HARWICH – On Saturday morning, Frosty the dog of Harwich made a strong case that he is a jolly, happy soul while instinctively understanding that, in the dog world, Santa Claus knows if you’ve been good or bad, or if you just want a bone.
“They’re looking for bones, bones, and more bones,” said Santa Claus at the Pleasant Bay Animal Hospital, where people and dogs lined up like children at a mall for a photo with Santa, who goes by the Clark Kent name of Jack Bakker.
That’s right, Santa Claus was posing with dogs on Saturday in Harwich. And he plans to do it again on Christmas eve day at the Brewster Animal Hospital. It’s for a good cause, the Sampson Fund, which raises money to help animals in need of expensive veterinary care that their owners cannot afford.
“We help people with veterinary bills rather than have a pet euthanized for lack of funds,” said Patti Smith, president of the Sampson Fund. So for $15 – and many donated more – pet owners could come in and get a photo of their pet with Santa and know their money was going to the Sampson fund.
And while this particular Santa has been posing with dogs for two Christmas seasons, he slightly misread the Christmas wishes of the 6-and-1/2-month-old cream Chow Chow from Harwich that goes by the name of Frosty. “He probably asked for a big ham, said Matt Watts, who brought Frosty to meet Santa.
Watts and his wife, Heather, brought Frosty for a Christmas photo with Santa because, “Our kids are all grown up. We thought this would make a great Christmas card.”
According to Smith, “Dogs are a part of their family.” She acknowledged that, “Anybody who brings their dog to get their photo taken with Santa is a hard-core dog lover.”
For the most part, said Bakker and Smith, the photos are for Christmas cards. “We’ve had a puppy to a 13-year-old. Someone came in with four of her Vizslas,” said Smith.
And Bakker said, “A couple of guys came in with some stuffed bears because their cats weren’t photogenic.” In two years of being a Santa posing with pets, Bakker said, “I have not gotten bitten. I had a close call last year. But I have not gotten bitten or peed upon.”
Bakker donates his time to the Sampson Fund, which last year gave out more than $100,000 to help 128 dogs and cats, said Smith. The fund, which works with 12 animal hospitals from Eastham to Bourne, raises money from events, grants, and donations, she said.. This event raised $445, said Smith.
For Tina Shaw and Robin Hayes of Harwich, this was an annual Christmas picture. “They are our family,” said Shaw, as she held Maci, one of three Schipperke, “the smallest of the Belgian Shepherds” that she and Hayes purchased in Ontario, Canada. The other two are named, Billy and Lilli.
Holding Maci, Hayes said, “She already got her Christmas present. She asked for another little sister.”
The truth about a story like this is that there is often an elephant in the room. In this case, meet Harley, a 178-pound huge, adorable black Newfoundland wearing antlers that were, literally, designed to fit on a Volkswagen Beetle.
Black, furry, huge, and looking more cuddly than any child’s teddy bear, Harley is a Cape Cod therapy dog, according to his owner, Debbianne Prussman of Dennisport. Harley visits up to 40 people a month, she said.
“Harley is part of a reading group,” said Prussman. “Kids read to dogs and dogs don’t judge them. Someone watches from the side and if the child misses a word, that is part of their vocabulary list for the week.”
Harley was here to meet Santa for a photo he can give out, said Prussman. The photo will be given out as “a Christmas card from the dog,” she said, who volunteered that Marley has his own email address and “gets more email than I do.”
Maybe people write to Harley because they understand that dogs are wise about what is important.
For Christmas, according to Prussman, Harley asked “that everybody be healthy and happy.”
— Brian Tarcy