I interviewed the Whitcoulls Santa…

I stood on the intersection of Queen and Victoria Streets and had a chat with the 51-year old Santa who used to be known for his creepiness, but has now had an extreme makeover.

The new Santa with silenced finger and eyelid

Auckland’s hulking Santa is 51 this year and love him or hate him, you can’t miss the big guy. He’s 21-metres tall with a tremendous 27m girth and looks knowingly down from the Whitcoulls building. But his dodgy wink and come-hither finger had brought him much flak over the years and more than a little bad press, so last year he visited the fibreglass surgeon and now  holds his head high as the age-defying jolly old man.

But ask Santa what he’s seen since 1960 and he’ll tell you a lot of naughty and nice since he first stood on the old Farmers Building (now Heritage Hotel) on Hobson St.

He remembers how easy it was delivering presents to boys and girls when Auckland’s population was half a million in 1964, and then how he had to put new stream-lined delivery systems in place when it reached 1 million in ’96. He remembers the naughty towaway zones being introduced in 1967 and the rioters on Queen Street in ’84, the same year (nicely) that tolls were abolished on the Harbour Bridge, and he also sees exactly who those boy racers are each night!

The old winky Santa with the creepy finger

Indeed Santa sees everything. (That’s how he knows who to bring gifts to each year.) But there was a time when he was down and out and found abandoned in a rubbish dump in Mangere (he didn’t want to talk too much about this).

What I managed to find out later was that he and his reindeer were dumped from the Farmers Buildings and a kindly gentleman bought him for $1. He then met some Whitcoulls big wigs who helped find the thousands of dollars needed to rebuild him and give him a new home.

Maybe Santa was just misunderstood. His bad press was, quite frankly, because he was ugly. Shame on us, that’s not polite! But he is expensive to run and avoiding arthritis in that finger was only the start of the costs.

Three years ago he was nearly a gonna with Whitcoulls having to make a tough call about whether he would even make it onto the roof in 2008. A dramatic rescue plan was hatched with Heart of the City and thankfully he is still here today – facelift and all.

So pop down and say hi, before he disappears for another year into his secret Santa storage for another year.

Fancy pants dog hotel & spa

If your pooch is like one of the family then you’ll love this: Pets in the Citya doggy day spa and hotel in Auckland’s Mt Wellington where the VIP suites come with flat screen TVs playing the Nickelodeon channel and dog biscuits are left on their pillow at night. I kid you not.

The VIP suite complete with TV

This fully indoor dog resort is the creative enterprise of Rob and Carole Ellis and while I do not own a dog nor do I profess to be a dog lover (slobbery, needy things…) I can imagine some owners clapping their hands in glee at such a swanky find for their preciousness.

Doggy bikini

The gift shop is stocked with doggy car seats, clothes (including this Hawaiian bikini for the beach and sets of 4 miniature sheepskin boots) and neck bling. The day spa menu includes a wash and blow dry and fitness.

They also have a hydrotherapy spa for those who need to lose weight or are recovering from hip surgery and Hairy McLary posters adorn the walls.

There is a cattery with ensuites and a huge fish tank in the middle of the room so the pussys can salivate over the tantalising fish through their glass door and plan their moves when they get exercise time.

Mmmm Nemo....

Carole is also a qualified ‘Dog Listener‘ which means she understands what your dog is thinking and can solve all manner of issues from constant barking, jumping up, anxiety issues and even anger problems. I know this because I just interviewed her for a story in the Herald on Sunday about my friend Louise’s stressed out British Bulldog who has had his issues resolved. Here’s the story if you’re interested.

Check out Pets in the City’s full menu and price list here.