La Jollans put dachshunds on parade for ailing neighbor

Dachshund owners from La Jolla and across San Diego gather for a parade to lift the spirits of 97-year-old Chris McCullough.

For more than 30 years, La Jolla residents Chris and Liz McCullough owned dachshunds. First was Heidi I, who lived 14 years; then Heidi II, who lived a whopping 19 years.

With the McCulloughs now in their 90s, their days of pet ownership are behind them. But to this day, a sign on their front door reads “Dachshund crossing” and Liz carries a purse emblazoned with a “wiener dog.”

To brighten their spirits during a challenging time, friends and neighbors arranged a dachshund parade for the couple Aug. 8, during which more than a dozen people (masked and maintaining social distancing where possible) marched through Upper Hermosa with their long-bodied pooches.

“We love animals, and I always feel so honored to have them in our lives,” said La Jolla resident and parade organizer Jacqueline Lemieux-Bokor. “And I just thought [the McCulloughs] were the most lovely people and wanted to bring a little joy into their day.”

In November, Chris, now 97, took a fall and has been facing ill health ever since. Liz said the parade created “a happy time for him.”

“Chris said it made him feel really good,” Liz said. “He got to hold a dog, which was wonderful because he can’t walk too far, so he got to hold a dachshund in his chair. They made a 97-year-old man very happy.”

Chris McCullough, 97, holds a dachshund during a neighborhood parade for him and his wife, Liz.

When Heidi II died about 15 years ago, the couple decided not to get another dog for fear that they would not outlive it, said Liz, 92. “We didn’t know we would live this long,” she said. “But whenever we had a dog, we had a dachshund.”

Inspired by the McCulloughs’ love of the breed, and as a nod to her own dog that died recently, Lemieux-Bokor wanted to do something uplifting involving dachshunds.

“I talk to Liz and Chris ... [in] their front yard in the afternoons,” she said. “I wondered what I could do for someone at that point in his life. I thought it would be great if all these dachshunds walked by as he was in his front yard.”

Dachshund owners gather with Chris and Liz McCullough at the conclusion of their dachshund parade Aug. 8.

She shared the idea with a friend while on a walk along the La Jolla coastline one day and wondered what it would take to execute the plan.

That’s when “the stars aligned,” Lemieux-Bokor said.

“Down by the Wedding Bowl on the grass, this woman had this little dachshund puppy named Friday, and he was a total sweetheart,” she said. “I shared the idea with her and she loved the idea. I wanted to get more people, but I didn’t want to do mass outreach because we wanted to keep it limited because it was for an elderly person. She had two friends with dachshunds and said they would be willing to participate.”

The woman, who asked to be identified only as “Friday’s mom,” said she knew a few people and made a few calls. Soon, about 15 people were signed up.

“It’s my mission to share love and joy whenever possible, especially when people are alone,” Friday’s mom said. “I like to knock on friends’ doors and windows with Friday so they can see him, and it brings an immense amount of joy.”

After checking with Liz to make sure Chris would be up for it, the parade was set.

“I thought if it was going to be a parade, there should be decorations, so I made little collars for the dogs and paper lanterns and covered them with daisies and ribbons that every family could hold,” Lemieux-Bokor said. “We walked by and celebrated and it was really sweet. He was so happy. It was so beautiful.

“The community came together for something simple yet so meaningful. It was a joy to share a little bit of happiness. It doesn’t take much these days to make a huge difference.”

Afterward, a small group of marchers drove to Bird Rock to visit a woman named Carolyn who also loves dachshunds.

Friday, who according to his owner has been dubbed “the unofficial mayor of Marine Street” because of his popularity with those who see him on walks, is a particular favorite of Carolyn’s.

“Dachshunds are small and cute, but they are also fiercely stubborn and fiercely loyal,” Friday’s owner said. “When they find that family to love and protect, that is their sole job. I’ve only had positive experiences with them. They love, they care and become part of the family. ...

“Dogs in general have this ability to connect to our human core. There is such a sense of compassion with them.”

The parade has been documented on an Instagram page centered on Friday, ◆