Annette Hayden Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Come on Bowser and Lassie and RinTin and Benji, Charlote and Goosegoose and Pollie and Bessie dash away, dash away, dash away all with your owners to Bear Paw Veterinary to see Santa Claus! For Santa Paws photos that is. Jolly ol’ Santa Paws and Mrs. Paws are spending today at Bear Paw Veterinary Service enjoying time with local pets. It’s been a busy year, Santa said, and what better way to unwind than stroking a furry friend and paw-sing for a photo? Santa Paws, played by veterinary doctors Paul McCann and Chris Gebhardt, and Mrs. Paws, played by veterinarian Lisa Ritchey, will be available for photographs with pets from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today only at the clinic. The nominal fee of $4 per photo will not only provide a treasured family keepsake, but will help raise funds to assist animals receiving sanctuary at the Havre Animal Shelter. “This is the fourth or fifth year we have dressed up the doctors as Santa well the two male doctors are Santa Paws and the female doctor is Mrs. Paws to offer Christmas photographs with pets,” said Meg Lippy, office manager of the local vet clinic.“There will be a four-hour time block with each doctor,” Lippy added. “Mrs. Paws will be first. She is posing for photos with pets from 9 a.m. to noon. Dr. McCann Santa Paws is doing photos from 1 to 4 p.m. and Dr. Gebhardt Santa Paws will be doing photos from 4 to 6p. m.” The clinic has been taking appointments for the photo shoots, but walk-ins today are more than welcome. “We like to have them scheduled, but it’s great for those who want to walk in, too,” Lippy said. McCann, the owner of Bear Paw Veterinary, came up with the Santa Paws idea several years ago to offer holiday fun for his clients, as well as a way to provide medical care to animals he may never get to see. “All of the proceeds from the photos go directly to the Havre Animal Shelter,” Lippy said. “Some of the things the money is used for at the shelter are treatments of things like mange, ear mites, deworming and I think some has helped purchase leashes. Mostly it’s for medical treatments.” Annually, the holiday photographs have raised about $80, an amount that has eased tremendous suffering for animals who have become lost or been abandoned. “We’re trying to do a little better this year,” Lippy said. “As of (Wednesday) morning we had close to 20 photograph appointments scheduled. People can call us today or just walk in. People can come right into the clinic and the elf at the front counter (Lippy) will direct them to the shop where we are taking the photos. A little gal who works for us parttime doing our promotions, Cassie Holt, is taking the photos." No need to worry about props or costumes, either. Santa and Mrs. Paws have thought of everything, and pretty much everything is welcome. “Oh gosh, we have taken photos with a cow, dogs, cats we had a chicken scheduled, but they cancelled," Lippy said. "If you have a ferret or whatever, the doctors will take the photo with anything that won't hurt them! "The backdrop for the photographs is some Christmas material, and of course there is Santa or Mrs. Paws and we have little outfits for the pets that will wear them," she said. "We have Santa and elf hats, some jingle bells that some animals will let us drape around them, and a reindeer headband they can wear.” And though the event is focused on the family pets, Lippy said if kids or other family members want to be in the photo they, too, are welcome. According to McCann, it’s a safe event for all ages. So far, he said, “Nobody has escaped and nobody has been bitten!" But then again, the fundraiser is about taking the bite out of infestation and disease. “The money allows the stray animals to receive medical care that they generally wouldn't, which gives the animals relief,” said Gordon Inabnit, Havre animal control officer and shelter director. Inabnit is the one and only animal control officer in Havre. He’s been on the job of rescuing lost animals and keeping the streets safe from aggressive and diseased strays for close to 17 years. “The animal shelter receives taxes, it is completely run by Havre,” he said. “The operation is budgeted by the City of Havre. But the money from the Santa Paws photos and Bear Paw Vet pretty much goes to get medical treatment for animals in need of attention. It helps provide medical to animals that wouldn't get it.” As of Wednesday, the shelter housed five dogs, two cats and a kitten all strays, Inabnit said. All animals that would have been out in the cold. “The weather's changing, but how many animals we have really depends. In spring and fall when the dogs and cats start to have litters I have had up to 15 animals in here, and things get kind of tight.” The heated shelter offers eight inside dog kennels and four inside cat kennels. “And I do have a volunteer that helps out on weekends,” he said. “She's a good gal Lisa Thissele who is also with Bear Paw Vet probably been with me for about 10 years. The length of time the animals stay at the shelter varies. "I have had some here up to a month-and-a-half,” Inabnit said. “Every dog brought into a shelter, by state law, has to be kept for four days unless their owner comes to get them. It’s a mandatory 96 hours. After that, depending on their condition, they may be euthanized or be eligible for adoption. “For adoptions, cat or dog, male or female the fee is $50,” he said. “We pay for the spay or neuter and the new owner pays for the shots. It is mandatory under state law that every pet adopted from a shelter be fixed.” Folks interested in adopting a shelter animal into their family can call the Havre Animal Shelter at 265-2959 or the Havre Police Department at 265-4361. Viewing of shelter animals is by appointment only. As for Inabnit’s Christmas wishes beyond the help he receives for the shelter animals from Bear Paw Veterinary Service? “I'd like to see ID tags and city tags on every pet,” he said. “About 95 percent of lost pets found without a tag don't get back home. And about 95 with a tag do get back to their homes. I like to see them get home.” For those who don’t have homes to get back to this holiday season, Inabnit said some toys and chew bones would certainly be welcome. Donations for the shelter can be delivered to the police station.