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king of the pets

The statue erected of me commemorating my reign.

I grew up in a town that hosted an annual Pet Parade.

I’ll let that sink in for a bit, because it normally takes a minute for people to process those two words together.

Every summer, we’d set up chairs along the curb at the end of the yard early in the morning to make sure we saved our spot to watch when, later that day, people marched down the street with their pets. Cats. Dogs. Frogs. Gerbils. In a parade. In front of my house.

I’m not sure of the parade’s origin story, but I imagine it went something like this:

Man to his friend: Have you seen our new pet? Friend: No. Man: Want to come over and see it? Friend: Not really. Man: What if I walk by your house tomorrow morning? Friend: I guess I could look out the window.

And thus, a 70-plus year tradition was born.

Over the years, it’s grown to include marching bands and local business floats and kids on bikes and marching bands. But also pets. Always pets.

We moved here when I was in the fourth grade, and when my classroom held elections for the Pet Parade King and Queen, I was out sick for the day. The next morning, the teacher informed me I had been named King of the Pet Parade and the following Saturday I would get to ride in the back of a convertible, smiling and waving at my subjects. As I began the year having to be physically dragged from the house terrified of a new school, this was literally my crowning achievement.

King of the Pet Parade? I imagined my convertible slash chariot weaving through throngs of adoring fans, who’d no doubt be weeping, throwing flowers and possibly their pets at me, squealing with delight at having witnessed my majesty.

On the morning of the parade, we gathered at the meet up spot in front of the local library, where I found out multiple grades and schools had selected monarchs, of which I was one of the youngest. Deflated, I located our convertible, climbed in and tried my best to wave like Princess Diana had taught me. Because if she could share her marriage with Camilla all those years, I could share my parade with these frauds for a couple of hours.

Like so much of childhood, I didn’t realize a town hosting an annual parade of pets was strange until years later, after I moved away and compared stories with friends.

Me: Do you guys remember slip-n-slides? Friends: Those were awesome. Me: So awesome. And Pet Parades, too. What month did you guys do yours? Friends: [blank stares] Me: You know. When everyone walks down the street. With their pets. In a parade. Friends: [more blank stares] Me: I WAS THE KING OF THE PET PARADE AND YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

It was strange and weird and wonderful and it’s still happening. This Saturday, for the 72nd year in a row, kids and bands and floats and pets will parade through a Real American town. And somewhere, right now, there is a kid dreaming of ascending his (very crowded) throne and practicing his best Megan Markle wave, not knowing how insane his friends will look at him when he recounts this story in twenty years.


This is post #7/30 in a 500 Words-A-Day Challenge. Read them all here.


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