Picture-perfect pets

Puppies with antlers and cats in scarves abounded at the first weekend of "Paws with Claus" at the Crossroads PetCare Superstore.

With Santa boasting a no-bite record and Miller-Roth Animal Organization co-founder Ann Huber taking pictures, the organization photographed 125 animals this weekend. Huber and John Meyer, also a co-founder of the event, expect business to increase during the last two weekends before Christmas.

Tiger, a 1-year-old Australian shepherd, had his picture taken with Santa and MU Professor David Oliver's three daughters, all adorned in Santa hats. This was Tiger's second year posing with Santa.

"We were here when the dog was a little ball of fur," Oliver said. "[It's] for a good cause, and we probably would not do it otherwise."

Volunteers carefully position each animal on Santa's lap. Afterward, they take their places behind Huber and begin coaxing the animals to look at the camera.

"The pets are a lot of fun and the owners love them," said volunteer Bonnie Gregg. "They are too much fun, the animals are just so cute."

Junior Ernie Lierheimer shopped at the store with his 1-year-old lab mix Eddie, and they saw Santa and the blue snowflake display.

Eddie calmly sat next to Santa, patiently looking at the camera while Huber and a volunteer played with a squeaky toy to hold his attention.

"[It's] neat to have a picture of him," Lierheimer said.

Although this year's event has seen only dogs or cats, with the exception of one bunny, past years brought out a variety of unusual animals. Santa said last year a little boy bought a fish at the store and had his picture taken with Santa and his new pet.

As each Polaroid picture began to appear, Huber carefully inspected them for quality and to make sure the animal was looking at the camera. Then she placed each photo in a frame for the owners.

"There have been a lot [of customers] that have come time after time both Christmas and for Easter in the spring," Huber said.

Each picture costs $5, and for the first time this year, the customers also get a gift bag. The bags include coupons for various pet care supplies and a stuffed toy.

Proceeds from "Paws with Claus" go to find homes for older, abused, neglected or abandoned animals in Boone County. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21.

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