Few know this, but when I was a boy, Thanksgiving was also the feast day of the stray dogs, as many of the neighbor kids could attest to back in the 1960s. 

On those steaming Thursday mornings long ago, the same stray beagle would faithfully show up on the front porch of our Northeast Portland home, our house that never had a dog, our house that had a mother who was allergic to dog hair. But there he was again. There was that happy little beagle, blowing into town, snoot out and percolating, sniffing the frosty air, waggy–tailed and all, blowing in from Dogville, somewhere out there, nonchalantly meandering the sidewalks and streets of a perpendicular and parallel world, as dogs go. Figuring the pooch was a stray, we named him “Freddy the Freeloader” after Red Skelton’s beloved television character of that era.  

Freddy’s mysterious visits went on for a few Thanksgivings. I always wondered if it always was on that day in particular because of the aroma of Thanksgiving meals permeating the air. Freddy was showing up for some of the action. And each Thanksgiving morning, as the Macy's Parade marched across the black and white screen of the television sets, and the windows steamed with the preparation of holiday meals, Freddy became our friend until the leftovers were gone. And afterwards, Freddy would bid us adieu, in dog, and then vanish until the next Thanksgiving. 

But for the course of that week, the dog would follow us wherever we went, right down the frosty avenues to the ends of the earth. He would even wait for us when we went to Sunday Mass at the old All Saints church. The second time around, on his second visit, Freddy was, once again, left wondering just what we were doing for all that while inside that parochial structure early on a Sunday morning? Considering that one human hour is seven doggie hours, a very long time, once the usher opened the door that the pagan pooch had been pawing at, Freddy casually zipped right past him, proceeding down the nave of All Saints church, running and waggy-tailing his way right up to and around the altar to see what gifts the good Father Tobin was preparing for him.

And ever since the days of Freddy, I have always been keen to the sniff of Thanksgiving permeating neighborhoods, and the stray dogs that blow into town from Dogville, nonchalantly meandering the sidewalks and streets of a perpendicular and parallel world, as dogs go. I never took another dog to Mass.

The writer lives in Southeast Portland.