Work It: Judging Costumed Pups at the Humane Society K-9 Fun Run

Her name is Apple and she don't take no mess.
Her name is Apple and she don't take no mess.
Photos by Allison McPhail

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This Sunday afternoon I was one of the judges at the Houston Humane Society's K-9 Fun Run, helping award prizes to the best-dressed dogs. Even as a straight man I have an affinity for dressing dogs up in funny clothes and costumes, mainly because it ups their cuteness factor to near toxic levels, and you get a good chuckle out of it.

Don't act like society hasn't made that into a gay stereotype. Why can't I watch The Bikini Carwash Company and drink a beer while sketching a Shawshank prison uniform costume for me and my girlfriend's Maltese?

Putting dumb stuff on animals should be for everyone, as long as it doesn't suffocate or kill them. Then it's wrong.

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Needless to say, the early part of Sunday was filled to the brim with pooches of all sizes over at Sam Houston Park. Some guys are into scary-looking man-hunting dogs that maybe make up for other shortcomings or personality disorders, so when I say that I am into the tiny pocket-sized creatures, it confuses folks.

"He looks like he should own six pit bulls but he just chased down a lady with a chihuahua the size of his fist," a witness would say.

That's a true story, by the way. I saw a little apple-headed fella named Speedy from ten yards away and wanted to meet him. He wasn't in the costume competition, sadly, but I would have awarded him the "most lovable cutest handsome lil' man on the planet" yesterday.

What was interesting about the gathering, with panting dogs and their owners -- doing the same -- coming in from the fun run, was the dazed, overwhelmed looks on the dogs' faces. I assume if I spent the majority of my life one foot tall and surrounded by people towering over me and picking me up randomly to squeeze my innards that I would be stunned to see others like me, too.

Work It: Judging Costumed Pups at the Humane Society K-9 Fun Run

Or maybe it was the spring heat. Even I was swimming in sweat, and those little puddings can't just sit in the shade and space out like I do.

All told, about two dozen owners entered their dogs into the costume competition, which was preceded by an alumni presentation and other assorted puppy announcements.

I was the only male in the judging pool, surrounded by three females from the Houston community. When they announced my name and I went on the little ramp, I probably looked kind of funny. Yeah, it's odd that a grown man would wake up at 10 a.m. -- hungover no less -- to look at dogs in unicorn costumes, but that's why I make the big bucks.

The theme of this year's event, the 31st, was "Fantastic Fidoes," which meant that the costumes would mainly be geared towards the superhero genre. Only a few of the owners adhered to that.

By my count I saw two pairs of dogs in wedding garb. Welp, I guess in 2012 getting married is sort of heroic, what with the divorce rates and reality shows.

The line of dogs seemed to go on forever, with pups of all sizes parading in front of us judges. The older dogs couldn't make it up the ramp, which was sad and almost made me cry...

I promise I didn't know I was flipping off the camera until hours later.
I promise I didn't know I was flipping off the camera until hours later.

"Shut up, it was just sweat in my eye! Why would I cry about seeing a family's dog not being able to be as spry as he was when he was a puppy? You're crazy," I would have said to someone seeing my chin quiver.

I felt better about seeing a great big guy with tattoos on the whole of his body holding a tiny furry thing in a Santa Claus costume. I put my arm up in solidarity, because I will no doubt look as crazy as him one day.

After the procession was over, we judges deliberated and compared scores and notes on the contestants. That was when we had some mild confusion.

Some judges thought that we should only honor the ones who had homemade costumes on that were based on superhero lore, going with the theme of the day. But it seems to me too easy to throw a cape on a dog and call him "super."

At the end of the day, I was only into costumes that were ridiculous or highly imaginative. Like the little girl and her gigantic furry friend dressed like characters from The Incredibles, or the horse-sized dog who donned geisha garb. Ten bucks says that someone in the crowd thought that was racist. I just wished they used real Chinese silk.

After the winners were decided on and announced -- The Incredibles couple won big -- I took a basket of chew toys around to some of the families that didn't win. Why shouldn't the uppity chihuahua not get an extra doll to chew on?

On my way out, I found a guy holding a micro Yorkshire Terrier that weighed less than a bag of cotton candy -- maybe 1.9 pounds -- and was covered in lustrous brown hair. Her name was Petey, and she is training to be a service dog for handicapped kids to interact with. She could be the smallest service pup ever, and he has contacted the Guinness people to see if she can be honored.

We promised to keep in touch. Me and the dog, I mean.

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