Paws with Claus – Pet pictures with Santa at Oakville Place


Stevie Malvern, 10 months, waits in line with her.  parents Allie and Brad and their five-year-old pom-a-poo Muffin to see Santa  Paws with claus – Shappert1a: Lee and Nancy Young accompany their 1-year-old baby Kaylin and two Rottweilers, Dozer and Willy, 8 and 10, to see Santa.

Stevie Malvern, 10 months, waits in line with her. parents Allie and Brad and their five-year-old pom-a-poo Muffin to see Santa.


What do you want for Christmas? What does your pet want?

You can take your pet to Oakville Place to meet Santa to find out.

On Dec. 9 and 16, small furry friends can have their picture taken with Santa at the mall.

In the more than four years the mall has been doing this, “99 per cent of people bring their dogs,” said Catharine Fiorillo, office manager for the mall.

But sometimes people bring their rabbits, gerbils, hamsters and once someone even brought a tortoise.

Fiorillo says special permission would be required if you wanted to bring your pony for a picture with Santa.

“You’d definitely have to talk to the general manager. It’s a little big, but we’ve never had that request actually,” she said.

The biggest creature the mall has had “was a dog, a Great Dane,” Santa said. “It’s almost like a small pony.”

Santa, who always stays in character while wearing the red suit, said he’s never been bitten by an animal that comes for pictures, but “some people find it funny to have a turtle poop on you. It wasn’t too bad, except it was a little runny.” He doesn’t get mad when mishaps happen. “You just give them love,” he said. “”It’s like children. Some are rambunctious and others are quiet.”

The most exotic animal brought to have a picture taken with him was “a big iguana. That was an interesting one.”

He has pets of his own. “Santa has a whole bunch of reindeer. There’s the ones that pull the sleigh but there’s auxiliary reindeer as well. They’re countless,” he said.

The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides will be at the booth with a dog-guide-in-training available if you don’t have a pet with you.

“We are a big supporter of the dog guides. They come into the mall throughout the year and train the dogs here. So since we are such a big supporter of them, we try to give back during the Santa season as well,” Fiorillo said.

Photo cost $10 and visitors can get a picture with Santa and their own pet, or one of the dog guides who are there.

”We’ll have a donation bin on our table so that people are encouraged to give more. If they don’t have a pet, people can still give to our organization,” said Jessica Westwood-Smith, a dog guides event and volunteer coordinator.

“It costs about $25,000 to raise and train one of our dogs. So with no government funding we really rely on all of these fundraising initiatives,” she said.

The Oakville firefighters will be selling calendars at a nearby booth.

“Each month of the calendar features an Oakville firefighter and a future dog guide puppy. And the money that the calendar raises – 100 per cent of it goes back to charity,” said Helena Thompson, a community volunteer who started the event.

Calendars are $10, with $1 of each calendar going to the Dog Guides, and $9 going to various charities including the Oakville Hospital Foundation, Ian Anderson House hospice

and Oakville Professional Firefighters Association sponsorships.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile cause,” said Allan Kiss, an Oakville firefighter. “Last year with the money raised we were able to sponsor three puppies for three individuals who needed them, which just gives a sense of satisfaction, like a rewarding feeling.”

Thompson started volunteering for the dog guides by fostering puppies and wanted to do more. So she asked the Oakville firefighters to do a charity calendar and they agreed.

“I really admire what the dog guides do and was quite impressed with how dogs can really change people’s lives.”

For this event, the mall had to specifically find a Santa who doesn’t have allergies to pets, Fiorillo said.