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Reindogs on Parade

Putting Their Best Paws Forward


You say you love a parade. Did you ever think your dog might love one too -- a very special seasonal event, where even a hound dog might become the King for a night, complete with rhinestones and back-up singers?

All Dressed Up With Someplace to Go -- The novelty industry capitalizes on the reindog phenomenon with pet accessories such as the antlers worn by Chubby (top) and the Santa hat adorning Bubby, two Shetland Sheepdogs and aspiring paraders currently residing in New Orleans. (Photo by Josette Capozzi and Alex Cuda)

They call them reindog parades. You'll find them most often in heavily forested states like West Virginia. Deer-size canines reside there -- along with some of the most fabulous wildlife in the world. So why shouldn't the dogs wear antlers too?

With their head-gear clipped in place, slews of doggy Rudolphs race together into the wintery vistas. If one dog acts as a lantern, more constitute a brightly lit wave, sailing out like the fairy tale carpet of Ali Baba. The rug must be well-lit. Otherwise, how could a flying carpet navigate in the middle of nowhere?

Some of the dogs choose to prance in teams. The parade acts as a cathartic event for them, as well as their red-suited human side-kicks. Canine expressions tell their story -- glee in every sidelong look. For 12 long months, they anticipate this time of frolic, out-waiting the human gloom (election news and rotten weather!) of every November.

Few strict rules apply. Packs of reindogs, may not participate. Pack behavior reveals canines at their worst -- unless they arrive all dressed up, of course! Then, any number slip by glowering judges. A line of performing dogs dancing down Main Street, by definition, cannot be hanging around alleys or chewing up the furniture.

Participants may bring their favorite vehicles. Wagons and sleighs create entirely new traffic jams during these shenanigans. Roller skates find their way under all of them. These devices solve all stubborn transportation problems -- unless it snows. Then, roller skates must stay home with cats, fish, ferrets, and wannabes (puppies under six months).

Participants may parade on two legs or four. As long as they stream down the avenue, no one complains about the posture they assume. Dogs bearing carts, however, will be advised to proceed like Clydesdales, not Rockettes.

Bells turn up on every single reindog. Chihauhaus flirt with tiny ring-a-lings in their neckerchiefs. Poodles often don them as earrings. Huge jingling ornaments cluster on harnesses and carriages, hauled by St. Bernards and Bernese Mountain Dogs. The human experience bears a striking resemblence, overall, to getting caught inside a music box.

This blessed event automatically includes a contest of the imagination. The likeliest winners tend to be canines disguised as their human counterparts. Ingenuity then, plus the daringest, er, do in town, supply the keys to victory. Preparations may require some time alone with a mirror.

However, my favorite entry of all time neither pranced nor reared on his hind legs. He waddled very slowly. He appeared to be wearing white face paint. His get-up featured a lace coat studded with rhinestones. His expression remained relentlessly morose, but this enormous bull-dog made a fabulous Elvis Presley.

All three -- Elvis and his Springer Spaniel back-up singers -- appeared in full regalia in local papers that year. These characters supply living proof why folks crowd the sidewalks: the traffic stops, and police defer to reindogs trooping past. The temperatures may plunge to arctic figures, but you'd never know it to see the crowds gathering.

A new legend can be born every year! Rockabilly fans will lose their hearts in Appalachia -- not just once, but forever. Dogs cannot deny the joy quivering in every hair on their bodies. Forget the fancy dog toys. This Christmas, give Rover -- and the whole family -- a parade to remember.

Meg Curtis

Meg Curtis leads a triple life as a creative writer, a college professor, and a medievalist. From Western New York, she gained insights into wildlife and spiritualism. In Appalachia, she learned to love America's oldest mountains. She has settled happily, with three southern cats and a pug named Limerick, in Freemansburg, Pa. But she highly recommends the reindog parade in Charleston, W. Va.

Josette Capozzi studies psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University, New Orleans. She is also the founder of Loyola's Criminal Justice Honor Society and will soon publish a scholarly article with a well-known criminologist.

Alex Cuda is a 2000 graduate of Cornell University currently pursuing his law degree at Tulane Law School. He supports the activities of the ACLU and other organizations working for freedom of speech and prisoners' rights.