Santa Claus, Pet Whisperer

Is Logan sick of getting the same old moose bones every year? Would Fluffy like a pink rhinestone-studded collar, or is beaver skin more her style?

Okay, your furry friends won’t actually be able to tell Santa what they’d like for Christmas, but that shouldn’t stop you from bringing them to Peabody’s Photo Parlour in Dawson City between 1:00 and 4:00 pm on Saturday December 11, or to the warehouse in the Feed Store in Whitehorse from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm that same day.

In either location, your beloved pet can mug for the camera with the jolly man in red. Fees for the fun photos will help support the local animal shelter

Humane Society Dawson founder Aedes Scheer introduced the photo fundraiser for the northern town in 1994, before she’d even secured a location for the shelter she was determined to start. That first year, Santa was too busy to make the trek, so he sent Mrs. Claus instead.

By 1998, Humane Society Dawson opened the doors to its permanent home in the Callison Subdivision.

Almost 13 years later, Scheer remains active on the HSD board and is delighted the photo session has grown into a popular annual event featuring the big man himself.

Jim Taggart has provided the animal whispering touch for years, and brings his Santa-suited ways again to Peabody’s, which donates the space and equipment for the shoot.

The seasonal portraits aren’t restricted to dogs and cats. Several rabbits have been snapped with Santa, and Scheer remembers with a laugh the year of the iguana, as well.

Gaby Sgaga, in her third year as president of the HSD board, recalls a favourite from last year. In an energetic grouping that must have been amusing to coordinate, several owners brought together a female dog and her adult pups for a “family reunion” pic with Santa.

Children of the human species are welcome too, of course.

In Whitehorse, the annual Pets and Santa event supports the Humane Society Yukon (not affiliated with HSD).

Shelter administrator Steve Parker says the event has been popular since it began in the early 2000s, and this year’s numbers remain high (Santa already got to cajole pets into picture perfection on November 27 and December 4).

The space is donated by The Feed Store, and photos are snapped and processed by photographer and former HSY board president Gerry Steers.

It must be a Yukon thing: as in Dawson, owners bring all kinds of unusual pets to give them a moment of flashbulb glory with Santa.

Steers says that this year, her favourite photo so far is of an African Grey Parrot, dressed up in a vest with a little red corsage and a top hat.

HSY provides both a shelter and a foster home network, to provide care for overflow and special needs animals, such as diabetic cats, in order to help adhere to the shelter’s “no kill” policy.

Founded in 1987, Humane Society Yukon became a non-profit society in 1989.Last year 460 animals were successfully placed with adoptive families.

The Humane Society Dawson is a strong advocate of neutering and spaying pets to prevent overpopulation and help put a stop to animals having to be euthanized because they cannot find homes. The number of dogs put down each year in Dawson has been drastically reduced since HSD was formed.

Both organizations need volunteers for everything from fundraising to dog walking, and they’d be happy to hear from anyone interested in learning more about volunteering.

In the meantime, your pet is possibly looking at you with those big, wistful eyes because they’re just hoping you will pack them up and take them for a ride to visit Santa’s knee.

And if you’re like many pet owners, maybe you’ll find yourself saying, “Wow, those eyes are hard to resist.”

This time, at least, it’s to support a great cause.

For details: reach the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter in Whitehorse at 867-633-6019 or; and the Humane Society Dawson at 867-993-6900 or Cover and inside photos: Gerry Steers,

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