JAY — By 9 a.m. on Christmas morning, 3-year-old Amelia Dee had opened all of her Christmas presents except for one.

The doorbell rang and she went with her grandmother, whom she calls Mimi, to see who it could be.

At their door was a woman bundled up in a coat and wearing a red and green elf cap, holding a large box behind her back. A loud purr came from the box.

“I think they’re going to be very surprised,” whispered the woman in the elf cap, Paula Hammerick.

“What could it be?” asked Tina Rand, Amelia’s grandmother, to the little girl, whom she’d picked up.

Amelia squealed with delight as she opened the box in front of her mother and aunt in the kitchen and Cupid, a fluffy eight-week-old orange kitten, jumped out.


“It was totally a surprise,” said Taylor Rand, Amelia’s mother. “I didn’t even know she had this planned. It’s going to be really fun.”

Cupid, whose name Amelia had already changed several times within minutes of getting him, was one of two pets that the Franklin County Animal Shelter delivered to homes Thursday as part of a new Christmas Day delivery service.

The cost of the delivery is between $20 and $30, depending on location, on top of regular adoption fees. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals doesn’t keep statistics on the number of shelters that promote Christmas Day deliveries along with adoptions, but the concept is becoming more common, said Mallory Kerley, media and communications manager for the ASPCA. The organization was started as a humane society and today works to prevent violence against animals and provide leadership for shelters across the country.

The Franklin County Animal Shelter’s pet deliveries are “not really a way for us to increase adoption numbers of anything, it’s just a fun thing for families to do,” said Erin Miner, website and volunteer coordinator for the shelter.

Two families signed up for the pet deliveries this year in Franklin County, but the shelter plans to continue the deliveries next year if they get a good response.

Along with Cupid, another kitten, Button, was delivered to a family in Industry. Miner said the shelter came up with the idea after noticing the growing trend in pet deliveries on Christmas, including at the nearby Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, which started Christmas Day pet deliveries in 2013.


The Lewiston shelter delivered six pets as Christmas surprises this year by staff and volunteers to people who live within a 10 miles radius of the shelter.

“We just noticed it’s kind of a growing thing with shelters across the country because people have always kind of thought of pets as gifts as a bad thing, but the ASPCA has done a lot of research showing that people are going to give pets as presents whether they go to the shelter or to a breeder or pet store,” said Zachary Black, operations manager for the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. “We as an animal shelter want pets to have homes. We want people to come to us and save homeless pets, so we might as well allow people to adopt a pet for Christmas.”

People sometimes think that giving a pet as a present can be a spur of the moment idea or a surprise that is not well thought out, which can result in a pet being returned or not well cared for, Black said.

However, the ASPCA says that it’s not necessarily a bad idea, as long as the recipient has expressed interest in owning a pet and has the ability to care for it responsibly. About 86 percent of pets given as gifts are still in their homes and are actually less likely to be given back up for adoption, according to the organization.

“Assuming they are using the same adoption process, we fully support the idea of pets being delivered from shelters for the holiday. Not only does it make for an amazing memory for the families, but lives are saved and the shelters can receive some lovely publicity,” said Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA in an email.

Rand said she heard about the deliveries from a friend who saw it on the animal shelter website and decided to surprise her granddaughter, who has always loved cats, on Christmas morning.


Cupid, who has spend most of his life at the animal shelter along with his mother, two sisters and a brother, was the last of his siblings to get adopted. Rand said she visited the shelter ahead of time and picked him out because she knew Amelia had always wanted an orange cat. “As soon as I saw him I knew I had to get him,” she said. On Thursday Cupid was delivered by Hammerick, a volunteer at the shelter who willingly navigated windy rural roads and rainy weather to deliver the kitten. Not long after he arrived, Amelia opened her last present — a litter box, food and water dish and cat toys.

Meanwhile, Cupid started exploring his new home, jumping up on furniture, playing with wrapping paper and purring nonstop. Within the first few minutes of his arrival, his name had changed from Cupid to Peter to Baby to Snowman and back to Peter.

“People really, really like it,” Black said. “It’s really fun because we knock on the door and the next thing you know, it’s Christmas morning and we’re kind of sitting on their couch with them and there’s a puppy playing.

“It’s a cool way to get the pet to the family and see the surprise behind it,” Black said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368


Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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