Humane Society's Christmas tradition a barking success

LAWRENCEVILLE - Here's something you don't see every day:

A one-eyed Pekingese named "Wink" climbs across the red, velvety knees of a pet-loving Santa, turns happily toward a digital camera and basically smiles for a Christmas snapshot that's equal parts adorable and hilarious.

Next in line: Weimaraners, an Italian greyhound, an Old English sheepdog, a bulldog named "Munson" and an array of well-tempered mutts and cats.

A typical mall-Santa photo shoot, only cheaper and with fur.

For 15 years running, the Gwinnett Humane Society has put together "Photos With Santa" - an innovative fundraiser that pairs pets with Saint Nick for memorable Christmas keepsakes.

For a $10 donation, pet-owning patrons earned a photo package and a chance to peruse the organization's "Fashion Corner" of donated items at discount prices.

In two weekends, the event earned the Humane Society a Christmas bonus of about $2,200 - money that will aide the adoption process and educate pet owners.

By all indications, the event's four-legged, festive and photogenic stars had a ball.

"I love animals," said Santa, who - believe it or not, kids - finds time to volunteer on the Humane Society's board. "We've had wonderful pets this year."

But the photo shoot is hardly limited to felines and fidos.

Santa has posed patiently with a snake, pot-bellied pigs and, he joked, a slew of reindeer.

Leaders estimated the photo shoot attracted more than 125 pets in its two successful days this year.

"We have a lot of repeat shoppers," said board member Chris D'Avanzo. "It's like a ritual."