Santa Paws has come to town

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JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

FORT WALTON BEACH — Lois Norton celebrates Christmas practically all year long.

Since 2005, the longtime PAWS volunteer has been making Christmas ornaments representing each animal at the shelter. Along with the ornament is a “Christmas wish” which could be anything from food to medicine or a home of its own. The program, called Santa Paws Tree has raises about $3,000 each year.

Norton starts making ornaments in March with items donated by other volunteers. This year, she made 400 ornaments which you can find hanging on Christmas trees all over Okaloosa County including The Junkyard Dog Thrift Store, which benefits PAWS.

“The ornaments not only highlight the pets at the shelter who are available for adoption, but each one is for sale for $10, $15 or $20 which goes to the animals,” said Candace Powell, manager of Junkyard Dogs Thrift Store.

Earlier this week, Norton carefully decorated the Christmas tree in the thrift store. At the top of the tree is a dog in a Santa Claus suit. She says she more of an animal lover than Christmas fanatic, which is evident by the tattoo of dog paws on her arm.

“I love all animals,” she said. “It’s my passion. We have an average of 500 animals a month or more at the shelter. It’s a terrible situation.”

Norton said she’s seen people adopt animals based on their photos in the ornaments, which is the ultimate goal of any shelter.

The ornaments are the perfect gift for a fellow animal lover, or for that person who has everything. Each sale helps support the shelter. the Norton said she can’t help but get excited each time someone buys an ornament.

“When someone buys an ornament, they’ve helped an animal,” Norton said. “That’s money well spent.”

Purchase your own Santa Paws ornament by visiting The Junkyard Dog Thrift Store at 179 Eglin Parkway NE. Other locations include The Aegean in Shalimar, Fluid Surf Shop, Twisted Grape, ResortQuest, 3 Dogs & a Chick and The Boardroom Pub and Grub.

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