HANCOCK COUNTY — No one wants to spend Christmas alone, cold or feeling unloved, and that includes four-legged friends.
A New Palestine woman, Casey O’Gara, along with her family have made it their mission this holiday season to collect as many blankets, beds, toys, food and treats as they can for county and Indianapolis shelter animals.
Casey and her family have set up several drop boxes around New Palestine at Needlers, Y-Not-Pizza, Barrel Racing Baristas, New Palestine Junior High School (NPJHS) and in Greenfield at the Daily Reporter for people to drop off donations.
They’re hoping people will drop off clean items such as blankets, winter pet coats, animal beds, leashes, collars and any type of canned or bagged food or treats. In addition, they’re baking healthy homemade cookies for the shelter animals.
“We just want the animals to know they are not alone,” Casey said. “We can’t stand it knowing how lonely and unloved so many of them are in shelters, especially at Christmas.”
After hearing how full the shelters in Indianapolis and Greenfield are this year, the family decided to focus on taking the donations and baked treats to two places, Indy Animal Care and Control (IACC) and the Greenfield Hancock Animal Management (GHAM) facilities.
“Even if unfortunately some of the animals never make it out of the shelters, we should at least help them to have a good Christmas and let them know they are loved,” Casey said.
With one of her five rescue animals, Chica, a three-year-old Chihuahua, in tow, the dog is a prime example of a once mistreated, unloved, puppy-breeder dog now living the good life thanks to Casey. Casey is setting up the drop boxes around the county and spreading good pet cheer along with her daughter, Liliana (Lily) Salcedo; her fiancé, Nick Short; and her mother, Tina O’Gara.
“My daughter and I, every year around Christmas time, we always want to do something charitable and for our entire lives, because of my mom, we’ve focused in on rescuing animals, so this year we wanted to take it a little further,” Casey said. “Lily’s school, NPJHS, announced Friday they too will put in a drop box in their lobby to help the shelter animals, thanks to her suggestion, and we are thankful.”
The family also received $1,000 from a corporate donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
“They were able to choose which organizations they wanted and the company chose a rescue that pulls extremely at risk of euthanasia animals,” Casey said.
Casey and Nick both noted if just every other person in the county neighborhoods would consider adopting one cat or one dog it would clear out the shelters immediately and save hundreds, if not thousands, of animal lives.
“We want to spread awareness about adopting,” Casey said. “If only people knew how much joy and love an adopted, abused animal can bring their life, they’d line up and do an adoption today because these animals just want to be loved.”
Casey and her mother Tina have been involved with state and nationwide animal rescue and want to encourage others to do the same.
“If we see a animal outside in need, we don’t ignore it. We bring it in or try to help find its home,” Casey said. “There are so many people who just don’t know how amazing a rescue animal can be.”
As for the homemade treats they’re making for all the shelter dogs at the two facilities — IACC and GHAM — Casey has a special recipe of pumpkin, peanut butter, flour, eggs, cinnamon and salt that her dogs love.
“It’s all natural and good for the dogs, and they’ll all get a little bag with cookies in it,” Casey said. “We’d love to be able to give each dog a toy, the cookies, a blanket or bed, but they will at least get the treats we make.”
Lily asked her mom if they could also make cat treats, so Casey found a recipe for homemade dry cat treats and now they’ll be making those in addition to the treats for the dogs.
“With Lily’s ideas and the support of my fiancé, this has turned into so much more than just treats for animals,” Casey said.
The group also wants to remind people that while some like to give a pet as a present for Christmas, people need to understand a pet is a lifetime commitment and not something to give and forget about.
“We know how full the shelters are right now, and if people give pets to others who really don’t want them, it’s going to be a bad situation for the animal and the shelters,” Casey said. “No matter what, there will be a influx of people doing that, so we want to bring about some more awareness of that.”
When thinking about donating to the animals, the family noted, no present is too small, and all the donations of blankets, dog and cat beds, leashes, food and more will be given to the animals in need.
“We hope people will see the drop boxes and go out of their way and make a donation for the animals,” Nick said. “We’re going to try to find a few more places around the county where we can put some boxes so people can help the animals.”