Fruity, a 1-year-old miniature donkey, donned reindeer antlers and struck a pose with Santa Claus beside Donna Launonen and her 2-year-old granddaughter, Ava, on Saturday.
The donkey was among the pets, including dogs, cats, a guinea pig, rabbit and chicken, that got their pictures taken with Santa Claus during Talmage Farm Agway's 14th annual Christmas photo event for pet owners in Riverhead.
“We brought Fruity last year with her mother, Tootie, when she was the size of a dog,” said Launonen, 44, of Manorville. “Now, she’s bigger than any dog. … She loves the attention. It’s funny. Ava loves Fruity, but is afraid of Santa.”
Talmage Farm Agway, a farm and garden center, has held this event every year since the Talmage family bought the store in May 2000.
Christine Talmage, daughter of Talmage co-owner Bruce Talmage, dressed as Mrs. Claus and snapped pictures. She comes home every year from Bethlehem, Pa., to be a part of the event and said 90 pets came through for pictures last year. This year, 133 pet owners showed up, many with more than one animal.
“It’s fun and a lot of our regulars come back every year,” said Christine Talmage, 27, who grew up in Riverhead. “People can buy anything for their pets here. We sell food for horses, chickens, donkeys and other animals. Obviously we had to open up the event to all animals, not just dogs and cats.”
Wearing a Christmas hat, dobermans Jackson, 1, and his girlfriend Dakota, 2, sniffed the air while waiting for their owners to take them from Santa’s grasp.
“They’re inseparable. It’s really like a love story with them,” said Darby Galletta, 45, of Centereach, who owns Dakota. “This is a great idea. We’re going to start doing this every year. Now, we’re going to get them some treats for being such good dogs.”
Dogs weren’t the only ones getting treats.
“It’s not every day you see a donkey walking in a store,” said Launonen, who left the store with a free bag of apple wafers for Fruity. “Everyone loved her.”