For the Fuller family of North Hampton, N.H., a knock at the door Christmas morning was followed by the sound of tiny mews and meows.
And those were followed by tears of joy from 11-year-old Jaeda Fuller.
Jaeda’s mother, Melinda Fuller, arranged for the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to deliver a new kitten to their North Hampton home through the organization’s first annual Operation Ho Ho Home for the Holidays event.
The Fullers and five other New Hampshire families had their newly adopted pets delivered by NHSPCA staffers, who were dressed as elves, adding even more Christmas spirit to the morning.
“It was a way of having that magic on Christmas morning,” said Lisa Dennison, executive director of the NHSPCA.
For Jaeda, the kitten was an extra special surprise.
For her 11th birthday party back in November, Jaeda had asked her friends to bring donations for the NHSPCA instead of gifts for her, Melinda Fuller, 41, said. When the Fullers went to the shelter to drop off the money, they spied a litter of newborn kittens — and fell in love with one of them.
“We kind of stalked this kitten after that,” Fuller said. “I called every week for the last several weeks to see how she was doing. . . . And they finally told us she was going to be available Monday.”
Fuller, who is in the military, will be deployed Saturday, and she wanted to make sure Jaeda got the kitten before she left.
“I told my daughter that she wasn’t going to get the cat, and she was so sad,” Fuller said. “But then they came to the door, and she started crying.”
The family spent the rest of the day taking turns snuggling with their new kitten, Jasmine.
Animals adopted between Dec. 20 and 23 were eligible for delivery through the Ho Ho Home for the Holidays event, as long as the new family was within 15 miles of the Stratham, N.H., shelter; the animal was being gifted within the family; and as long as the animal was not particularly shy or skittish. All the animals taken home for Christmas this year were 8- to 9-week-old kittens.
“These children will remember this for the rest of their lives,” said Jen Corbin, director of animal services at the NHSPCA. “This morning was filled with tears of happiness and joy. And the kittens, within moments, they were curling up on their new families’ laps, and it was just beyond amazing.”
The idea for Operation Ho Ho Home for the Holidays was dreamt up by an adoption counselor at the shelter. Corbin said the other employees jumped at the idea.
While six kittens were delivered by the elves, another six were picked up for adoption from the shelter in the morning.
Corbin said the morning was more emotional than she anticipated.
The delivered pets came with a stocking of “goodies” for the pets, Corbin said, and a certificate, signed by St. Nick, explaining the adoption was official — and so were the delivery elves.
Corbin said Operation Ho Ho Home for the Holidays will now become an annual event.
“Studies show that animals given as gifts are much less likely to be surrendered or given up because of the emotional attachment they give to the owner,” Corbin said. “I’m crying on my way home because it was just wonderful.”