Colombian taxi driver and canine co-pilot spread Christmas cheer

Herbert Villarraga
·1-min read
Nicolas Walteros, 52, sits inside a taxi with his dog Colonel using Santa's hats, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Bogota

By Herbert Villarraga

BOGOTA (Reuters) - People looking for a bit of Christmas merriment in the Colombian capital might find it in an unexpected place: the front seat of a taxi, in the form of a costumed canine co-pilot.

Taxi driver Nicolas Walteros and his beloved dog Colonel take passengers around the city together, dressed in matching green Santa tops and hats, aviator sunglasses and a fluffy fake beard resting on the pup's blonde snout.

"We're showing people a Christmas of hope where there's not just material things but what's in people's hearts," said Walteros, 52, as he and the pooch cruised around crowded, high-altitude Bogota two days before Christmas, their vehicle decked out in fake pine boughs. "That's Christmas!"

Walteros found Colonel, a mutt with shaggy fur and floppy ears, on the street six years ago and the dog has been riding shotgun daily for three, usually dressed in a police costume. The pair start work at 4 a.m., attracting smiles and attention throughout their shift.

"It's unusual, but this year has been unusual and getting into a cab with a dog dressed as Santa Claus is fun!," said passenger Cesar Reina.

Walteros said there is no end to his love for the hound.

"Colonel is a friend, a buddy. I can't explain what I have in my heart for him," Walteros said, his voice cracking.

(Reporting by Herbert Villarraga; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)