles of donated toys and treats from our generous donors, so they get fun gifts on Christmas morning too. In fact, we make the holiday special for all the animals in our care, as our sanctuary is home to not only cats and dogs, but also pigs, goats, horses, parrots, bunnies, other small animals and a variety of wild friends. 

And for those who are thinking of getting a new furry friend this holiday season, Best Friends Animal Society encourages families and individuals to choose the adoption option by taking in a pet from an animal shelter or rescue group, rather than buying from a breeder, pet store or online retailer. If you’re not ready to adopt, please consider fostering and share your joy by giving a pet a home for the holidays. 


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By: Best Friends Animal Society
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