With her little dog Sophie, Bett Sorell spends most of her days trying to stay warm and scrape together enough money together to feed herself and her little canine companion.
"She keeps me company at night," said Sorrell, who lives in an open field near E Avenue in Hesperia. "It's nice to know that people are thinking of us, especially our pets."
Employees at the Victor Valley Animal Hospital held a holiday open house to raise funds for the Mojave Desert Animal Rescue group and its efforts to help the homeless and their pets.
Pet owners and visitors stopped by the Hesperia Road facility on Wednesday to drop off donations, and to have their photos taken with jolly old Saint Nick.
"Every year, we choose an organization that needs our help," hospital manager Ann Clark said. "We'll accept donations up to the end of the year, and we'll match any food we receive pound-for-pound."
Besides animal food, the rescue group provides vaccines, leashes, collars, spay and neuter services, and emergency veterinary treatment for animals.
Winter coats, bottled water, sleeping bags and blankets are made available to pet owners.
Nearly 72 percent of the animals serviced by the rescue group have been owned by the homeless, with the remainder coming from veterans who are physically and emotionally scarred, according to the rescue group.
"Homeless people have very strong bonds with their pets, and they are often the only being in their life that gives them unconditional love and companionship," said Annie Lancaster, founder of the rescue group. "We strongly believe in fostering this incredible example of the human/animal bond."
Lancaster's group recently earned a spot on the 2012 Top-Rated List for eligible nonprofits, according to the group GreatNonprofits, a website that allows people to find, review and share information about nonprofits.
Donations can still be dropped off at the animal hospital at 11696 Hesperia Road until Dec. 31. Information on the rescue group can be found online at ww.animalresq.org or by calling (760) 515-2650.