It’s time for the inevitable: shopping! Because I refuse to frequent traditional retail establishments during Thanksgiving and New Year’s (for years now), I always either shop online or make my own gifts. (The supermarket and the craft store are as far as I’ll get to a mall.)

This year I’m treating my family, friends and staff to my used books (they always appreciate this, despite their previous use), home-made marshmallows (with chocolate and instructions for the BEST hot cocoa ever) and, for the pet people, handmade dog and cat toys.

But there’s always someone who deserves a little extra. That’s when I shop online. The Daily Kibble helps by cluing me in to the coolest, newest pet products and services, as does The Woof Report (though on a less frequent basis).

I also shop for charities. This year I’m sticking to three recommendations:

1-Heifer International: My love of goats makes this a personal gift and one I’ve never had anyone fail to deliver a beaming smile for receiving it. Donate cash and your giftee gets the pleasure of having “bought” a goat for a family in Guatemala. How can you resist that?

2-The International Fund for Animal Welfare: Thanks goes to Embrace Pet Insurance’s blog for raising awareness for this one. From saving elephants to paying for shelter animal care, you can dedicate your dollars to a variety of animal welfare imperatives.

3-The University of Pennsylvania’s Shelter Medicine Program: Every year I’ll offer this one. I believe the work my alma mater does in this area is groundbreaking and essential. One of my clients gave $500 in my name last year and it made me cry. So sweet.

For home-made pet toys, I got my best idea this year from Great Green Pets. Old sweaters, tightly braided into a spiral. Instructions and ready-mades are on their site at the above link. Check it out for a very green idea.

Another favorite recommendation of mine is the pet-calming music of Through A Dog’s Ear.

We play the CDs at work and I have one for the car and another at home. These CDs of simple piano music devised for maximum pet friendliness by a veterinary neurologist and audiologist team are serene, wonderful and potentially pet-soothing. Here’s a post on its benefits.

For more great gifts, check out my more traditional list of recommended products from last year’s (slightly silly) Dolittler holiday gift guide.

(Feel free to offer your own suggestions below.)

Season’s Greetings!