You can always expect to see some dogs at the Bakersfield Christmas Parade, but this year you won't just see them on the sidelines with attendees but on a float dedicated to man's best friend.

But is it really a surprise that the Bakersfield SPCA would want to take the chance to show off their adorable and adoptable dogs as they take the streets downtown on Thursday night? To not show the sweet pups would be a missed opportunity. 

The Bakersfield SPCA staff "love Christmas ... and they really want to see some pets get adopted," said Julie Johnson, executive director of the local SPCA. The parade "is something different for them to do to fulfill that duty."

The SPCA float is one of 42 floats in the annual Bakersfield Christmas Parade. There are 135 entries total, including 17 marching bands. The theme this year is "A Patriotic Christmas," because the parade falls on Pearl Harbor Day, so not only will the SPCA float be decked out in holiday colors, it will also have plenty of red, white and blue.

Onboard the float will be several adoptable dogs, though Johnson didn't know just how many would make the ride. The number will depend in part on how many shelter dogs are happy to sit on the float or walk beside it, in the cold with lots of people and sounds. That way, every dog involved in the parade will be happy to be there.

Although cute dogs do the trick well enough on their own, perhaps the piece de resistance of the float is the music that will accompany it: "Do You See That Doggie in the Shelter," an adopt-don't-shop reimagining of the 1950s "How Much is That Doggie in the Window," recorded by the original song's singer, Patti Page.

A sample lyric, which will melt even the coldest of hearts: "Do you see that doggie in the shelter? The one with the take-me-home eyes. If you give him love and attention, he will be your best friend for life."

The staff have "come up with some really unique and fun things," Johnson said, like hay bales wrapped like presents and flags for the dogs. "They even decorated the truck that will be pulling the trailer."

The truck will be decorated to look like a Dalmatian, with a nose on its grill, eyes on its windshield and ears on its cab. The canine facial features were sewn by the organization's quilters club, Creature Comforts, which usually quilts blankets for the animals.

The Bakersfield SPCA has been in the Christmas parade before but not for years and never with a full float, Johnson said. It was the staff at the shelter that decided to join the parade and wanted to go "all-in on a full-fledged float."

"This is their baby," Johnson said. "They've even dedicated their own time off. That's how excited they are."

The staff has been planning for about a month and a half, Johnson said, but since they couldn't get the trailer until Monday, most of that time has been spent working ahead on whatever they could. In the last few days before the parade, they worked on getting everything on the trailer.

Thursday, the float and the dogs will make their debut at the Christmas parade. Johnson hopes the cute parade entry will help the dogs and cats in the shelter find a home for the holidays.

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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