Contributed by Robert Reichstein
Communications Chairman

Six years ago, The Santa Paws Project was conceived by Desert Ridge residents Marcie and Rob Reichstein. The Reichstein’s, long time pet lovers who help raise funds for accredited 501 C3 rescues, realized there was no organized program to collect items for shelter pets during the holiday season.
Marcie explained Shelter pets do feel the excitement in the shelters around the holiday season. They feed off the vibe by visitors and volunteers. But for the dogs and cats housed in a shelter, it ends with just another night on a cold hard floor. But what if, on one night, they received a toy to cherish and call their own? It’s a simple, inexpensive gesture for pets that find themselves hoping for a family of their own.

Just after Thanksgiving of 2014, the Reichstein’s contacted Melissa Gable, then with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, to see if MCCACC would be interested in accepting toy donations. Melissa’s response was a decisive “that would be incredible.” And so, The Santa Paws Project was launched.
In that first year, SPP collected about 400 toys. Everything was turned over to Melissa at MCCACC. The toys are handed out to the pets in residence as part of the MCCACC holiday party celebration. Over the next three years, the Desert Ridge Community Association, Aviano, Fireside, and Toscana joined in. Soon after, other FirstService Residential and CCMC managed communities around the valley jumped on board as did Ryan’s pet supplies in Phoenix and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices offices around the valley. Last year collections exceeded 3,500 new dog and cat toys; all turned over to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control with the much needed help provided by Dose Moving and Storage.

“What we have come to learn from the MCCACC staff is that the toys are extremely important to the shelter pets on several levels,” said Marcie.
They provide comfort for anxious pets on intake, help in the emotional evaluation process, provide security for lonely pets, and provide a mental stimuli for pets that would otherwise suffer the ill effects of little to no mental stimulation. Realizing just how much an inexpensive toy means to these pets awaiting adoptions gives us the impetus to collect more each year. We thank everyone in Desert Ridge, who donates a new pet toy at this time. We make sure MCCACC knows how much Desert Ridge residents care.

This year the collection season will be November 20th through December 18th. Collections boxes will be in place in Aviano, Toscana, Fireside Community Clubhouses. For more information, please visit the website, the FB page, The Santa Paws, or Contact Marcie or Rob at 602-551-6314. To humans, it’s just a toy. To shelter pets, it’s their everything.