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Sparkle goes on holiday tour

Sparkle the Seeing Eye pup strolls the holiday-decked grounds of Longwood Gardens.

Every holiday season, the puppy club takes an enchanting trip to Longwood Gardens. We accompanied Velma, Sparkle's mom, two years ago, and last Sunday was Sparkle's turn.

It's a great outing for the pups - so many people, new surroundings, lights, music - and they always do so well. The Longwood staff could not have been more welcoming, even though we arrived  a bit late of our appointed time and Sparkle was quite boisterous and rammy as we entered through the gates.

She calmed down pretty quickly, though, as we walked the garden paths in late afternoon and she could let off steam. Later, we caught up with the three other pups and toured through the indoor conservatories.

Sparkle was confident and friendly to all. I hadn't taken her through such thick crowds since we were on Chicago's Navy Pier back in August. But everyone was cheerful, and I chatted with curious passersby who asked about the Seeing Eye puppy program. Sparkle did get a little scared when I took her out onto a raised wooden walkway that led to a sort of treehouse. She started crawling on her belly and pulling on the leash. When I realized her fear, I reassured her and took her back to terra firma.

We topped off our trip with an outdoor fountain display choreographed to holiday music. Sparkle took it all in calmly. Then we took a wide swing through the outdoor decorated Christmas trees  and headed out to the parking lot after chatting with one of the gate attendants who fondly remembered Sparkle as the "bad pup" when we'd come in hours earlier. So sorry!

Beautiful and bustling, Longwood at Christmas remains the star at the top of my list for puppy outings.