These Shelter Dogs Get to Pick Out Their Favorite Toy Right From Santa’s Sleigh


Every year on Christmas day, a special delivery makes its way to some very deserving shelter dogs.

It’s the arrival of Santa’s sleigh at Best Friends Animal Society, a shelter for homeless pets in Kanab, Utah. The sleigh is piled high with new, donated toys and treats for the dogs, who live at the shelter in an area known as Dogtown.

The tradition, says Chief Sanctuary Officer Judah Battista, goes back “to the beginning of the Sanctuary, almost 38 years ago.”

It started off as “a way to involve the animals that weren’t in a home in the spirit of Christmas,” he says.

Somewhere along the way, it became a beloved annual event that brings as much joy to the caregivers and volunteers at the shelter as it does to the dogs themselves.

@bestfriendsanimalsocietyAnswer im_siowei it’s almost that time of year again and the dogs can’t wait. 🎁 #SaveThemAll #ShareTheMagic #animalsoftiktok #holidaycountdown♬ Christmas Bells – StudioKolomna

“Our team loves getting to see the dogs having so much fun and just being dogs,” says Alison Waszmer, the director of Dogtown.

Piled to the brim with toys, about three dozen dogs of Dogtown’s nearly 400 rotating residents—”dogs with extensive medical needs, dogs with behavior needs, and highly adoptable dogs who just need a soft place to land on their way to their adoptive homes,” explains Waszmer—are placed in the “sleigh” (which is actually a trailer hitched to a truck).

Then, each pup makes his or her way over and through the pile to romp, root, and dig for their favorite present—whatever “speaks” to them.

It takes about two hours for all the dogs to pick their favorite.

“Some dogs want to investigate each toy and then pick a favorite, others jump right in and grab the first toy they see, while other dogs will search for their favorite thing and take that. It is really fun to see how each dog responds,” says Erin Menard, who manages the logistics for the Santa Sleigh event.

Last year, Dingo, who was rescued from a life of dogfighting, couldn’t decide what toy he wanted. “When he got into the sleigh, he first grabbed each toy to inspect them and then he proceeded to try to put as many into his mouth as he could,” Menard says.

“Seeing Dingo this joyful was wonderful for all involved.”

A dog chooses his toy from Santa’s sleigh. Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

The event is live-streamed and is scheduled to start this year at 8:30 a.m. MST. You can watch it live on Christmas, or view the recording afterwards, at the Best Friends Animal Society Facebook page.

Seeing the dogs and their caregivers so happy on Christmas morning, you might just want to make watching it your new Christmas tradition, too.

For more about the adoptable dogs of Dogtown, visit the Best Friends Animal Society website. 

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