Maxi, a 3-year-old husky, had his first-ever visit with Santa Claus during the Humane Society’s Paws & Claus outing Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“We just had to see Santa,” said pet owner Charlotte Molitoris of Lancaster, a student at Millersville University.
Perhaps instinctive for a breed known for pulling sleds, Maxi immediately took to the white-bearded resident of the North Pole.
That was all the more compelling, Molitoris said, because Maxi was born in Morocco.
She was on a college tour of the North African country when she found Maxi in a shelter. He’d been hit with a car and had to learn how to walk all over again, she said.
Maxi, who’s been in the U.S. for six months, was among pets who had their photos taken with Santa, courtesy of the Humane Society.
Pet owners who donated a bag of pet food were treated to free photos with Santa, appropriately socially distanced on the porch of his cottage.
Lauren Henderson, Humane spokeswoman, said the society has been inundated with requests for help during the COVID-19 crisis.
The shelter’s Spike’s Pet Pantry has given away 268,000 pounds of pet food to caretakers this year.
“We’ve seen a 204 percent increase in new clients at Spike’s Pet Pantry,” Henderson said. “The biggest increase was in April and May, when people were being laid off due to the virus.”
Volunteers unloaded donations of pet food from the trunks of vehicles outside the stadium entrance.
The donations, Henderson said, will bolster the pantry for the coming winter months, when the society anticipates an increase in demand.
Donations amounted to 1,000 pounds of pet food, she said.
The Reading Fightin Phils lent support to the program by providing the location. Donors received a 10 percent discount for items at the Fightin Phils store, which was open Saturday afternoon.
Henderson said pet food donations can be placed in a blue bin outside the Humane Society at 1729 N. 11th St. The bin is emptied daily, she said.