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Ridge Animal Clinic hosts pets for COVID-friendly photos with Santa

COVID accommodations include reserved times and no owners inside

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (December 14, 2020) – Santa’s annual visit to Ridge Animal Clinic wasn’t the same as in years past, but it gave local pet owners an opportunity to have their pet’s photo taken with Santa in a COVID-safe environment.

Ridge Animal Clinic closes at 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and on December 12 started accepting pets for photos with Santa at 1:30. This year, the photo opportunity was only available to Ridge Animal Clinic clients to keep numbers down.

Ridge Animal Clinic
Although owners couldn’t come inside and numbers were limited, pets like Sophie still got to take their annual photos with Santa. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The process

Pet owners reserved a photo time beforehand and called the clinic when they arrived. Veterinary Technician Becky Lapkovitch answered their calls and directed her husband Bryon to pick up the pets from their cars. Bryon brought the pets inside to the lobby area, where Practice Manager Jennifer Galbreath took photos of them with Santa. The pets were then brought back out to their owners as Becky and Jennifer selected and printed the best photos, which were brought out to the owners as well.

Ridge Animal Clinic
Jennifer Galbreath (left) took photos and sent them to Becky Lapkovitch, who, with the help of Lloyd the Chihuahua—a rescue from Calumet City—printed them for the owner. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Ridge Animal Clinic
Jennifer Galbreath (center) works to get a good photo of Chance with Santa, as Pinky Janota looks on. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The process was put in place to minimize personal interaction between staff and pet owners, and photo times were scheduled to be roughly 10 minutes apart. Galbreath estimated 50-60 pets were photographed with Santa in 2019, but few more than 20 joined Santa this year.

Galbreath said coming to Ridge Animal Clinic for photos offers a safer environment for older pets or pets with compromised health. “A lot of these animals are sickly, they can’t go out to public places like [PetSmart, etc.] because it’s dangerous for them. They’re not vaccinated because they have cancer or other things going on, and so this is sometimes the only chance to get their pets’ pictures,” she said.

Ridge Animal Clinic
Becky Lapkovitch (left), and Jennifer Galbreath (right) pause their photo operation to show their masked smiles. Lloyd was too comfortable in his festive sweater to turn around. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Santa in a year of changes

Santa has been coming to visit pets at Ridge Animal Clinic for over a decade, and in the past has said it’s one of his favorite assignments. Santa was joined by Pinky Janota, who with her husband Roland founded Settlers Pond Shelter on their family farm in Beecher, Illinois, as a no-kill rescue for “any type of animal in need.” Janota said Santa appears regularly at Settlers Pond and has kept most of his other engagments this year, though many included health and safety accommodations. Santa and Janota said they especially missed visiting hospitals and nursing homes this year.

Santa bonds with Coco, a Bassett Hound puppy. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Although Jacob is old and losing his vision, he still made the trip out to see Santa this year. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Ridge Animal Clinic is located at 3667 Ridge Road, Lansing, IL.


Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.