Barking, squawking and chatter filled Award Pet Supply on Saturday afternoon as residents lined the store to get their pets’ pictures taken for the holiday season. The event’s proceeds benefit Columbia Second Chance, a private pet rescue organization that finds homes for dogs and cats throughout Missouri.
Howdy Matchery donated his time to pose as Santa Claus.
“I’ve been Santa before and I enjoy it whether it’s with kids, dogs or cats,” Matchery said. He and his wife foster dogs from Columbia Second Chance in their home and try to support the moneymaking events because they see the effect the organization has on animals.
“The supporters are always looking for things to bring in revenue,” Matchery said.
Pet owners paid $15 for a professional Christmas photo with Santa and their pets. About half the animals waiting in line were elaborately decorated in Santa hats, chiming bell collars and Christmas bows. A Saint Bernard, wearing four strands of pearls around her neck, waited patiently with her elegant-looking owner.
Columbia Second Chance is run by volunteers who donate their time to care for the foster animals and organize fund-raisers.
“It’s really great that all the proceeds benefit the organization. Award Pet Supply helped us advertise, and the photographer is 100 percent volunteer,” said Brian Rehg, a board member for Columbia Second Chance.
As a coordinator for the holiday event, Rehg’s job was to keep the animals calm and under control.
“I’m kind of here to help with the madness,” Rehg said.
Matchery, who works one-on-one with the dogs as Santa, said the craziness of the event does not bother him.
“I’ve been a UPS man for 30 years now, so I am pet savvy if you know what I mean. Plus I have all the foster animals in my house, and I think dogs can tell I am comfortable. If you’re afraid of them, they can tell, too,” he said.
This is the fourth year the holiday photo charity has occurred in addition to the Halloween and Easter photo shoots in October and March.
“We have really great supporters here in Columbia that come out to get the pictures taken during the holidays. We’ve even done pictures with birds, rats and rabbits,” Rehg said.
Sara Congleton, a volunteer for Columbia Second Chance for three years, came to support the event with her adopted dog, Griffin.
“I started volunteering for a class I was in and fell in love with all the animals and volunteers. Last year I dressed up as the Easter Bunny for the spring photo event,” Congleton said.
She said the organization is doing more than just finding animals a home.
“I think Second Chance is good because they fit the animal with the person adopting,” Congleton said.
Columbia Second Chance, which is nearing its 20th anniversary, recently completed a $200,000 project in Moniteau County. Proceeds from the holiday photography, other donations and a large capital gift helped provide the organization with the new facility.