By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Filling stockings for Fido and Fluffy
Santa Claws gets loving attention from many pets
Kathy Rakestraw, with her greyhounds Blaze, left, and Cori, right, along with her cat P. J., Labrador mix Rio and parrot Reggie, pose for a picture Friday during the Pet Photos with Santa Claws at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. - photo by Tom Reed

Want to get a pet photo?

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today, 1-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, 845 W. Ridge Road

Cost: $30 photo sitting includes six poses; photo disk, additional $5

Contact: Appointments are required. Call 770-532-6617.


Kathy Rakestraw is always first in line when the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia holds a photo shoot for pets with Santa.

On Friday afternoon, she toted Reggie the parrot in a birdcage backpack, P.J. the cat in a carrier case in one hand and leashes for dogs Rio, Blaze and Cori in the other hand.

"I live in Ball Ground now, but I still come because I love doing this every year. It's a holiday tradition," said Rakestraw, who has taken Christmas pictures at the Humane Society for 10 years. "I send out about 150 Christmas cards, and my vet has every year posted it in the office. People ask me if Santa is my husband because he's the same man every year."

For 18 years, Ron Gregory has

portrayed Santa Claws, Santa Claus' cousin who always wanted to be a veterinarian.

"It all goes back to the Lake Lanier Parrothead group helping out the Humane Society, and I said I would try it out in 1992," he said. "It gets me in the Christmas spirit, and I love seeing the same people every year. Reggie always comes and perches on my shoulder."

Gregory has posed with all types of pets, including snakes and a goat.

"The funniest year was the one-eyed goat," he said. "When the photographer leaned down to get its attention, it butted him in the head."

Making five different animals pose for one photo is no easy feat. Rio, a black Labrador retriever, sat calmly on the bench next to Santa, who held P.J. in his lap.

Rakestraw sat at Santa's feet, calling for greyhounds Blaze and Cori to stop roaming the room and have a seat.

"Reggie, I forgot you were there," Gregory said to the parrot quietly perching on his shoulder.

Humane Society President Rick Aiken and Celestial Studios photographer Fox Gradin squeak toys and make chirping and barking noises to make sure all five animals are looking at the camera.

"Getting the shot comes with a lot of luck, and you have to remember to shoot quickly," Gradin said. "You also have to think about composition with the background. This year, we have a black backdrop, so black cats and dogs need to sit on the red cloth draped over the bench or in front of Santa."

Gradin, who has donated her time for the past six years, mixes up the backdrop each year, switching between traditional settings and modern themes. This year, large wreaths hang in front of black cloth.

"We try to make it look like a professional studio," she said. "It's always so much fun doing this."

After Rakestraw leaves, dachshund Little Red toddles into the room with Gainesville owner Carolee Gailey, who makes it a point to get Christmas pet photos each year.

"We have seven pictures for the past seven years," she said while holding up a cookie to make Little Red pay attention to the camera.

Though many pet owners are returning for another year, Joy and Ron Dobbins decided to bring in their three dogs for the first time after seeing the event on Facebook this week.

"We're doing this for the cause, but it's also great to have some adorable pictures," said Joy Dobbins as Santa holds onto little Yorkshire terrier Nala, wiggly Shih Tzu Scout and a large Lab named Sarge.

Appointment times are still open for today and Sunday.
"It all goes to benefit animals here, but it's more fun than anything," said Julie Edwards, director of development and marketing, who is bringing in her own pets on Sunday for the first time. "It's about spreading that Christmas spirit."