BRISTOL — Princess the dog was having her photo taken with Santa Claus. Donning a red Santa hat, the golden retriever acted a bit restless as the photographer, Janet Graham, snapped a series of festive photos. Finally, Graham got the perfect shot.
“It usually takes four or five shots before we get a great one,” said Graham with a laugh. “Not all of the animals are as easy to work with, but they’re all stars.”
Graham was taking photos of pets for the Humane Society of Elkhart County’s annual Howliday open house on Sunday. Each year, hundreds of pet owners from around the area stop by the Bristol shelter for an afternoon of treats and pictures with Santa.
The holiday open house was created a number of years ago to generate awareness and funds for the shelter, said Anne Reel, executive director of the Humane Society. Open house visitors are invited each year to tour the shelter and see the 300-plus animals housed in the facility.
“It’s a fun way to get people to see the animals,” Reel explained. “It gives people the opportunity to learn about the shelter.”
The open house is not a time for pet adoptions, said Reel, but they do hope people become educated about the Humane Society and consider adopting in the future.
“We’ve got snakes, rabbits, iguanas, guinea pigs,” Reel said. “People get to see we have more than just dogs and cats.”
Each year the open house attracts more than 200 pet owners and their furry friends, many of whom are “alumni” of the Humane Society — dogs and cats adopted from the Bristol shelter. People enjoy coming back to the shelter and sharing how their pets are doing, Reel said.
One of the main attractions of the open house is the pet photos with Santa Claus. People typically bring their dogs to be photographed, but volunteers have also seen pet owners bring cats and bunnies, too. The front room quickly filled with dogs of every breed wearing holiday-themed hats and scarves, waiting for their turn with Santa. Each photo cost $5 and benefited the Humane Society.
This year’s event, which lasted from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, also featured a table of free treats — cookies and punch for humans, pumpkin treats for dogs — and baskets of goodies to be raffled.
The real fundraiser, though, was at the Red Barn Resale Shop located next door to the shelter. Open on the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month, the Red Barn Resale Shop is opened during the annual open house for people to do their holiday shopping. All items at the shop had been donated and all proceeds benefited the Humane Society. Last year, the Red Barn raised around $30,000 for the shelter.
Besides fundraising, the open house is a great time to celebrate the holiday season, said several shelter volunteers and visitors. Many people enjoy the event so much that they bring their children and pets every year, such as Jill Nann and her collie, Blazer. Nann said it was Blazer’s third time at the open house.
“It’s just a fun time for people to celebrate the holidays with their pets,” said Lori Mischke, a volunteer at the shelter. “We look forward to it every year.”
For more information about the Elkhart County Humane Society call 848-4225.