Shelter Dogs Get Week-Long 'Vacation' To Spend Thanksgiving In Real Homes

Mr. Big, described as having a
Mr. Big, described as having a

Twenty Georgia shelter dogs don’t have permanent homes yet, but that won’t stop them from celebrating Thanksgiving in style.

Lifeline Animal Project, a nonprofit that runs multiple shelters in the Atlanta area, launched its first annual “Home for the Pawlidays” program this year. For the week surrounding Thanksgiving, the 20 dogs are staying “as special guests in people’s homes,” spokeswoman Karen Hirsch told “Today.” Lifeline provides food and supplies for the short-term foster homes during the week.

“We chose the dogs who had either been at the shelter the longest or who needed a break from the stress of the shelter the most,” Hirsch told HuffPost in an email. “All the dogs we chose are good candidates, because they adore people.”

As of Wednesday, the program was already a smashing success.

“[The dogs] are going on walks in parks, visiting dog-friendly patios, and cuddling up with their foster parents,” Hirsch said.

At least one woman told the shelter she had “fallen in love” with her canine guest, and Hirsch suspected some of the families might end up adopting the dogs for good, or at least agreeing to foster them longer-term.

The program is part of a growing trend of short-term foster opportunities for shelter pets, which some animal welfare experts believe help de-stress shelter pets and improve their quality of life.

Virginia’s Richmond Animal Care and Control, for instance, has run a similar Thanksgiving program for the past three years. And in 2015, the placement coordinator for Virginia’s Fairfax County Animal Shelter told HuffPost that she’d personally seen how weekend fostering ― the practice of an animal going to a home over a weekend ― transformed one of the shelter’s dogs from a nervous wreck to a relaxed, happy animal.

Although it might seem sad that some of the dogs ultimately go back to the shelter, Hirsch told HuffPost that the break from the shelter’s confines and the time spent socializing in a home is a net positive for them.

“The dogs actually come back with their batteries recharged, much like we do after a nice vacation from work,” she said. “It also helps them get adopted more quickly, because we gain valuable insight into their personalities from their foster parents, since dogs can relax and be themselves in a home.”

The story has been updated with information about other temporary foster programs for shelter animals.