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Furry friends visit Santa Paws at Tanger Outlets (10 photos)

Four legged friends lined up to get their picture taken with Santa this week

It used to be that only children took pictures on Santa’s lap. Today, it’s pets as well.

Dozens turned out at Tanger Outlets Cookstown on Tuesday for the opportunity to have their furry friends photographed with the jolly old elf.

This represents the first time ever that Tanger Outlets Cookstown has invited shoppers to bring their fur family to the mall and have their photos taken with Santa Claus. 

It was an invitation enthusiastically accepted by dozens of patrons. Christmas is a family affair and, as those attending pointed out, pets are a cherished part of the family. It’s little wonder loving owners include them in the festive fun. 

“We bring our dog for photos every year – except last year, of course, because of Covid,” explains Stephanie, who was there with husband Alex and their dog, King. “We don’t have children, so King is our baby. Photos with Santa is a Christmas tradition.”

Alex laughs. “Stephanie has two leashes and brings us both.” Despite what he may say, you can tell he enjoys the experience as well. 

“This is part of our family Christmas,” says Stephanie as King pulls on his leash, urging his parents toward Santa, his cool façade dropping. Everyone gets excited about a visit with the Santa, pets included.

Stephanie and Alex are reflective of an increasing number of pet owners who splurge on their dogs and cats as one would a child. A recent study which says that the average Canadian pet owner will spend as much as $60 on their furred friends this holiday season. What better gift for proud owners, and how better to preserve cherished holiday memories forever, than with pictures taken by professional photographers?

Pampering our pets at Christmas really isn’t that new. Old folklore in parts of Europe suggest that animals can speak on Christmas Eve, so people would typically give their dog or cat special treats that night so that they don’t say anything bad about you and possibly cost you gifts under the tree. The modern trend of having one’s pet photographed with Santa is as much an evolution of that ages-old Christmas tradition as it is reflection of how we are increasingly treated dogs and cats as parts of the family. 

The dogs seemed to enjoy themselves, based on the happy yapping and feverishly wagging tales. Here an excited spaniel with a festive bow in her hair, there a Jack Russell wearing a sweater so ugly it's cute, and over there, hiding behind her master’s legs, a shy retriever with a collar adorned with jingle bells. King remained calm and aloof, playing his visit with Santa cool. The chance to meet other festive-loving fur-babies, to dress up in yuletide finery, to plead their case for being on Santa’s good list -what’s not for a dog to love? 

You know who else was enjoying himself? Santa. He laughed heartily, his belly jiggling like a bowlful of jelly, whenever a dog licked his nose or tried to nibble on his fluff-lined coat. Santa is clearly a dog guy as he is great with them, patient and soothing.

The backdrop for the photos was Santa’s Cottage, a rustic cabin decked out in true holiday fashion, located in the heart of the mall near Entrance 2. The cottage plays double duty as the setting for family photos with the man in red. 

A variety of photo packages are available for purchase, including print and digital photos. Families are free to be in the portrait alongside their pet.

Missed the opportunity for Fido to meet Santa? There’s still time. Bring your furry friends to Tanger Outlets Cookstown (Entrance 2), on Tuesday, Nov. 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Reservations are required and can be made online here or via the Tanger mobile app.