Every year, our hospital is inundated with chocolates, baked goods and boxed sweets of all sizes and flavors. Candy wrappers fill the wastebaskets, desktops get piled high with loot, and every available countertop sports all the booty that’s destined for — you guessed it — our booties.

We love these expressions of gratitude — too much, in fact. As you can imagine, that’s how we pack on the three or four pounds that are almost inevitable this time of year. 
But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In the last couple of years, I’ve taken to donating most of the boxed stuff to a few families I know are very much in need of gifts for themselves and their loved ones. I think it’s a sweet way of regifting. In fact, I’d be proud to cop to this “crime” should my clients ever ask what became of their gifts. And it keeps the stuff off my thighs, to boot!

As if they’ve come around to my way of thinking, plenty of my clients are starting to offer gifts that reflect a more modern sensibility. In other words, less junk food and more food for thought. I have to say that it’s been heartening to see pet owners gravitate toward gifts that reflect our shared interest: animals.

Here are a few novel approaches that just may help you find a new way to show your appreciation for the animal people in your life — be they veterinarians, groomers, pet sitters, trainers or just plain animal adorers.

1. Charitable Giving

I’ve noticed that more and more clients are making donations in our hospital’s name. Since I’ve long been a fan of this approach — Heifer International is a big favorite of mine — I’m extra pleased whenever it’s a gift made to a local shelter or an international charity.

2. Funds for Fellow Pet Folk

Last year, one client gave us a check for $100 — with the caveat that we use it at our discretion for a patient in need. Now that’s trust!

3. Java Jolt

A sack of coffee isn’t pricey, and for all its unconventional charm, it tends to best a box of chocolates every time. It's not that we don't love chocolates, but midway through December, we've consumed so much theobromine that there's no way we’re getting as much satisfaction from it any longer.

4. Homemade Hot Cocoa

One year, a pet owner brought in a crazy-size pot of gooey, delicious hot chocolate. It was awesome, and I wish someone would make me a pot this year, which is probably why I’m mentioning it.

5. "Get a Kitten Out of Jail" Card

I happen to think this is the most amazing gift you can give any veterinary hospital: Offer to take on the next unwanted kitten who comes through the hospital's doors and you will instantly become the most beloved client of the year. I promise.

6. Cage Cozies

These are the blankets, towels, toys and stuffed animals we offer our patients to give them places to hide, things to play with and an extra homey experience. Bring in a bag of stuff like this and we’ll remember you forever.

7. Yourself

Are you in the animal biz? Donate a pet training or grooming session to the next needy client. Get creative with your craft and the rewards will be more than just goodwill — you’ll get new business, too.

For all that (mostly) noncomestible appreciation I’ve outlined, I have to confess: I won’t be deviating from my annual holiday party for the staff at Miami Veterinary Specialists. For all they do for me, my patients and my own pets, how could I fail to offer the dedicated staff a big thank-you in a way that few will fail to appreciate? 
Let’s be honest, a paid lunch is arguably a better present than almost anything else.

And perhaps the best way to thank your veterinarian is to thank her staff. Can you think of anything more universally appreciated? 
Well … I do have this kitten who needs a home. Any takers? You’d really make my holiday.