Howl-o-Ween Pet Parades and Parties
Fun events help furry fright-sters celebrate the holiday.
Cindy Zuanich of New Jersey tapped into a secret pet owners' wish back in 2002 when she invited the neighborhood to a Halloween parade for dogs. Zuanich didn't know it then, but Halloween was about to be reinvented all across the U.S. as a time to share with pets.
"I seem to remember nobody else was doing it," she said. "Now, everyone's doing it."
Later this month, hundreds, if not thousands of U.S. neighborhood associations, pet stores, rescue organizations and animal associations, will host pet Halloween parades or costume parties.
Some groups, like the Salem, N.H. Animal Rescue League, will jump on the Halloween bandwagon for the first time. For Salem, it's a way to throw a party and thank the people who have supported their work, Lisa Giuffre, executive director, said.
Miss Missy Marks, a 12-year-old Chihuahua, fashion diva and former L.A. feral dog, will judge costumes Oct. 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. along with local celebrities.
She's not entering the contest because she wants to "give the other dogs a chance" to win a prize, but the sassy "3M" will go either as a queen or witch; she'll know more after her "mother," shelter director Patricia Mack, takes her shopping, Giuffre said.
Giuffre said the party is not a fundraiser, though people may want to donate to help the shelter at www.sarl-nh.org.
Most Halloween pet parades will bear some connection to animal welfare, but ironically, the cause behind Zuanich's first parade was saving neighborhood landmarks, not pets, in a section of Jersey City known as The Heights.
"Hoboken was building up," she said, and The Heights residents needed something to mobilize them against overdevelopment. Too many new tall buildings were in the works, and that threatened neighborhood landmarks, not to mention Hudson River views.
Talk had even begun about asphalting over the cobblestones on Holland Street, she said. The Landmarks Conservancy ultimately did manage to save Holland Street, one of six cobblestone streets left in Jersey City. Zuanich launched a website, SavethePalisades.org (now defunct) to help spread the word.
Casting around for more ideas, someone suggested a Halloween parade for the dogs as a way to bring people together. The dogs marched down Holland Street to Riverview Fiske Park.
The first parade was small, she said, with about 18 people showing up, but they made an impression.
"We had a lot of artists in the neighborhood," she said, "and people went all out crazy" on costumes for themselves and their pets. One woman dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood and pushed a full-sized antique bed on rollers along the parade route, she said.
"She had a big, fluffy dog," Zuanich said, and the Akita, outfitted like the Big Bad Wolf in Grandmother's nightgown, lounged under the covers in bed.
"It was pretty fun," Zuanich said. "People loved it."
Coincidentally, Zuanich had just adopted her German Shepherd mix, Otis, then 2. She found out he didn't like homemade costumes when she tried him in a cardboard doghouse. "He hated it," she said.
All dogs don't like wearing clothes, of course; and pet costumes are not required attire, according to Becky Hoffman, president of the Riverview Neighborhood Association, which for the past "four or five years" has run the Halloween parade at the farmer's market as a way for neighbors to meet.
"Basically, it's a lot of fun," she said. This year's parade is Oct. 30.
Hoffman, who doesn't own a dog, said she's always surprised to see the number of dogs that will let their owners dress them for Halloween.
"Some come in a cape and a headpiece; some are in full regalia," she said. The most popular choices are queen costumes, hot dogs, angels and little devils. The owners do use common sense so if the costume upsets the dog, the owner will take it off, she said.
"We've never had a problem," she said, and some dogs do just come as themselves. "It's always been a very happy event."
The ASPCA does recommend skipping the costume and all the excitement unless you're sure your dog enjoys dressing up and won't be scared if the Pekingese next door descends in a scarecrow costume.
If you decide your pet would enjoy the parade, the ASPCA also advises making sure the outfit doesn't pose choking or other dangers, such as overheating. Other Halloween safety tips include keeping the pets away from the door, when trick-or-treaters arrive, and guarding the candy, which can be toxic.
Pictured: Beezus, in costume, strolls down Holland Street at the first Halloween Dog Parade in Jersey City in 2002. (Photo Courtesy of Cindy Zuanich)
Do you know of a pet parade or party for Halloween in your area? How are you and your pet celebrating the holiday? Tell us below!
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