Did that furry sweater under the tree just bark?

Copper, a hound mix, waits to be adopted at the South Mississippi Humane Society on Saturday.
Copper, a hound mix, waits to be adopted at the South Mississippi Humane Society on Saturday. wmuller@sunherald.com

Some soft and fluffy Christmas presents may come with special care instructions, because they may not be a new sweater or slippers. That special gift may be a dog or cat.

Animal-adoption organizations on the Coast saw an uptick in adoptions over the last few weeks as pets are on the Christmas wish lists of many children and loved ones.

Hancock Animal Shelter Director Toni Necaise said the Christmas holidays are the busiest time of year for adoptions, especially of kittens and puppies.

“A lot of people will run out to get Christmas puppies,” she said. “It’s definitely no myth.”

The shelter saw “a lot” of adoptions over the last two weeks, in part because of its “Home for the Holidays” campaign, which offers a 50 percent discount on adoption fees, she said.

The same held true for the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport. Saturday marked HSSM’s lowest occupancy count in about eight months, Animal Care Manager Casey Harrison said.

From Dec. 9 to Dec. 24, the Humane Society saw 280 pet adoptions, 117 of which were in the week before Christmas.

And canines are not that much more popular than felines, Harrison said, pointing out the adoption numbers were nearly even with 157 dogs and 123 cats.

The size of the dogs actually makes the most difference. Fully grown big dogs are usually the last to find homes, as most people are looking for small dogs or puppies, she said.

Saturday afternoon, Brittany Simmons of Gulfport tricked her brother’s girlfriend into accompanying her to the Humane Society as part of a surprise Christmas present — a Chihuahua.

Her brother’s girlfriend, Lacey Piraro, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, had a Chihuahua for nine years until it died earlier this year. So Simmons and her brother decided to surprise her with a new one on Christmas Eve.

“I conspired with my brother to get her down here,” Simmons said.

Simmons said she pulled off the surprise by nonchalantly asking Piraro to come help her pick out a cat from the shelter.

Though adopting an animal may be a common Christmas gift, it’s also a common gift return.

Both Necaise and Harrison said some people will return their new pet to the shelter after Christmas.

“A lot of times we will see the newness wear off, and they’ll no longer want the pup or kitty,” Necaise said.

Harrison said this can happen if the pet turns out to be wrong for a particular household.

“Sometimes the pet they’ve chosen just doesn’t fit with the family,” she said, “but it’s not something we see a huge number of.”

She said HSSM’s successes are a result of her adoption counselors’ effort to spend a lot of time with customers to make sure the pet won’t have a problem adjusting to its new environment.

The Humane Society also offers “animal slumber parties,” which allow the customer to take the animal home overnight to see how everything goes before committing to the adoption, Harrison said.