celebrating a sense of place

Going home for the holidays has been intrinsic to the fabric of our culture since the invention of planes, trains and automobiles. The holidays, unlike any other time of year, beckon us to a time and place where hospitality and love abound, and the warmth, security and familiarity of being home washes over us. Sure, the occasional family squabble is to be expected, but if home is where the heart is, the holidays are the most loving time of year. 

Home Sweet Home

By Julianne Harris

Photos Courtesy of

Volunteers of Friends of

Somerset Regional Hospital


Not all of us are so fortunate, though. For many, home doesn’t exist. Our friends at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter (SRAS) in Bridgewater know this all too well. Housing abandoned dogs and cats, staff and volunteers devote their time to bring safety to animals from all over the country. 

As with any shelter, space and resources are limited and the need far exceeds capacity. Despite having found homes for many dogs and cats this this year, it’s a constant hustle to make space for new animals. The work is hard, but the compassion among volunteers overflows. SRAS ensures not only that these animals are fed and sheltered, but that they are given a taste of love as well. 

Our community shines in its steadfast devotion to these animals. Volunteers are constantly mobilizing to support the shelter, organizing 5Ks, Tailgating fundraisers, golf tournaments and even selling jewelry. Simms Jewelers in Bedminster carries a Dog Fever line that benefits the shelter, and an annual golf tournament raised enough money to purchase a transport van worth over $50,000. This van empowers volunteers to drive all over the East Coast rescuing animals from hurricanes, overpopulated shelters and other troubling circumstances. Friends of Somerset Regional Animal Shelter (FOSRAS) is a fierce ally of the shelter, raising money and mobilizing volunteers year-round. 

But despite all of SRAS’s virtues, this house is not a home. As the holidays invite us to paws (I couldn’t help myself) and quiet our hearts and minds, we have a unique opportunity to reevaluate the things we make time and space for. Predicated upon the foundation of giving, this special time of year invites us to reach just a little bit deeper into our hearts to help these dogs and cats. 

How can you help?

Adopt: Adoption is the greatest gift of all, and pets have an uncanny ability to bond families. Consider inviting one of these loving animals into your home, your heart and your family. The shelter is open for adoptions daily from noon – 4:00, and until 7:00 PM on Wednesdays.

Put A Ring On It: If you already have a house full of pets, Simms Jewelers invites you to celebrate your furry friends with a customized bracelet, necklace or ring. Not only does a portion of each purchase directly benefit the shelter, but these pieces make for great Christmas gifts (wink wink). Check out the Dog Fever collection at Simms Jewelers in Bedminster. www.simmsjewelers.com/dogfever

 Volunteer: Though plentiful and fierce, SRAS’s committed volunteers are always looking for new friends to drive the transport van, walk dogs, play with cats, clean cages, and share a little love with these lost animals. Visit www.fosras.com to volunteer.

Make a Financial Donation: No donation is too big or too small, and every donation helps meet basic needs and provide medical care. Unfortunately, many of the animals SRAS takes in need quite a bit of medical attention, and your donations help ensure a full recovery. www.fosras.com or www.sransnj.com

Donate Supplies: Especially around the holidays, the shelter teems with material donations, so much so that many of them are redistributed to neighboring shelters. However, a few prevailing needs include cat toys and food (Friskies wet adult, Fancy Feast wet kitten and Purina One dry, to be exact), along with paper towels. As one can imagine, the shelter uses quite a few. A full “wish list” may be found at www.fosras.com/donate/donate-goods/

As we relish all things “home” this holiday season and open our doors to family and friends, maybe it’s also time we open our homes to a stranger. Whether adopting a pet or bringing a little taste of home to the shelter, your resolve to help will ring in a new year filled with good tidings of great joy for many of the animals at SRAS.