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Leader Dog Zoe Visits US Capitol Christmas Tree

December 3, 2014


Leader Dog Zoe Visits US Capitol Christmas Tree


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On a damp, windy, and chilly November day, Leader Dog Zoe and I faced the snow flurries and set forth on a walk to and around Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park, also known as Community Spirit Park.  Although the calendar noted the day as Veterans’ Day and I had been writing an essay for family members who are veterans, my guide dog and I went off in search for a Christmas tree.  We were not en route to a store for a new, artificial tree:  we were on the lookout for an 88-foot white spruce, weighing in at 13,000 pounds.


At about noon, on such a gray and wintry day, the small city park was filled with more people and excitement than usual.  After walking around the park once, I asked someone, “Can you tell me where the US Capitol Christmas tree is?”  The cordial lady explained that the tree was, as I had suspected, behind where we had just walked, on Kilbourn Avenue, alongside the north edge of the park, between Jackson and Jefferson Streets.  Additionally, she informed me that people were signing their names to note their having seen the special tree.  Assuming that the signatures were in a type of guestbook, I decided to make one more walk around the park and return to the area where the tree viewing and signing were.  I wanted to sign my name and especially Zoe’s because I wanted other people to know that a Leader Dog had visited the tree that was destined to be displayed and decorated as the United States Capitol Christmas tree.


On another turn around the periphery of Community Spirit Park, we passed by a group of young students who were excited to see a working dog.  Smiling and waving, I was pleased that they were listening to the directives of their  teachers who were instructing not to pet or touch my black lab/golden retriever.  As Zoe and I walked on toward the designated area, a man with a German accent came by and said to a United States Forest Service employee, “I already signed; I’ve come back with my camera to take a picture of the tree.”


Thanks to the voices around me, I had found the right person with whom to speak.  From the US Forest Service, Millie answered my questions and offered additional information about the very special Christmas tree.  She told me that the tree and its “companions” left Minnesota at 5:30 a. m., on November 10, 2014–fortunately, just before the snowstorm hit their area.  On October 29, the 88-foot white spruce was felled in the Chippewa National Forest, in North-central Minnesota.  Millie noted, “It was just a coincidence that the 88-foot tree is 88 years old.”  The tree was resting on a 105-foot long semi.  The base of the tree was nearer the cab of the semi; a bladder for hydrating the tree was around the base.  According to Millie, due to the cold temperatures, the tree was absorbing only about ten gallons of water a day although the bladder could provide forty gallons of water for the dormant tree.


Further, Millie remarked that a second semi carried 8000 ornaments which were made by Minnesota students for “the People’s Tree” which would eventually be set on the west lawn of the US Capitol Building.  So that more people could see their tree, the Christmas caravan planned to make numerous stops along its route to Washington, D.C.  After leaving Minnesota, the first stop was Madison on that Monday afternoon, the 10th.  Milwaukee was the second stop for showing off the massive white spruce.  Even though Millie referred to the covering of the tree as a tarpaulin, it was actually a heavy vinyl cover forming a protective cocoon for the Christmas tree that was lying on the 90-foot long tractor-trailer.  Within the vinyl covering were a few clear plastic windows for viewing this chosen tree.  I quickly discovered that there was no guestbook to sign:  rather, visitors were given the opportunity to sign the vinyl covering with a permanent marker.  I explained to Millie that I did want to sign because I wanted other people to know that a Leader Dog had come to see the US Capitol Christmas tree.  After Millie handed me the felt-tip marker, she directed me toward the tractor-trailer where I could sign.  In somewhat large cursive letters,  I–with one hand holding Zoe’s leash and harness while my other hand held the felt marker–wrote my name and then happily added “Leader Dog Zoe.”


Finally, I thanked Millie for all the information and her help; I also told her that I would be writing about the tree in an upcoming post on my blog.  As Zoe and I left the famous tree and walked home, I was thankful for such a unique holiday opportunity.


After only a two-hour stay in Milwaukee, the Christmas tree and its convoy left at one o’clock.  The next destination was Illinois.  On the 2000-mile journey, “the People’s Tree” would be visited by residents of Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia before arriving in Washington, D.C., on November 21.  The holiday tradition of selecting a Christmas tree from a different national forest each year began in 1970.


As I write this essay on December 2 (with Zoe napping beside me), Speaker of the House John Boehner, at the tree-lighting ceremony on the west lawn of the US Capitol Building, did the honors of illuminating the first official display of the 88-foot white spruce from the Chippewa National Forest.  The 2014 US Capitol Christmas tree is the second tallest in the history of this holiday tradition.  Although this white spruce is one foot short of the record, this 88-foot Christmas tree will always hold a special “top” spot in my Christmas memory book.



Happy tree-trimming and enjoy all the wonderful delights of this sparkling season!

Alice and Zoe


December 2, 2014/posted on December 3, 2014, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. What a warming, holiday tale. I bet you were beaming when you signed. A memorable occasion for sure, and you were right there in the middle of it. Thanks for sharing a truly inspirational story with us all. Treats for the Leader Dog Zoey. dp

    • Season’s Greetings! Deon–Yes, Zoe always deserves her treats. Thanks for your nice comments Take care–Alice

  2. I am so happy that you and Zoe had this “once in a lifetime” opportunity, Alice. What a memorable Christmas experience for the two of you!
    Enjoy every day of this holiday season!
    With love, Mary

  3. Alice, what a sweet story. I’m glad you got to see such a momentous tree. Happy holidays to you and Zoe.

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