The Day of The Dog as a Frog

I wrote in my last blog that I love Halloween because it makes me infinitely happy to see dogs in costumes. But you know what makes me even more infinitely happy (for at least five minutes)? The post-Halloween dog costume sale.

I always hit a couple of pet stores and buy marked-down dog costumes on the day after Halloween. A costume that was $19.99 might be on sale  for $1.75 to $4.99. I’m talking good costumes. This year Zoey got a chicken outfit and Pearl lucked out with a bumblebee, a frog, and a unicorn. Cute, cute, cute, cute.

Pepper didn’t get a costume this year. Why? Not because I’m leaving him out, but because he’s 14 years old and gets cranky when I put clothes on him.

He used to jump around with glee when I brought out his sweaters. I’d hold the neck hole open and he’d rush to shove his face through it. He knew that it meant we were going outside – I have no delusions that Pepper was actually a fashion hound. I guess his joints hurt him these days and he’s kind of delicate, so I leave elaborate “dress up” to Pearl and Zoey, who get excited when they see their coats and sweaters.

This brings me to the real point of this post. Another dog blogger took a crack at shaming me because I wrote that I like to see dogs in costumes on Halloween. He wrote that many dogs don’t like being in costumes and that shelters are one of the biggest proponents of costuming dogs, as evidenced by the photos in their promotional materials, and that most shelter fundraisers have a fashion aspect.

He wrote that if we took a moratorium on Halloween costumes for one year, we could probably give the $310 million spent, as estimated by the National Retail Federation, to animal shelters instead.

He isn’t wrong on that last part, and it’s not a bad idea.

But I need to clarify something: My happiness in seeing a dog in a costume isn’t solely based on the cute factor (though it is darn cute). It’s largely because I know that the dog’s owner took the time to think about her dog and buy or make him a costume. That dog is likely spayed or neutered, is up to date on his vaccinations, gets regular medical care, has a comfy place to sleep, fresh water and decent food, some training (I hope!), and is, in general, a pretty lucky pooch. He might even have his own Facebook page.

I pull dogs from the Miami city shelter  through Schnauzer Rescue Cincinnati (the Florida Chapter) and find them homes. For every dog I pull, there are at least two that are euthanized. Those unlucky dogs could have been someone’s best friend, and I can imagine that none of them would have minded spending a few minutes in a frog costume for a photo op if it meant going to a home instead of heading prematurely to the Rainbow Bridge. 

Sure, there are some dogs who don’t like being in costumes. I contend that most costumed dogs spend just a few minutes in the “offending” costume while the owners take photos for the dog’s Twitter page – and then the costume comes off. Maybe the dog goes for a walk around the neighborhood in the costume for a half hour. Maybe the owner and dog go to a party for a couple of hours. Who leaves their dog in a costume all day just because it’s Halloween? Unlikely.

This Halloween I was a costume judge at the New York City Chihuahua Meet Up group’s annual “Chilloween,” hosted by doggie fashion designer Ada Nieves. The Chihuahuas in their costumes were so cute, I wanted to eat them up. Is that wrong? Then I don’t want to be right.

These pocket pooches strutted their stuff confidently in costumes ranging from a spider to a peacock to a prince. And the winner? A Chihuahua in a homemade NYC tour bus costume. Freakin’ adorable.

“He was a throw-away dog, no one wanted him,” the dog’s owner said to me. “He’s 13 now and he’s doing great.”

It’s a rags to riches story (well, doggie riches) that I hear a lot. If someone is taking the time to dress their dog in a costume for Halloween – especially one that elaborate and homemade – guess what they’re not doing? They’re not dumping their dog at the shelter. They’re not tossing him out of a car window into a cold parking lot. They’re not leaving him behind in an empty house to starve to death.

Relationships are all about compromise. I compromise a lot to have my three dogs, and I ask a few compromises of them too. That’s life. If one day a year I want to put a costume on Zoey because it makes me smile, she’s likely going to be OK with it. I found her matted, abused, and shivering in fear in the back of a kennel at the shelter, a huge open wound on her head, two hours from lethal injection, never having been shown to the public for adoption because she looked disgusting, her breed was unidentifiable, and she was simply too scared. Today she’s a happy white Miniature Schnauzer in a chicken outfit.

Dress your dog, don’t dress your dog – I don’t care. But let’s not forget that living with dogs is supposed to be fun – for both parties. If your dog doesn’t mind being in a costume, go for it if it makes you happy. If he doesn’t, tell people he’s costumed as a naked soccer stadium streaker, or have your girl dog be Lady Godiva for Halloween.

Of course, I have to add the caveat (because I didn’t in the last blog) to use caution and keep comfort in mind when dressing your dog, and if he hates it – like Pepper does now – don’t do it. I feel that all of this is common sense.

If I had to choose between not seeing dogs in costumes next year and giving $310 million to shelters, I’d choose the shelters, of course.

But I have to hand it to the shelters that use costumed dogs in their promotional materials – they know that cuteness “sells.” And that’s what we want, isn’t it? If even one extra shelter dog gets a home because someone sees a cute dog in a costume and is possessed to look into dog adoption, then all of us Halloween dog nuts have done our jobs.


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