Los Angeles

Shrub Reindeer Brightens San Fernando Valley Neighborhood at Christmas

If you’re familiar at all with the intersection of Hayvenhurst Avenue and Plummer Street in North Hills, then it's likely you’ve noticed the pet project turned neighborhood pet.

"It makes you feel good because it’s a lot of work to trim this thing," said homeowner Brian Welch.

Welch is referring to his massive shrub, which extends from the front yard of his family’s corner home, across the sidewalk and onto a city power pole. Over the years, he’s shaped it into one large dog.

"Sometimes I bump into people at the gym and they say, 'Have you seen?' And I say, 'Well that’s me, you know?'" Welch said laughing. "Different people you don’t know and they’ve already seen this, so it’s become something."

That’s because over the last five years or so, Welch and his family have let the dog evolve during the holidays.

"It got the attention just with the bow," said Susan Welch, Brian's wife. "Then the sons decided, it needs a nose and needs an antler, and it's quite large."

It’s become one large reindeer.

"Oh! I love it!," Susan Welch said, chuckling to herself, "And it gets harder each year to climb up, to get quite that high and do the trimming. It's a little scary, so I’m ready with the phone to call 911."

Brian Welch says he just started trimming the shrub in the early 1980s.

"Well, it started basically growing over. It's a cable, you know, for the telephone pole. I just started cutting the arch, first of all, and slowly my wife said, it's starting to look like a dog, you know?" he said.

And it once caught the attention of LADWP.

"They sent me a thing to tell me to tear it down, you know. And I said, it's actually city property. It's not mine. So it's not my job to tear it down, you know?" Welch said. "So we left it at that and they just left me alone. Of course, after this, they may."

Now, it attracts the attention of people from all over Los Angeles.

"Some guy knocked on the door and the lights weren't on. It wasn't really dark. And he said, 'Can you turn them on? I come all the way from Culver City to take pictures,'" he said. "I’ve got Christmas cards, people have left bowls of fruit, you know. Gift cards and stuff like that."

And while the reindeer may not be the most famous of all, it has certainly become the neighborhood's favorite.

"Oh, he’s a great gift! You see him all year, but at Christmas?! Look at what he is!" one woman shouted from her car.

"I told my daughter, they’re going to make it a reindeer. It's going to go from a dog to reindeer. We have to go see it! And it's beautiful," said Maria Cruz. "It brings the community together, for the very least, just to talk about it. It's like a conversation piece."

"It’s like the beginning of December. They’re always like, 'When are you going to put it up? When are you going to put the lights on?'" Welch said. "If I don’t, I’m in big trouble."

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