A home for the holidays: Humane society's 'staycation' program lets Winnipeggers temporarily adopt dogs

If you're looking to bring a furry friend into your home this Christmas, the Winnipeg Humane Society has a unique idea.

Winnipeg Humane Society program gives shelter dogs a break, while preventing rash adoption decisions

Kelcey Paull has fostered "Blue," a 5-year-old Shepherd mix, several times. She says the dog 'staycation' lets people like her spend time with dogs that are used to shelter life. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

If you're looking to bring a furry friend into your home this Christmas, the Winnipeg Humane Society has a unique idea.

It's asking people to bring an adoptable dog home for the Christmas break —​ then return it.

"We really want to empty out the adoption floor and give every one of our dogs a staycation," said CEO Javier Schwersensky.

"We have staff taking time off [during the holidays]. So we struggle to make sure that the pets have the time that they need to play and to be as happy as possible when they're at the shelter," he said.

The hope is to also discourage people from making a rash decision and getting a dog as a last-minute Christmas present.

Schwersensky said every year, there is still an increase in the number of dogs and cats that are brought into the shelter by people who received them as gifts over the holidays.

Instead, the "staycation" program gives would-be owners a chance to see if a dog is right for them on a trial basis.

Five-year-old Sookie is one of the many dogs available for a 'holiday staycation.' The Winnipeg Humane Society is looking for volunteers to take its dogs over Christmas. The hope is to give the dogs and staff a break, while discouraging people from making a rash decision to get a dog for a present. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

The adoptable dogs are also given a break from shelter life.

"We're a little bit like a hospital. Lights are on at seven in the morning and they're out at 11 p.m. You get your walks at certain times, your feeding on certain times, there's playtime at certain times," he said.

"The right place for a pet is in a home."

Not ready to adopt? No problem

But you don't have to be looking for a forever dog to take part.

Kelcey Paull is one of the volunteers who regularly fosters dogs for a short period of time.

"I would love to have a dog but I'm in an apartment," she said.

"If you're a family that has a couple of days free, you can just take a dog for the holidays," she said.

Paull said both she and the dog benefit: she gets to spend Christmas with a canine companion, and the dog gets out into the community, for others to see.

"It helps them be seen in more of a natural environment," she said. "People see you walking a shelter dog and maybe imagine, 'That would be nice, if I had a dog to walk.'"

Plus, she said it helps provide an outlet for her holiday spirit.

"We spoil them."

You can find out more about the "staycation" program at the Winnipeg Humane Society's website.

The Winnipeg Humane Society says giving its dogs a 'staycation' over the holidays gives them a chance to get out of the shelter and into the community. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg


Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or


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