Snakes and Rottweilers help Santas raise cash – October 25, 1997

Detroit Free Press (MI)October 25, 1997


Some people will do anything for a good cause — even if
it means dressing up in a Santa suit and smiling while
boa constrictors coil around their neck and arms.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, said Clinton Township
resident Chris Pokorski, who last year put on Santa red
and white to pose for pictures with pets, including two
slithering boas about as thick as a standard light pole.

“I was the only Santa that would take them since the
other Santa was highly afraid of snakes,” said Pokorski,
27, one of several volunteers who pose with pets to
raise money for the Michigan Animal Adoption Network.

You too could be in Pokorski’s — er, Santa’s — boots
and mugging with pets in what is becoming a popular
tradition: having Rover (or Slimy, as the case may be)
pose with Santa. Last year, people in the Detroit area
waited in line up to two hours for $5 Polaroids.

Consequently, pet Santas are in short supply. Auditions
are set for noon-3 p.m. Sunday at Pet Supplies “Plus”
stores in St. Clair Shores, 30123 Harper; Livonia, 2943
W. Seven Mile, and Taylor, 20725 Ecorse.

Santa candidates receive gifts for trying out. Most will
be chosen — barring any ill will between would-be
Santas and the try-out pets.

Being a pet Santa is strictly volunteer — though Santas
are given a $25 gift certificate for each photo session.

The 5-year-old event is the largest fund-raiser for
MAAN, which finds homes for abandoned and abused animals
and builds dog houses for dogs left outside in

Monty Sutcliffe, 47, of St. Clair Shores regards his
Santa stint as a great experience, despite a menacing
rottweiler who was leery of the fat, scruffy guy in
velvet. “He would sit there fine and then all of a
sudden he’d growl,” Sutcliffe said.

Sutcliffe, who still has all his digits, was unfazed.
He’s returning this year.

Testy rottweilers aside, the money made is put to good
use, said Chris Whittlesey, 38, a pet Santa from
Farmington Hills who once was asked to cradle 10 ferrets
at once. He did.

“The biggest thing is you know you’re raising money for
a good cause,” he said. “And it’s wonderful seeing
people who care so much about their pets.”

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