The bad news: No Pet Photos with Santa this year. The good news: WNLP has 10 years’ worth of highlights.


2010: a bevy of boys and beagles.

2016: 6 pugs a’squirming.

2014: No animals were harmed in the photographing of this cat.

Photos by WNLP’s Bob Wellinski, story by WNLP’s Beth Boardman

My buddy of 30-plus years, Bob Wellinski, and I usually synchronize our watches for our favorite holiday event: the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter’s Pet Photos with Santa.

Alas, COVID-19 has caused its cancellation this year. 

We could insist that our past dedication to covering that December event was because of our devotion to WNLP.


It’s because we love watching doting humans bring their pets, often rescues from the shelter, to have their pictures taken with Santa — and to witness the merriment that ensues.       

“Are you going tomorrow?” I would ask Bob. “Are you kidding?” he would reply. “It’s been written on my calendar for a month!”

2018: What better nest for a burrowing hedgehog than Santa’s beard?

And so we would spend the better part of those Saturdays with shelter Director Jane Bernard and her dedicated crew, watching them situate the arriving critters — mainly dogs and cats but occasionally a horse here or a hamster there — to pose with Santa. 

And that is no easy task.

A hedgehog burrowing in Santa’s beard, a donkey not really interested in fame, and of course the famous 6 pugs a’squirming (or however many each year) added to the fun. Not all creatures great and small wanted any part of it; they hid, they wandered off, they were too busy sniffing new friends in the room, they were focused on trying to snatch a treat or two, or they simply thought Santa was a strange alien being.   

Over the years Jane has perfected an odd, chirpy, otherworldly sound to make the animals sit up and take notice as they posed as best they could with patient Santa. While Bob shot for WNLP, professional photographer Sara Kessler captured portraits for the pet owners, each photo reaping $10 for the deserving shelter.

2013: Jane Bernard arranges a passel of pups.

2020: Angel Wellinski expresses her dismay about no Pet Photos this year. (And about still having to wear that silly hat.)

Several of my pets have come from the shelter. The Wellinski family’s dog, Angel, came from the shelter. In many cases, our rescues and many others who pose with Santa each year were formerly neglected, abandoned, cold, hungry, lost, or all of the above. How can you not be grateful for the work these folks do and not revel in seeing these animals so happy and well cared for?

So this year, for a valid yet sad reason, 100-plus critters will not visit with Santa.

But next year Bob and I will be there, our virtual tails wagging, anticipating whatever loveable pets might come through the door.

Meantime, enjoy some of Bob’s 10 years’ worth of photos here. And Merry Christmas.

FOR INFORMATION on the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter and its pets available for adoption, and to make a donation, visit La Porte County Small Animal Shelter | Facebook.    

2018: Eli the donkey interviews for a spot in Santa’s sleigh team.

2018: Tinier than the 8 tiny reindeer.

2016: Sometimes, you just need a hug.

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