Santa's knee has traditionally been reserved for children.
No more. In the enlightened 1990s, little poochie, long deprived of his holiday rights, can settle down with old St. Nick for a heart to heart.
On the next two Saturdays, two Anne Arundel County veterinarians will offer Santa To Animals, sponsored by the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce.
Bring your Great Dane, your gerbil, your boa constrictor.
Santa welcomes all beasts or birds, although biting the good saint likely won't do much for an animal's wish list.
"I don't think people will bring their iguanas but they might, though they're hard to hold onto," says Richard Rodgers, veterinarian at the Benfield Animal Hospital.
Being Claus for canines presents special challenges, says Carl Rogge, veterinarian at the Severna Park Veterinary Hospital.
"I've played Santa with little children before, but this is my first time with doggies," explained Dr. Rogge, who practiced his "ho ho ho" on a golden retriever this week.
"I thought it would be a good try; this one's a great dog with a calm disposition," he said. "But it wee-weed all over Santa's pants. So when I'm Santa, I'm going to be wearing plastic pants."
On Saturday, at the Benfield Animal Hospital, there will be treats for animals and, for owners, refreshments and door prizes.
On Dec. 11, at the Severna Park Veterinary Hospital, each pet will receive a free holiday bandanna to perk up that Christmas spirit.
Door prizes will total more than $400, including dinner certificates and pet goodies, with a prize reserved for the most unusual pet to venture forth.
There will be a secret non-human surprise guest and animal-friendly elves, says Dr. Rogge. Also, the office will be collection site for cat and dog food for the SPCA.
Photographs of people's pets with Santa will be available for $5 on both Saturdays.
Says Dr. Rodgers: "For many of my clients, their pets are their children. They like to send Christmas cards to friends showing their pet with Santa Claus."
House-bound clients have even called the veterinarian and offered to pay him if he'd wear his Santa suit to their homes for the dog-with-Santa photos, Dr. Rodgers said.
CLAUS FOR CANINES
Santa will be at the Benfield Animal Hospital on Headquarters Drive in Millersville from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and at the Severna Park Veterinary Hospital on Old Annapolis Boulevard from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 11.