Taxi driver and canine co-pilot spread Christmas cheer

Colombian taxi driver and canine co-pilot spread Christmas cheer

Walteros found Colonel, a mutt with shaggy fur and floppy ears, on the street six years ago

Nicolas Walteros, 52, carries his dog Coronel using Santa's hat, amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Bogota, Colombia December 23, 2020. Credit: Reuters Photo

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 am, 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.