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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v08n25)
Howling at the Moon - Pictures with Santa - by Susan Smith
posted: Dec. 16, 2011

Howling at the Moon header

Perhaps you remember, years ago, a pet store in Nora Plaza behind where Target is today. I want to say it was called Animal Fair. Correct me if I am wrong. When our kids were 2 and 5 we were shopping in there one December day. They were having a promotion that we couldn't refuse. If you bought a pet for Christmas for $5.00 it could be delivered to your door by Santa. As parents, we thought this would be great fun so we decided to get a hamster. I will never forget the excitement of it. It was a surprise so the kids knew nothing of the anticipation. We, on the other hand, could hardly wait to see Santa come in the door with his special present. We knew the look on their faces would be unforgettable as they took in the surprise, the hamster and Santa. Indeed it has been unforgettable as it was a Kodak moment, to quote a cliché, and we still have the pictures to show. Perhaps to us, what was so unforgettable was the Santa. He was a sorry thing. He was a pimpled (above his beard), skinny, tall teenager in a cheap suit with a felt-like beard. But due to the magic of Christmas the kids never noticed. They were enthralled. If he had come roly-poly in soft red velvet with bushy white eyebrows and rosy cheeks the kids wouldn't have liked him any better. And reindeer could not have been more exciting than the little hamster he produced from within his humble bag. And so began the journey of small pet ownership at our house. Fred, as he was named, was followed by King George and his female cohabitant, Marrison. They were followed by the Guinea Pig, Rhoda the Rodent and assorted rabbits and one lizard. Since these animals have short lives there were never many at any time. I never really thought about the real gift we were giving. . . .the gift of love and teaching responsibility. Clearly, there are those that love their rodents as indicated here in the photo of the very lovely Santa that came to our store for our photos with Santa in 2008.
American Pet Products Association (APPA) is doing all that it can to bring small pets back in the home (they are being replaced by electronics). I quote from their trade magazine: "There are so many joys and benefits pets of all types bring to our lives, and they truly help instill responsibility among children from ensuring they have plenty of food and water to helping them receive daily exercise and play," said APPA President Bob Vetere. In a future article I will tell you how they are helping teachers bring pets to the classroom. But for now if you are looking for an activity to fill the winter break with your kids who own a dog or cat then read on. . . .
Celebrating the joys and benefits pets bring to the lives of children specifically, APPA is currently accepting poems for its 4th Annual Pets Add Life Children's Poetry Contest.
"Every submission we receive for our Children's Poetry Contest is the child's expression of just how much their pet means to them and the happiness these companions bring to their lives," Vetere said. Students in grades 3-8 are invited to write a unique poem about a cat or dog, what they love about them and the joys they bring, then post it online at or mail their final poem and submission form to: Pets Add Life, 661 Sierra Rose Dr., Reno, NV 89511. Deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2012, at 5:00pm EST. One student from each grade level (six total) nationwide will win a $250 gift certificate for pet products, and a byline in a nationally circulated publication. In addition, the six winning students' classrooms will each win a $1,000 scholarship to spend on dog- and cat-related education.
The love and bonding between child and pet help to strengthen a child's social skills, giving them the potential to do better in a school setting. Perhaps parents can use this love of pets as a tool to teach against bullying, a problem given much focus today. Pets make you smile! Happy Holidays and thanks for reading.
PS: Don't forget to shop local.

Susan Smith is a life-long area resident and is the owner of City Dogs Grocery located at 52nd and College. Send your pet related questions/comments to
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