Operation Santa Paws brings the holidays to homeless animals

Mary Grace M. holds up her painted cat ornament. —Stacey Rupolo

A holiday surprise is in store for the dogs and cats waiting to be adopted at the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard this season. “Miss Lani” Carney and her children’s art classes at Featherstone are working on a project called Operation Santa Paws, where they are putting together care packages for the dogs and cats at the shelter. The gift baskets consist of handmade dog and cat toys, painted canvases, and dog and cat treats donated by Good Dog Goods. “It’s a truly wonderful way to get involved and get people to notice at a grassroots level animal rights and issues,” Miss Lani said.

The classes also hand-painted ornaments, which adorn two Christmas trees in the windows of Rosewater Market in Edgartown. One of the trees features ornaments with endangered species on them, and the other has dog and cat ornaments.

Operation Santa Paws is part of Saturday Art Adventures at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs. The class caters to children from 4 to 10 years old. “I love teaching a multiage class,” Miss Lani said. “The children get so much from being together. Sometimes the older are leading the younger, but often the younger show the preteens that it’s OK to be authentic in their art.”

Miss Lani tries to foster a love of animals and concern for nature through her class, but that awareness comes from the children as well. “These projects are a great way to celebrate our love of animals,” she said.

The Saturday Art Adventures have a new theme every week, and on Dec. 17, Operation Santa Paws will go into effect. Sign-ups are available at featherstoneart.org. The classes run from 9 am to 12 pm, and are $45 per child per class.