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Claus meets Claws

"Four barking dogs, three guinea pigs, two tabby cats and some hamsters on a rare spree.Photos with Santa produced plenty of giggles and guffaws last weekend in Oak Harbor. They also generated a few howls and a squawk or two. Island Pet Center hosted an annual event where pet owners can bring their favorite pals in for a picture with the jolly old elf himself.In all, more than 150 shots were taken with everything from bunnies to 6-foot boa constrictors taking their place on Santa’s lapClarence and Karen Knoll started the pet store 22 years ago. Today, their sons Greg and Brian are co-owners. This is the fourth year the family has offered pet photos with Santa with Greg and Brian each taking a day to put on the red suit. Karen Knoll said they saw a need and filled it.“There wasn’t anything nearby for Santa pictures. You had to go all the way to Alderwood Manor,” she said.Rather than looking to make a big profit, the Knolls offered the pet pics at only $2 a shot and handed out a $2 discount coupon at the same time.“We do it for fun more than anything else,” said Brian Knoll. “It’s fun to see the people with their pets.”Customer Ada Rey brought in a couple of dogs on Saturday and a couple more, namely Basil and Spike, on Sunday. Basil, an older dachshund, showed some apprehension to visiting Saint Nick, but Spike thought the experience was great. As the Polaroid photo came into view everyone seemed pleased.“Spike smiled,” Karen Knoll said.“He usually does,” Rey replied. An hour or so later, Rey returned with Misty the cat who also posed with Santa. Despite gentle scratching under the chin and the attention-grabbing whistle of a red and white squeaky toy, Misty refused to smile.Bird, a blue and gold macaw owned by Jeff and Jasmine Mann, had a better time. The curious bird leaned over and tried to pluck his photo out of Jeff’s hand.“It looks as if he likes it,” someone said.“He likes everything,” said Jeff holding the picture a beak’s-reach away. Jasmine Mann said they had no particular plans for the photos of Bird and their dog Mischief. They just wanted a keepsake of a special moment.“They’re both one year old so this is their first Christmas,” she said. “This is just to hang on the wall.”It was also a first for Littlefoot.“This is a kitty who hasn’t been out of the house before. That’s just a little background for you Santa,” advised Karen KnollBrian Knoll, as Santa, shifted in his seat slightly.“Oh, Santa’s ready,” he said with a light chuckle.For the most part, the Knolls say the Claus-meets-claws photo days have always gone well with only an isolated problem of a bite or accidental bladder release.“Sometimes you get a couple howls but they usually settle down,” said Greg Knoll. “Toward the end of the day after you’ve had a lot of animals on your lap, some of them have to sniff you down for a while and then they’re ready for their picture.Just the same, the Knolls have learned that their customers are full of surprises.We had someone bring in chickens,” said Brian. “It was the first time we’ve had farm animals. It was fun. They were very tame chickens.”"

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