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Winter 2001

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Periscope: Holiday cheer

     At the end of November the Saratoga downtown merchants held their annual “Victorian stroll”—a holiday shopping promotion featuring street bands and carolers, horse-drawn wagons and a (very) few folks actually dressed in Victorian garb, and open houses and giveaways in the stores and restaurants. As has become our custom, Elliott the standard poodle and I joined the mob scene, along with a friend and two more dogs, bearing tidings of comedy and joy.

     Elliott, flop-eared and tall as a colt, had a giant red-plaid bow on his collar, which was a battery-powered affair studded all around with bright-red flashing lights (staring at it would probably trigger a seizure, but I got it so I could keep track of him when he’s running around after dark, and it definitely does the job). Duffy the ten-inch-high bichon frisé was sporting a red conical elf hat, sitting firmly on the center of his fluffy white head, although Elliott had bitten off the hat’s pom-pom before we’d even left the house. And Theo the whippet had on a Sherlock Holmesian houndstooth-checkered dog jacket with a ribbon-and-holly corsage pinned to it. My friend and I weren’t wearing anything notable, except for the occasional garlands and belts and garters of dog leash as we tangled and untangled our way down the street. We presented, if I do say so myself, quite the spectacle.

     Much as I usually abhor crowds and commercial extravaganzas, my scroogitude always seems to evaporate at this event, thanks to the universally positive effect of costumed canines on the general public. Maybe it’s the dogs as much as their getups: Duffy and Elliott are both outgoing, ebullient specimens whose good cheer is plain to see in their twinkling eyes and ear-to-ear grins. As we walk from my neighborhood toward Broadway, cars slow as drivers gape and wave. Passersby are overcome by spreading smiles. Once into the crowd, we become cost-free Prozac dispensers to the masses, stimulating endorphins left and right. Children point and stare, grownups guffaw and thank us, even the traffic police betray a smile or chuckle.

     At one point we stopped to rest outside Uncommon Grounds café, and Duffy, the acutely adorable bichon, claimed his favorite perch on his owner’s shoulder. Soon a person standing nearby, who’d been watching us quizzically, did a bug-eyed doubletake and cried, “Ohh, it moved…it’s real! I thought it was a toy!” And later, when Duffy paused to play with a golden retriever puppy (all wrinkles and baggy pants) in front of Compton’s diner, a TV cameraman scurried over to catch some footage guaranteed to please the bedtime-news audiences.

     It was the great sage Winnie-the-Pooh who observed that no one can be uncheered by a balloon. Well, it’s a similarly simple pleasure that we provide each yuletide, and it’s a gift I make freely to my fellow man. Fa la la. —SR


© 2001 Skidmore College