LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- When New York's Sentinel first published what has now become the most-read Christmas poem in American literature, the author of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" based his verses on a historical saint, aided by eight four-legged assistants, whose annual mission in life was to bring joy to and make merry the hearts of human children and promote the fact that all creatures matter.
Characterized as a stout gentleman with platinum hair and beard who dons a memorable bright red suit, Santa Claus appears in shopping malls, at office parties or ringing a bell of gold for charity.
He also makes his appearance in the meritorious form of an animal rescuer whose benevolent purpose is to celebrate the lives of those domesticated pets once discarded in the wilderness by their previous owners who could no longer care for them.
Many of these dogs and cats were just days away from a slow and painful death by starvation, exposure and disease before salvation and a simple act of kindness granted them a fresh lease on life.
"For some of our animals, it's their first Christmas with us and our chance to spoil them a little," said actor/animal welfare activist Leo Grillo, founder and president of D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the largest care-for-life animal sanctuary of its kind in the world.
"But sadly for the old and terminally ill, it's their last holiday with us, so I want to give them more than the basics."
With the yuletide fast approaching, Grillo said he has already placed orders for more than 1,500 stockings, chock-full of delectables, for all the animals that now call the mountaintop refuge northeast of the City of Angels their home.
Photos of rescued puppy Hearts receiving Christmas treats:
Photo of rescued puppies, exhausted after receiving treats:
At a cost of $8.35 per stocking, it is a tall order for this real-life Santa for the animals whose three-decades-old organization operates distinctively on tax-deductible donations; the group receives no funding from the government.
Nevertheless, Grillo said his Christmas stocking drive - powered by humanity - is well worth the undertaking, particularly when he bears witness to how his canines react during the traditional season of giving.
"You should see them," said Grillo, who started D.E.L.T.A. Rescue more than 30 years ago. "Each dog knows which stocking is his. For a week after Christmas Day, he'll still stand there at the entrance to his yard looking up at his stocking, wagging his tail and waiting for a treat from it.
"The joy in their eyes is reminiscent of the happiness we felt as little children when our parents filled our stockings with many of our favorite things on Christmas morning."
The stockings for the dogs are stuffed with an assortment of tasty chew toys, lollipops, pretzels, rawhide sticks and even fat waffles. The animals are handed their special gifts twice daily until their Christmas stocking empties out.
"I'm so glad we can do this one extra thing for them, especially for the ones who are spending their last Christmas with us this year," said Grillo. "You see a spark of excitement in their eyes. They know what's going on. They know they are loved."
To sponsor a Christmas Love Stocking for a dog or cat, send a donation to D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, P.O. Box 9, Glendale, CA 91209. To become an evergreen, yearlong Santa, phone (661) 269-4010 or visit http://deltarescue.org.
SOURCE D.E.L.T.A. Rescue