We had a lively discussion in the newsroom about the journalistic ethics of running photographs of dogs forced to dress for the holidays (or, for that matter, of dressing up animals to amuse ourselves to start with — photographed and published or not).
But it turned out that most of us had at one point or another dressed our dogs up for Christmas and, in fact, many other events. One staffer even admitted decking out his (now-deceased) rabbit out in attire appropriate for a Florida State (playoff) game. Really. The only members of The Times crew who didn’t trick their animals into donning festive togs were most of the cat owners and one editor whose pug “refused to dress up, because he’s afraid to be made fun of by the mastiff in the house.”
But because we remain committed to checking with experts before we go running stories (or photographs of animals in antlers they weren’t born with), we consulted our resident critter consultant, The Dogfather.
Here’s what he said.
Dear Times staff,
My Doberman, Michelle — besides being a big sister to my three kids — was an active search dog who found two people alive, and some not. Thanks to my daughters, she never left the house without all her feet fully adorned with nail polish. Once, during a search for a missing person in Pennsylvania, a reporter exclaimed, “Your dog’s feet are bleeding.” Michelle made it onto local TV that night as the SAR (search and rescue) Doberman with nail polish. When one of my girls said, “Michelle, your nails need to be done.” Michelle would immediately lie down with her legs stretched out. She loved the attention it brought her.
Most dog owners know that dogs love attention. I’ve taught all my dogs tricks, and I remember a lady once saying, “I think it’s awful having a dog do tricks. They’re not circus clowns.”
Boy, was she wrong. Michelle loved it when I said, “This town’s not big enough for the two of us.” Then I’d draw my hand like a gun and say “Bang.” And she dropped dead like a stone and wouldn’t get up until I said, “The dog catcher’s coming.” Or when I told Mikey, another SAR Doberman, to shake. Instead of giving me a paw he would shake his head back and forth. All my dogs loved the attention, laughter and praise they garnered through tricks. Same with dressing them up as long as they’re not too uncomfortable, and you laugh with them, not at them. Half the fun for them is the attention they get while being taught the tricks, and trying on all the different outfits.
So without further ado, Fleas Navidad!
Got a photo of your pet dressed up, for any event? Please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We also welcome photos of any good dog/pet, costumed or not. Please include the pet’s name and town.