Monday, December 22, 2014

The Inspiration Behind Santa Paws Drive: Bringing Holiday Cheer to Shelter Pets #BlogPawsGives

This post is sponsored by BlogPaws, a free place to connect with like-minded pet people who are active in social media. I am being compensated to support Giving Month with an inspirational post, but To Dog With Love only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.

December is a month of giving, and so today we want to share with you the story of one of our longest-time social media pals who is tireless in her efforts to help pets in need. 

You may have heard of Santa Paws Drive, the yearly online drive to collect toys and cash so that shelter pets can have some joy around the holidays, too. But you may not know the complete story behind the drive. It all started in 2009 as the brainchild of Dorian Wagner, founder of Your Daily Cute. Since then it's grown to help hundreds of shelter pets around the world.

I had the chance to chat with Dorian recently about what inspires her to help shelter pets through Santa Paws Drive and through the Cute Transport Network, created in 2012 to help transport mostly cats and some dogs to areas where they are more likely to get adopted.... (because 
cats suffer much higher euthanasia rates in shelters than dogs.)

Here's what Dorian has to say about what inspires her to give to pets in need.


Dorian and her kitty Pimp
What inspired you to start Santa Paws Drive?

Santa Paws Drive was basically born through my blog – like almost all of the rescue work I do today! I wanted to do something like Toys for Tots, but for animals, and I wanted all Your Daily Cute’s readers to be able to participate and come together for one cause – no matter where they lived.

The only possible way to do that was online!

I had the idea, but I needed help making it happen. So I reached out to two friends who could help do just that – Salina Gannon, who runs (for the donating online and the “shop” and checkout) and Lynn Haigh, whose dog, Dougal, was a celebrity among Twitter animal friends, raising thousands of dollars through a monthly “Pawpawty” tweetup event.

Lynn and @FrugalDougal could help spread the word and advise on fundraising dos and don’ts. The three of us were the original Santa Paws Drive elves! The first year, each of the elves chose a shelter and Santa Paws Drive collected toys and cash donations for those three organizations. We each hand-delivered them, and seeing the joy it gave all the animals had us immediately already excited to do it again the next year!

Since then we’ve added two more elves – Diane Silver (our PR elf!) and Kerri Heath (our web elf), and we get a little bit more organized and innovative each year. Time flies when you’re having fun, and this is now our sixth year! In the past five years, we’ve raised more than $55,000 in toys, treats and donations for 28 shelters all over the world.

Some of the toys collected in years past for Santa Paws Drive shelter pets
This year we decided to give Santa Paws Drive a bit of a different focus – to help give animals the ultimate gift… a forever home! So far we’ve raised more than $10,000 in just two weeks, so 2014 is on track to be our best yet!

What I love about Santa Paws Drive is that it gives everyone an easy way to help shelter animals, right from their very own home and computer. Every dollar and every share makes a difference, and it’s great to see how many wonderful people come together to make a difference each year!

How did the Cute Transport Network start?

Cute Transport Network happened practically by accident. A wonderful surprise effort that has turned into so much more. Several years ago, I shared a picture of a cat in a local kill-shelter who needed urgent rescue on Your Daily Cute’s Facebook page. His name was Chalse and his bright green eyes had me at hello, but I couldn’t have any more cats.

Chalse, happy in his forever home!
So I shared him, and a woman in St. Louis commented: “I would love to adopt him, but I’m too far.” After reading that I thought to myself that with the thousands of readers, surely we could all get together to get him there, right? A few weeks later, Chalse hit the road to travel 1,500 miles to his happily ever after, escorted by a parade of “Cuteheads” (as I’ve always called the readers!), each one driving a couple hours and then handing him to the next.

We even picked up a second cat along the way in Georgia! After seeing the picture of Chalse and his new parents, my reaction was the same as it was with Santa Paws Drive: we have to do this again! And so we did.

The next lucky cats were two black kittens that headed up to Ohio. And then we helped another, and another, and another…

A recent kitty who found his forever home thanks to the
Cute Transport Network and Good Karma Pet Rescue
And now, just over two years later, the Cuteheads have been able to rescue, save and transport more than 350 cats that would have most likely otherwise been euthanized. We work with a wonderful rescue partner, Good Karma Pet Rescue, who helps coordinate temporary fosters and fund all the vetting and care the cats needs (and it’s a lot!).

Cute Transport Network is essentially the culmination of everything Your Daily Cute has inspired. Our readers come together to make Santa Paws Drive amazing each year, and the connections I make with the rescues we help often continue way past that holiday season.

Many of the Santa Paws Drive rescues have become Cute Transport Network partners, and we are able to essentially “shuffle” cats from down south to those rescues where, instead of dying here in an overcrowded shelter, they will get adopted very quickly!

And like Santa Paws Drive, the most wonderful part of this is how everyone can help and come together to make it happen. None of this could happen without such a dedicated, caring, amazing and special army of Cuteheads, who drive these lucky kitties far and wide to make their dreams of a forever home come true.

If you could ask folks to do one thing to help pets in need, what would that be? 

The one thing I’d ask people to do is to do something. Anything. Every little bit helps, and the more we do, the more we can help. Volunteer (or even just visit!) a shelter or rescue and play with the cats and help socialize them and brighten their day. Happy kitties get adopted faster!

Donate money to your favorite LOCAL rescue. It’s very easy to send a check back in the mail when you get a plea from the Humane Society or the ASPCA, but your local rescues are usually run by just a few very dedicated people, and they are almost always struggling for donations to make ends meet.

It’s not that the national organizations couldn’t use the donations (remember, anything helps!), but by supporting the rescues in your community, you can help the little guys who are often the ones doing the most.

Donate your extra towels and sheets, food, litter, toys, or supplies such as paper towels and bleach to a local rescue. All of this costs money, and when they are running on donations only, the budget for these items is often a very large part of it. By helping with this, you help free up more funds for vetting and more.
Share pictures of the animals in your shelter. Social media is a powerful thing, and often all it takes is one little click for someone to end up seeing their new furry partner for life appear in their newsfeed.

My recommendation: Share, but share with care. Avoid screaming in all caps or writing hysterical ranting posts along with them. You want to capture people’s attention, pull heartstrings, and evoke compassion to help the animals – not scare people away or incite a comment-riot that won’t help the animal at all.

Hopefully one day in the future we’ll be able to save them all.


Thank you Dorian for the great tips all you do to help the animals in need!

If you want to help by donating to Santa Paws Drive there's still time! You can make a donation by clicking here through December 31, 2014.

Keep up with Santa Paws Drive progress on its blog and on Facebook.

What inspires you to help pets in need? Tell us in the comments below!


  1. Such a great thing to do this time of year and we are sure the shelters so welcome all the extra help and donations they get. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Oh wow! That's amazing! I am so happy to read this post. It made my day! God bless all the homeless pets , shelters and people like you that help them. :)

  3. What a wonderful thing! We have adopted pets, and we also give now and then to shelters in our area.