For many, it will be their last.
The winter holiday season traditionally marks the animal shelter's slowest adoption period, but the endless influx of new pets rarely stops. When more enter than exit, euthanasia rates begin to rise.
About 70 percent of all pets brought to the shelter at 2400 South Gloster St. are humanely killed. Last month alone, nearly 500 - mostly dogs - were put down out of the 787 brought in.
Although it's based in Tupelo, the shelter accepts animals from all corners of Northeast Mississippi.
Many of the pets that come in are abandoned by their owners because of neglect, allergies, old age, new babies or financial reasons. Others come in as strays. And many more arrive in litters, the new babies of family pets whose owners can't keep them.
TLHS launched an aggressive spay-and-neuter campaign, along with a low-cost clinic for the procedure, to lower the rate of unwanted puppies and kittens. It has helped some, but progress is slow.
"We really try to find homes for all of the animals, especially during the holidays," said shelter Director Debbie Hood. "It's a time for families, but the cats and dogs have no families, nobody to love them and give them special attention."
Shelter volunteers try to make the occasions merry. Many bring in canned food to replace the usual meal of dry kibble. Others arrive with cooked turkey and stuffing, dividing the feast among the hundreds of excited pets.
Although the shelter is closed to the public on Thanksgiving and Christmas, staff members and regular volunteers come in to feed the animals and clean their cages.
The shelter is open again today and Saturday.
"We don't encourage people to adopt pets as gifts," Hood said, "but we do have gift certificates that people can bring in to pick out their own pet."
She also said people can sponsor a cat or dog in someone's name, thus boosting the pet's chance of adoption and sparing its life for at least one month.
"I think about these animals every day," Hood said, "and the holidays are no different."
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or email@example.com.