Imagine hundreds of dogs dressed in their festive finest. Imagine cozy streets lined with cheering crowds passing out treats as a parade of dogs passes by. Imagine dogs entering and exiting bars and having their names spoken like bar regulars. This is the Reindog scene. Yesterday I attended my second Reindog Parade with a group of friends who have been attending the event for several years.
I don’t have a dog. (I have two cats. Not because I don’t like dogs. I just have cats.) I don’t celebrate Christmas as much as I should. I don’t really decorate my home outside of a random poinsettia. I am the worst Secret Santa you will ever have in your office holiday routine. I bake, attend an occasional party, and bask in my nieces’ Christmas glow. That generally gets me through. Reindog inspires a different kind of holiday.
I believe in the birth of the Divine spark within each of us that can happen at Christmas. I believe Christmas is ultimately about love and generosity. I believe in giving from an open heart. I believe in spending time with people you love. I believe in peace on earth, and it seems there is more focus on peace this time of year. My nieces received a puppy for Christmas last year, and I believe in the look in their eyes. I believe in candle light services and Silent Night. I believe in the sense of community that the season inspires. But sometimes my Christmas spirit feels more like the ignition in my 1999 Honda Accord after I have left my lights on – I just turn and crank and never really start.
Not to overdramatize, but Reindog is unbridled joy. As puppies with wings sniffed dogs in silk pajamas, it did not matter that my shopping was not done. As a Noah’s ark of miniature poodles and pugs passed, I was not running over my list in my head. As Sofie, the Newfoundland, licked my face I was baptized by slobber and present in the moment. (She was able to lick my face without even really stretching!) Often, holiday events make me feel a bit separate and weird. If Christmas is for kids, I don’t have them. If Christmas is about marriage proposals next to Christmas trees, I don’t even have a date to a Christmas party. To top it off, I don’t even snow ski so a Christmas on the slopes is complicated.
Reindog lets me forget all that. The event raises money for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, so there is a philanthropic mission to the day. The young and old have been celebrating Reindog for 20 years, so there is also a sense of history and community where even the dogs are friends and glad to share the water bowls that line the route. No pressure. No expectations. Simple fun for few hours.
What does this mean for my Christmas beliefs? I learned the gift of being present. Of laughter. Of friendship. Of joy. Of belonging. I experienced the deep love so often described by my friends who love dogs. Standing there, some of my more lofty Christmas expectations seemed to float away on the barks of the herald angels singing.