Having worked in somewhat seasonal industries most of my adult life, first as a carriage driver in downtown Chicago and currently as a kennel owner, I have to take deliberate steps to avoid seeing the holidays mainly in terms of projections, receipts, and staffing challenges.

Along with reliably herding the family to midnight mass and hosting a small reveillon afterward each year, I’m also on the lookout year-round for worthy causes into which to divert a fraction of my holiday gross.

This year, three non-dog-related organizations are on my list. They range from local to international and address needs related to horticulture, education, and medicine. For the record, I do donate money, time, and services to dog related charities, along with fostering dogs personally. But I am betting the readers of this blog are not wanting for ideas in that direction.

Anyhow, if you’re still solvent post-holiday-shopping and interested in expanding your charitable horizons, here are this year’s picks:

Garfield Park Conservatory

Garfield Park Conservatory  is one of the finest historic jewels of Chicago, one the nation’s largest conservatories, and walking distance from my kennel. We visit regularly throughout the year, taking in the stunning combination of turn-of the century design, engineering, and landscape architecture, and also taking advantage of the many free kid-friendly events and activities. The conservatory is also an anchor of nature, culture, and community within one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods. Sadly, it was devastated this past summer by a record-setting hail storm that broke literally thousands of panes of glass and decimated its fern collection, among others. The work to repair, rebuild, and replant is ongoing.


I just wound up my first stint as a mentor with this group and was really impressed by their mission and organization. Please check out this recent blog post, or visit Spark’s website for more information. They currently have apprentice programs in several major cities.

Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic

Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic I’ve blogged about this amazing project before. It’s the brainchild of See Spot Run’s very first client, currently on her second generation (at least known to me) of kick ass working-line German shepherds. Oh, and the lake in question is the longest and deepest in Africa.