Rochelle Mikitiuk told her boys that Santa Claus might be stopping by their Orangevale home on Saturday afternoon.
They had no idea that he would be delivering the gift of their dreams: a puppy from Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter.
“Mine? Really?” Royce, 3, asked as Santa, otherwise known as Front Street board of directors member Paul Somerhausen, gently placed the pup in the boy’s arms. Royce pressed his face against the tiny pug and Chihuahua mix, which the shelter had named MaryAnn.
Royce and his brother Roman, 7, who also have a baby brother, Remi, “have been asking for a dog for a while,” their mom said. “I just finished nursing school, so I thought it would be a good time” to welcome one into the family. All the better that their new pet arrived on Christmas Eve, courtesy of Santa.
The special delivery was part of a Christmas promotion at the city shelter. For $100, Front Street staffers and volunteers dressed in holiday gear and delivered adopted animals to the doorsteps of their new families.
The animals themselves were free, thanks to donations that allowed the shelter to waive adoption fees for the entire month of December. The Placer Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also waived adoption fees this month, thanks to a substantial donation. Both shelters reported a huge surge in animals finding new homes this month.
Front Street director Gina Knepp said she expects the shelter to top 1,000 adoptions in December, more than double its typical monthly total. Placer SPCA has reported a 35 percent increase in adoptions. Each of the animals is spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped, and their new owners are vetted by the shelters.
Santa and his elves on Saturday dropped off about 40 puppies and kittens at their new homes.
Somerhausen, one of the founders of the food truck organization known as SactoMoFo, said he had almost as much fun as the children he surprised with Christmas pets in Rio Linda, Citrus Heights, Antelope and other communities. He traveled with his son Jake, his dog Marley and Lori Rhoades, Front Street’s rescue coordinator.
“The looks on the faces of these kids are really quite precious,” he said. In one case, a small girl “literally was speechless,” Somerhausen said. “She was so thrilled, she didn’t know what to say.”
The animals arrived with a gift bag filled with toys, treats and other items, a folder of information about proper care and an “elf delivery receipt.”
The Mikitiuks were looking for a small, gentle dog that interacts well with children. A relative who volunteers at the shelter picked out MaryAnn for the family.
“I think we got a good match,” Rochelle Mikitiuk said, smiling as the pup rested in her arms.
“Meeeerrrry Christmas!” Santa said. “Merry Christmas to everyone!”