Kittens are a Christmas miracle for Squirrel Hill family

PITTSBURGH — Aweek before Christmas, Howard Reck told his family that he was thinking of getting two kittens. But when his daughters asked whether he’d made any progress on that front, no dice: All of the cats had been adopted, he said.

On Christmas morning, though, Reck was acting funnier than usual — pacing around his home in Squirrel Hill, looking outside, shoveling the walkway and cleaning up any wrapping paper that might, you know, give a kitten some trouble. His eldest daughter, Taylor, knew something was up.

“I promise you,” Reck told her, “I didn’t buy any kittens.”

Well, no, technically, he didn’t buy any kittens; he adopted them. And so the Recks — four daughters, three pets, two parents and a partridge in a pear tree — welcomed two more kittens into their midst, courtesy of Humane Animal Rescue’s Christmas delivery program.

“He’s not a very good liar,” Taylor said of her dad.

Volunteers and staff with Humane Animal Rescue made surprise deliveries of cats, dogs and bunnies to six homes throughout Pittsburgh on Christmas. Wearing a Santa hat, red scarf and red pullover, CEO Dan Rossi carried the 9-week-old black kittens in a small box into the Recks’ home.

“I have a special delivery from Santa for you guys,” Rossi said, prompting immediate screams and tears from Demi, Riley, Piper and Taylor Reck, ages 8 to 17.

Humane Animal Rescue started its Christmas deliveries five Decembers ago, and it’s become an annual tradition. The organization facilitates more than 10,000 adoptions each year and currently is looking for homes for about 400 cats and 80 dogs. The holidays tend to bring more traffic to the shelter, Rossi said, as potential adopters have time off from work to look for their new pets and bond with them.

“It works out really well,” Rossi said, “as you can tell.”

While the surprise deliveries seem spontaneous, the adoption and screening process begins well before that. Family members (at least the ones in the know) visit the shelter a week in advance to choose their pet, and Humane Animal Rescue won’t permit last-minute adoptions right before Christmas.

“It should be a thoughtful process,” Rossi said. “Animals aren’t just presents. You’re adding to your family.”

Demi, 8, was hoping to call one kitten Mr. Cookie Jr., after the family’s late cat Mr. Cookie, and the other Dinky, after Mr. Cookie’s brother. Ultimately, the Recks settled on Rambo and Oscar.

The kittens join the family’s other pets: a chocolate lab named Blitzen, a teacup Yorkiepoo named Reece and a 9-year-old cat named Cashmere, who was nowhere to be found Monday.

Every creature in the house — except perhaps Cashmere — was thrilled to welcome Oscar and Rambo to the family, but Mr. Reck insisted that adoption would not become an annual tradition.

“No, we’re done,” he said. “We’re done on all accounts.”

Then again, maybe that was just another fib.