Here's a piece I wrote this week for the Miami Herald. Unfortunately, my editor was out and it never made it to print. Lucky you, since now it's yours to check out here:
Q: I adore all the pet costumes I find in the stores and magazines this time of year, but I see all these dressed-up dogs walking down Lincoln Road and I worry that they’re uncomfortable. Last year I saw a bulldog almost pass out. I could tell he loved all the attention he was getting but he was getting so hot in his bumble-bee outfit it looked like he needed to go to the emergency room. Could you please let people know that costumes are cute but dogs shouldn’t have to die over cuteness.
A: That’s what I call cute overkill. As someone who loves to watch the dogs parade up and down iconic streets like Lincoln Road, I know exactly what you’re talking about. But it doesn’t have to be so bad as long as pet owners are careful.
Unfortunately, not all dog garb is created equal and not all pet owners know the difference. For example, I confess I’m not so thrilled when the little Maltese wears a scratchy pink tulle skirt to her annual visit. And the teensy teacup Chihuahua bearing a super-tight “Because I’m a Bitch” tee? Not so much. Indeed, it seems most dress-up pet paraphernalia is designed to elicit coos instead of comfort.
Enter Halloween, when dogs wear all kinds of canine couture. Which can be problematic. Here’s how I see it:
#1 The costumes don’t always seem animal welfare-friendly. Aside from being potentially deadly where heat exhaustion is concerned, they’re often physically and emotionally taxing because a) they’re heavy, b) they’re itchy or tight, c) most Floridian dogs aren’t used to any kind of clothing, much less a costume.
#2 Studies demonstrate that more than half our dogs are overweight. Which means many of these costumes are just plain unsafe and even borderline cruel. Our weather does not recommend head-to-toe body gear, much less hats and boots.
#3 Finally, it’s my take that costumes often come off as disrespectful to our pets. It’s almost as if our dogs are appendages or accessories and not the companions most of us consider them on any other day of the year.
Sure, dressing up is almost always entertaining and enjoyable, but to ask our pets to shoulder the burden of our personal expression is often too much. Which is something I hope all pet owners will keep in mind as they prepare their pets for any upcoming Halloween festivities.
So how about you? Are your pets getting dolled up this year? Send me a pic (through the "Contact" tab, above) and I'll post it in my pics Halloween 2012 section.
Pic: Here's Vincent dressed up in his flower collar. He doesn't love it but he tolerates it long enough for a harmless photo op.