Ollie, meet Jolly — Jolly Old St. Nick. Claws would cuddle up with Claus and the resulting cuteness would nearly make my iPhone camera explode and perhaps motivate me to mail out personalized holiday cards this season for the first time in years.
At least that’s how I thought my dog’s meet-and-greet with Santa would go when I forced my furry 4-year-old into a red and green sweater complete with tasseled bow and headed to the Peninsula Humane Society’s Center for Compassion. PHS/SPCA is hosting pet photos with Santa to raise money for homeless animals — not to mention give us crazy animal owners yet one more excuse to dress up the critters, coo and pretend they share our human characteristics.
The annual event welcomes all pets — dogs, cats, goats and even snakes, according to PHS.
If Santa can manhandle a slithering reptile, he should be able to keep my shy 13-pound boy from tangling up in his beard and maybe coax that puppy-like grin he usually reserves for fuzzy balls and his nighttime duck toy, I figured.
But like any young child worth his salt, Ollie was not so easily convinced this stranger in the red suit was deserving of unbridled affection and trust. You know those classic Santa visit photos we all seem to have — in my case, my older brother is smiling as though Santa will really bring him whatever toy while my 1-year-old self is screaming bloody murder? Ollie wasn’t quite that unsure but the result was certainly far from the image of his ears flopping happily forward and his head cocked sweetly to the side.
An owner with a ball of fluff — an Akita maybe? — got to Santa before our turn. “Smile!” she coaxed the scarf-wrapped puppy while a woman dressed as an elf squeaked a toy as a way to get his attention.
“See? He can do it,” I said to Ollie, taking the same shame tactic I used recently at the rabies clinic as young puppies took the shot bravely.
Santa did his best, too.
“Were you a good dog this year?” he asked as Ollie gave him the squinty eye.
I bit my tongue about the time he got into the dog treats. That time with the couch cushion. The fun game of pulling through his collar and dashing into the street. The tendency to turn off his hearing when called for bath time.
Ollie might be on Santa’s naughty list but I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to throw him under the bus.
Ollie didn’t stick around quite long enough to submit a wish list but that’s OK.
For what could he possibly ask? He doesn’t need his two front teeth; he definitely has those although the ones on the bottom have settled into an adorably fierce underbite that belies his skittish personality. Everything else important in his world are also already available — the electric blanket, peanut butter, the turquoise squeaky rubber squirrel that he insists on stealing from his canine older brother, the reality show which is simply looking out the front window to assess passersby and leaves. Both appear equally shady in his estimation. And as with the mailman, they disappear when he barks which makes him think it does the trick (don’t tell Santa).
Besides he already won the puppy lottery with his adoption four years ago as I tell him every time an SPCA commercial comes on television and Sarah McLachlan sings about the arms of the angels.
Before we left, an elf offered Ollie a treat as reward for sticking out the trip to Santa. He passed. I guess in the end he got exactly what he wanted — a trip home.
Photos with Santa are noon to 4 p.m. Saturday Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 at the Center for Compassion, 1450 Rollins Road, Burlingame. The cost is a $10 donation to PHS. No reservations are required but dogs must remain on leash and cats should be brought in carriers. You must bring your own camera.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com