Lots of very good dogs and one decidedly special fish got their picture taken with Santa at Cheney Mansion last Saturday, during the Park District of Oak Park’s first ever “Pet Photos with Santa” event.

“We’re excited to be able to do this since there are so many pet lovers in Oak Park,” said Susan Crane, park district events coordinator.

With COVID-19 mitigations precluding traditional indoor activities, the park district added the new event to its holiday roster and the response was very warm. 

“We had 18 slots available, and we had 14 of them filled,” said Crane.
“Considering it’s a first-time event, we feel that’s pretty good.”

The lovable pets, some of which were dressed in Christmas attire, posed with Kris Kringle for professionally shot photographs. Some families opted to join their pet in their pictures with Santa, while others chose to let their pets get some one-on-one time with the big guy.

Although many pups would have probably liked to have sat on Santa’s lap and snuggled into his red furry suit, COVID-19 restrictions forbade it.

“Animals sit next to Santa and Santa stays masked and gloved,” said Crane.

While the event was open to all pets, all but one of the participating animals were dogs. The sole non-canine attendee was Kevin, the betta fish, brought in by a little girl who lives at the Hephzibah Children’s Association on North Blvd. 

“The fish has become a very important part of her life,” said Janet Sullivan, Hephzibah’s residential coordinator. 

The fruits of Kevin’s photoshoot with Santa will be a surprise Christmas gift for Hephzibah Home’s behavioral interventionist, who owns the fish. Kevin is used to teach the children responsibility and how to build relationships.

The pictures will also go in the little girl’s photo album, which they receive when they leave Hephzibah. 

“She was very excited,” said Sullivan. “It was a total surprise to her.”

While the little girl certainly had fun, decked out in a Christmas dress complete with a mask printed with gingerbread men, Sullivan wasn’t sure Kevin enjoyed the outing.

“I don’t know if Kevin’s very happy that I took him out in the cold, but I’m hoping he enjoys having a little photo of himself,” said Sullivan.

Whether grumpy or jolly, Kevin is sure to be on the nice list this year.

Join the discussion on social media!