Ever since we first got involved with CCI more than 8 years ago, the puppies have paraded. We paraded with Tucker. But in the early years, this activity just meant straggling along in a disorganized group and waving to the parade spectators.

Then in 2010, a puppy raiser named Pattie Urie had a brainstorm: we should practice with our pups and form a drill team, marching in precision and demonstrating some of the commands that we teach our charges.  I thought this was a wonderful idea and signed up with Brando. We were proud to perform with the team’s debut parade — in Coronado on the 4th of July, 2010. Steve and I later paraded with Darby on several occasions. And on this past Saturday, Dionne took part in her first parade.

This was an event that Steve and I had barely heard of before: the annual Swallows Parade in San Juan Capistrano, which promotes that city’s long-cherished (and marketed) association with the annual return migration of coastal swallows. Although some members of the San Diego crew took part in it last year, Steve and I missed that occasion. So when Pattie sent out the call for volunteers this year, we wanted to help out the team.

I should mention that Dionne is a bit young to be parading. I think the CCI rules say puppies should be 8 months old before being exposed to that level of stimulation. But we figured a) Dionne already knows all the commands that the team performs, and more importantly, she’s a very self-confident pup, who hasn’t demonstrated any fearfulness of any sort. She’s solid. So, going on the principle that all rules have to be applied with common sense, we signed up.

All in all, we were glad we did. It was quite an experience. The parade turned out to be a huge production — by far the biggest parade we’ve ever marched in. It completely took over downtown San Juan Capistrano.

Although initially wildly excited by the sight of the other CCI parade dogs, Dionne soon calmed down and tolerated wearing the costume of the day: Mexican bandannas and little bright yellow sombreros.

Tucker came too, and although he didn’t perform with the puppies,
he seemed happy to wear a costume.

We were supposed to show up by 9:30 a.m. in order to register, and this meant we had a long, long wait, as the parade didn’t start until 11.

But little girls worshipfully petted Dionne. 
And there was plenty to look at, while we waited.

Even after the parade began, we had to wait for an eternity to start marching.  (I think we were entry #83 in the “second division.” Dionne got pretty tired just standing in the sun, but we took little breaks from time to time.

The actual parading part went extremely well, with at least 18 puppies performing and everyone looking very sharp.

Even though parade route felt like it was miles long, the crowds were very dense along almost all of it, and it was clear that most of the attendees loved seeing the performing puppies.

The worst part of the day was extracting ourselves from San Juan Capistrano once our group had completed the route, as the parade went on and on, which meant the streets remained closed. So Steve and I couldn’t get out of the parking lot we were in until almost 3 p.m.

We didn’t make it back to San Diego till 5, and all of us were exhausted — but glad to have gone.

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