Greetings from Old People Camp

Better watch out, Santa is out there

December 16, 2012 

Wood's Humane Society held its annual Holiday Open House, Saturday, December 1st. Kate Shurson of Pismo Beach poses with Santa Claus and her female Golden Retrievers (from left) 13-year-old Maya, 2-year-old Zeba, and 12-year-old Xochi.


There are an incredible number of holiday activities around the county this year, and the best part is that a whole bunch of them are free.

Before I retired, my family called me “uncommonly cheap,” but now that I’m on a fixed income, I’ve advanced to the “nearly intolerable” level. However, even we misers have our moments, and I did pop for deli sandwiches at the Arroyo Grande Christmas Parade. We planted our tushes on a curb, munched our BLTs and watched the Great Danes, the Cub Scouts and the fire engines roll by. And of course, Santa. Santa’s always the hugely anticipated denouement in any Christmas activity.

What do you suppose is St. Nick’s biggest draw? Is it a child’s fear of being left out of the present loop if she doesn’t have a what-Iwant-for-Christmas moment?

Sometimes, though, those moments can backfire.

Example: A friend’s young daughter spied the red-suited one sitting in a wooden sleigh at the tree farm, and excitedly yelled out, “SANTA!” He seemed nice enough, but I was a bit nonplussed when, after the 6-year-old declined to sit on his lap, he asked her mother if she’d like to. Obviously, he missed rule No. 1 in the “Santa Claus Guide to Holiday Decorum”: “However tempting, don’t hit on the mom.”

This year, one of my favorite Kris Kringles floated by at the Morro Bay Lighted Boat Parade, in what I can only imagine to be a blow-up boat bedecked with lights. It was dark, after all, and hard enough to tell it was Santa, let alone what type of watercraft he used. He was pulled by two “reindeer” in kayaks, which I thought was pretty darned impressive. I have a hard time imagining rowing a small boat from one end of the harbor and back, but pulling a Santa? Not so much.

My favorite 2012 Father Christmas was one I didn’t even get to witness firsthand. I saw his picture in the paper. He had an enormous golden retriever balanced on his lap, and others flanking each leg. Santa had a resigned look on his face that seemed to say, “How did I end up with this gig?” But you know he had to be a very nice man to let all of those animals cuddle up close. Can you imagine the dog kisses? And there certainly must have been cats involved. I can’t believe there were any cat kisses. I love animals, but I would not, under any circumstances, want to play Santa to all of that fur. I get irritated with my own cat when she takes my place on the couch after I get up to get a little something from the fridge. I have enough problems with my derriere without adding a layer of cat hair.

I have an unbridled admiration for most all Santas , but especially the one for pets. Those retrievers looked so calm, and the owner was smiling! I tried to imagine our three dogs in the same situation. The giant wiener dog would show her displeasure by barking nonstop, and the hound would cower between my legs. But, of course, the glass-half-full cocker spaniel, after a few tinkles on Santa’s boots, would be in the old man’s lap looking for treats. A photo? Not gonna happen.

My snow cap’s off to all of those seasonal St. Nicks. Most of them are, if not outright jolly, at least moderately pleasant, and they perform a public service; they give little kids the biggest fright they’ve had since Halloween, allow parents and pet owners the chance for the quintessential holiday photo, and force a confounded mom and dad to come up with an explanation as to which one is the “real” Santa.

And really … it can’t be easy to maintain a longterm smile and a jolly attitude while allowing all of those bodies to crawl into your lap — especially when you see that the next “kids” in line are a mastiff and a Newfoundland.

Suzanne Davis is happily retired and living in the South County with her husband and their three dogs. Email her at 

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